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In these Dog days, bark is worse than bite

SAN FRANCISCO -- Bow-wow.

Three outs away from moving into first place all by themselves Saturday night, and the Choking Dogs rolled over and played dead.

The Dogs did something monumental here, losing two games in a row to the Eugenio Velez Giants, something most teams have failed to accomplish this season.

The Dogs had a chance to sweep, and they gagged, blowing a lead Saturday night, then again Sunday. It was like watching the Lakers in the playoffs.

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If for some reason the Dogs still make it into the playoffs, and they are playing in the National League Worst, if they can’t handle the Giants with the pressure on -- how do you like their chances against teams with winning records?

That’s who the Dogs get to play this week, two teams with winning records, the next seven games against teams that are above .500 -- 11 of the next 14, while Arizona takes on three different losers.

“Let’s go see,” said Manager Joe Torre, the Yankees bravado still occasionally making an appearance even though that’s Angel Berroa at short instead of Derek Jeter.

“These guys are playing hard,” Torre said, and playing hard they couldn’t even beat the Giants.

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A good team would’ve put away the Giants early.

“I like what I’m seeing -- nobody is hanging their head,” Torre said, proud, I guess, they could play the Giants so tough.

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PAGE 2 has been encamped with the Dogs since the All-Star break, the last 10 straight games, and while there is obvious improvement -- Juan Pierre is on the bench -- most of it is measured in baby steps.

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Torre had to be convinced early in the season to make a starter out of Matt Kemp, and then Kemp had to be convinced to treat this as a profession.

Both have made marvelous strides.

Torre had to be convinced to make a starter out of Andre Ethier, the last few days raving about Ethier’s approach at the plate, and he probably thinks it was his idea to play him more.

Casey Blake has added an air of professionalism to the proceedings, booting a double play ball against the Giants that would’ve won it for the Dogs, but handling the aftermath with class.

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He’s such an improvement over Andy LaRoche or Blake DeWitt, and enjoy him while you’ve got him because he will probably be playing elsewhere next season.

Andruw Jones and Pierre are now spectators, so the Dogs really are improving, but GM Ned Colletti blew it at the trading deadline when he didn’t find a shortstop better than Berroa.

He could’ve just picked up the phone book, run his finger down any page and probably done better, although that might explain why he signed Jones.

Jeff Kent is getting older by the hour.

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And yet the Dogs still think they’re good enough to make the playoffs, while sending Pablo Ozuna and his .143 batting average to the plate, followed by Berroa at .210, maybe pinch-hitter Mark Sweeney at .127, and if anyone gets on, Jones picking up a bat.

Manny Ramirez has delivered the Manny Mania, as evidenced by his production, and yet the Dogs are 4-5 since his arrival.

Torre said pitching will determine if the Dogs are going to advance, and surprisingly he wasn’t waving a white towel at the same time.

Derek Lowe has one more win than he does losses in his four years here, while the Dogs had Brad Penny pitch on the side Sunday with everyone watching because he was so disappointing the other day.

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And as closers go, the Dogs couldn’t put away the Giants.

Where’s the sense of urgency? Is it because the schedule calls for them to play the final 19 games against teams with losing records -- giving them a great opportunity to fatten their record?

If so, then take it from the viewpoint of the Phillies and the Brewers. They get to play the Dogs this week.

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RAMIREZ SHOULD get quite the Dodger Stadium greeting again, the dreadlocks going on sale this week.

After the Dodgers lost to the Giants, he told reporters he lost his underwear. Getting to the bottom of things might be part of the job, but not this time.

The other day, Ramirez said he’d donate $1,000 for every home run and $300 for every run batted in to Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA. On Sunday, before he realized he must buy new underwear, he said he’d also kick in $100 for every single -- retroactive to Saturday when he had three.

I know he wanted out of Boston, but now he seems really intent on giving away all the money Boston is paying him to play here. A new Boston wing in the hospital would be nice.

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TODAY’S LAST word comes unsigned from a kotylynn e-mail address:

"(In regards to the Page 2 column on Mike Yoshizaki, who is recovering from a heart attack) . . . your grammar is deplorable and your connection of thoughts is pathetic. Bottom line is you wouldn’t get your work published in a high school newspaper. It would be rejected many times over.”

Is that you, F.P. Santangelo?

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T.J. Simers can be reached at t.j.simers@latimes.com.

To read previous columns by Simers, go to latimes.com/simers.


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