Nationals 11, Dodgers 4

Yhency Brazoban, who left after facing three batters and failing to retire any of them, will have an MRI tomorrow to determine the cause of pain in the back of his right shoulder. The good news is, it isn’t his elbow. The bad news is, it still doesn’t look good. And neither does the rest of the Dodgers’ bullpen, which got hammered tonight. The interesting thing was that the only relievers who didn’t get into the game were Takashi Saito, who would never be used in a game like this anyway, and Chad Billingsley. Could that mean Billingsley is the guy for the fifth spot? Quite possibly, because now, the Dodgers might need to add a 12th pitcher just to bolster the pen after tonight’s game. That wouldn’t be Hong-Chih Kuo, because he is starting at Las Vegas. Dodgers fall to 31-22. Arizona was off, so the D-back pull even. San Diego scored two in the ninth to tie the Pirates. If the Pods win, it will be a three-way tie for first.

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The cure for what ails the Nats

It took Mark Hendrickson exactly three batters to become the first Dodgers starting pitcher to give up a run since, well, Mark Hendrickson on Saturday night against the Cubs. He gave up two of them , in fact, on a two-run homer by Ryan Zimmerman with one out, and Hendrickson was lucky he didn’t give up more because the Nats left runners on the corners. Dodgers went quickly in the top of the inning against Micah Bowie. Nationals 2, Dodgers 0, top 2

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Tomorrow’s notebook

Another slow news day. Here’s what I came up with for tomorrow’s paper

By Tony Jackson
Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — It has gone virtually unnoticed in the shadow of the 15-game hitting streak that Rafael Furcal brought into Thursday night’s game at Washington and the never-ending exploits of catcher Russell Martin, but Dodgers left fielder Luis Gonzalez has sizzled of late.
Sizzled to the tune of an eight-game hitting streak of his own, during which he was batting .414 (12 for 29).
“I made some minor adjustments,” Gonzalez said. “I worked a little bit with (hitting coach) Eddie (Murray), just trying to shorten some stuff up a little bit. It’s just part of the game. You’re always tinkering with things.”
The surge has raised Gonzalez’s average almost 30 points to .286. In the first two games of the series here, he went 4 for 8 with a double and a three-run homer.
Gonzalez said his adjustment has been strictly mechanical and that he hasn’t changed his approach at the plate at all. Instead, he and Murray worked to simplify Gonzalez’s swing and reduce the amount of bodily movement it involved.
“We just generally played around with it until Eddie said, `Hey, let’s try this,”’ Gonzalez said. “I’m seeing the ball good and just going from there. When you have played this game as long as I have, you know when you’re in a zone and feeling good. But for the most part, you try not to get too high. You just ride it out and have good at-bats.
“Two weeks from now, I might be (adjusting) something else.”

Second thoughts: One day after he all but confirmed that left-hander Hong-Chih Kuo will be recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas to fill the vacant fifth spot in the Dodgers’ starting rotation beginning on Saturday night, manager Grady Little seemed to backtrack slightly.
“The only thing I’m leaning toward right now is that I’m not going to make an announcement on the guy yet,” Little said.
Little said his reticence comes from the fact another player — probably a position player, but not necessarily — will have to be sent to the minors to clear a roster spot if Kuo is called up. Kuo would give the Dodgers a 12-man staff if another pitcher isnt sent out, but Little said club officials haven’t decided on that yet.

Also: Although reliever Chin-hui Tsao becomes eligible to return from the 15-day DL on Monday night at Pittsburgh, it doesn’t appear that he will. Tsao played catch on Wednesday for the second time since going on the shelf with a right shoulder strain on May 23, and he continued to feel pain. He will throw again today.
“He is still a ways away,” Little said. “We won’t let him throw off a mound until he is completely free of any kind of tightess or soreness.”

Escape clause: Veteran outfielder Larry Bigbie, who is hitting .349 at Las Vegas, has another escape clause in his minor-league contract, and that clause kicks in today.
Bigbie also tried to find a major-league job when his last “out” clause went into effect at the end of spring training, only to find no takers. But that came at a point when most clubs had largely set their rosters for opening day and before Bigbie had proven he was all the way back from the hernia that sidelined him most of last season.
Considering his numbers, there may be a lot of interest in him this time.

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Tonight’s lineup: LaRoche’s turn

Furcal leads off again against Micah Bowie, a left-hander

SS Furcal
CF Pierre
1B Nomar
2B Kent
LF Gonzo
C Martin
3B LaRoche
RF Ethier
LH Hendrickson

By the way, I asked Grady a couple of days ago about the determining factor for whether Ethier hits seventh or eighth. He basically said that he doesn’t want a power hitter getting pitched around because he bats ahead of the pitcher, which is why Ethier hits seventh when Tony Abreu is at 3B. But, at least in theory, both LaRoche and Wilson Betemit have sufficient power that Grady doesn’t want them hitting in front of the pitcher, either, and someone has to. So when one of them is in the lineup, that someone is Ethier. … This is the Dodgers’ last game ever at RFK (woohoo!!!!) — and don’t you DARE suggest that the Dodgers could still play the Nats in the playoffs, because they aren’t gonna. What a colossal dump — not to mention the fact it’s in one of the worst areas of DC. And not to mention the fact it literally stinks. You can smell something rotting the minute you walk into the place. Good riddance, I say. Next time the Dodgers come here, they will be playing in a brand new, $600 million-plus park on the Anacostia River.

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Dodgers 5, Nationals 0

This is the first time the Dodgers have won two consecutive games by shutout since May 29-30 (the exact, same dates), 2004 against Arizona. Derek Lowe pitched tonight, giving up three hits over seven innings. The last two times through the rotation, Lowe, Brad Penny and Randy Wolf are a combined 4-0 with two no-decisions and an 0.69 ERA (that’s 39 1/3 innings, three runs). Meanwhile, the Nats had won 12 of 17 before the Dodgers came to town, but that doesn’t change the fact that they aren’t very good. In the first two games of this series, not only have they not scored, but they have gotten just one runner as far as third base. That came in the eighth inning last night, when they already trailed 10-0. Another quality club put together by Jim Bowden. But they go well with the utter stench of their ballpark, which, thankfully, I never have to set foot in again after tomorrow night. Dodgers go to 31-21, their first time to 10 over this season, but Arizona (half-game back) and San Diego (one back) also won.

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