Tonight’s lineup: Nomar plays 3B NOW

I guess Grady decided for whatever reason to move Nomar to 3B tonight instead of waiting until he has four days to work out there. We’ll have our pregame with Grady in about 45 minutes, hopefully, so I’ll ask him why then. Also, Nomar has been dropped to sixth in the order, with Martin third, Probably has something to do with the fact that after missing three games with an illness, Nomar came back last night and went 0 for 5 and is not 2 for his past 16. Also, he still has just one home run this year, that coming way back on April 16 at Arizona. Hardly the power production you want from a No. 3 hitter.

SS Furcal
CF Pierre
C Martin
2B Kent
LF Gonzo
3B Nomar
1B Loney
RF Ethier
RH Billingsley

Also, there has been a change to the D-backs rotation. Randy Johnson will pitch on Thursday against Randy Wolf, Livan Hernandez is out. The Unit threw a simulated game yesterday and was deemed ready to go. Too bad for the Dodgers — unless, of course, they beat him. Let’s face it, he ain’t what he used to be. … The Pi Beta Phi convention is over at the Westin and has been replaced by something called Expo ’07. I’m not sure what kind of Expo it is, but I can tell you that so far, none of the attendees looks anything like a Pi Phi, past or present. And, this group has taken up almost every parking space at the hotel. Had to park at least 200 yards from the front door, and it’s 117 degrees here today.

Dodgers 8, D-backs 1

Actress Eliza Dushku greeted the National League’s first 10-game winner, who also happens to be her boyfriend, with a huge smile in a service tunnel outside the Dodgers clubhouse. Some guys have all the luck. Brad Penny went eight innings for the first time this season, allowing only a run on four hits. This after manager Grady Little pushed him back a day so he could pitch in this game, which had much more significance in the NL West than Sunday’s game at Tampa Bay, when Hong-Chih Kuo pitched in Penny’s stead and the Dodgers got pounded 9-4. “I wasn’t feeling too good about (the decision) yesterday,” Little said, “but it turned out pretty good tonight.” It always seems to when the Dodgers play the Snakes. They have beaten Arizona five of six now, including all three at Chase Field. And offensively, the Dodgers now have 99 hits in 10 games since Eddie Murray was ousted. I asked Bill Mueller before the game if he was enjoying the role, and he said he definitely was. I then asked if he is warming up to the possibility of doing it long-term, and while he didn’t answer directly, he clearly backed off on his enthusiasm. So this is a long way from being resolved. But the improvement is already undeniable. Oh, and Manny Mota has been helping Mueller get acclimated, too, as well as helping him communicate with the Spanish-speaking players and even helping him find ways to get his points across to the English-speaking players. Even though the Dodgers are 5-5 since the change, the offense clealry is on a roll. … Russ Martin’s lead over Paul Lo Duca in All-Star voting is down to 110,000, but there are only three days left before the polls close. That makes Martin close to a lock, and Penny will undoubtedly be there with him. The Dodgers should be well-represented this year, which will make all those San Franciscans in attendance boo even louder. … Dodgers go to 43-33 and pull within a half-game of the Snakes. Pods and Giants are still playing, 3-3 bottom 11. Pods will pull even with Arizona if they win and stay a game back if they lose. … Speaking of some guys having all the luck, I’m heading back to the Westin now. The Pi-Phis are waiting. Not waiting for ME, necessarily, but they’re still waiting.

Bye-bye billionaire

Matt White, who came to be known in spring training as the Billionaire for the nationwide fame he received when news outlets everywhere began to pick up the story of the billion dollars’ worth of rock that was sitting underneath the piece of real estate he bought from a relative in Massachusetts, has been granted his release. White is expected to sign with a Japanese club, although we aren’t quite sure which one, in the coming days. Nice guy, and I hope he does well over there. … Brad Penny dodged a couple of bullets early, but he just gave up two two-out hits, including a double by Chris Young, to put the Snakes on top. The Dodgers haven’t done much against Micah Owings. They had runners on first and second with none out in the third after Owings hit Penny, who was trying to sacrifice, but the slumping (and not entirely healthy) Rafael Furcal GIDP’s, and Juan Pierre grounded out. D-backs 1, Dodgers 0, bottom 4

Nomar to 3B starting Friday

Nomar Garciaparra is moving from first to third base to make room for James Loney. The move is in response not only to the fact Loney is hitting well enough to play every day, but also to the fact neither Wilson Betemit nor Tony Abreu has hit well enough to nail down the everyday third base job. Grady approached Nomar about the switch yesterday, and, according to both Grady and Nomar, Nomar immediately agreed. Grady said Nomar might still occasionally see some action at 1B, but he was VERY committed to Nomar becoming the primary 3B. Nomar will take grounders at third before all four games of the Arizona series, then probably start there for the first time on Friday night against San Diego. He last played 3B during his season and a half with the Chicago Cubs (2004-05). This time, he has five days to make the transition. That time, he had one day — the day he was traded to the Cubs by Boston, with whom he had always played shortstop.

One more item crossed off the things-to-do-before-I-die list

Like most healthy American males, I have always wanted to spend the night in a sorority house. Or at least I did when I was younger. Well, tonight, I finally get to. OK, so it’s not an ACTUAL sorority house, but it might as well be. Anyway, here’s the story: I arrived in PHX around 11:30 this morning, picked up the rental car and drove directly to my usual hotel here, the Westin Kierland in north Scottsdale. As I was checking in at the front desk, I couldn’t help noticing that the lobby was filled with beautiful young women. So the desk clerk informed me that the hotel was hosting Pi Beta Phi’s national convention, which immediately made me feel as if I had died and gone to Heaven — or at least it would have made me feel that way a few years ago. The desk clerk then went into further detail. “They have been here for a week,” she said, trying not to sound disdainful. “They are leaving tomorrow,” she added, trying not to sound relieved. … It’s 110 degrees here today, which I would normally find bothersome, but considering the circumstances, it’s actually a good thing in this case. … One of you asked on a previous thread about why Andy LaRoche hadn’t played lately. In case you missed today’s paper, here is the note I had:

Minor matters: Third-base prospect Andy LaRoche is on the seven-day disabled list at Triple-A Las Vegas because of recurring soreness in his right shoulder, where he had a torn labrum surgically repaired last October. LaRoche recently hurt himself making a diving catch, the same way he suffered the initial injury last June, but he isn’t expected to miss much more than a week this time.

Devil Rays 9, Dodgers 4

This might be the lowest point in the Dodgers’ season thus far. Blowing a three-run lead in the ninth at San Diego is one thing. Losing two of three to this outfit is quite another. Losing ONE to E-Jax? That’s about as bad as it gets, especially considering no other major-league has done it since 2005. James Loney homered in the ninth, putting him in the evergrowing legion of Dodgers players who have more home runs than Nomar this season. Matt Kemp followed with a single, but it didn’t really matter much because Wilson Betemit was on deck. Predictably, he struck out swinging and is now 0 for 18 with 7 Ks. Dodgers fall to 42-33 and limp (literally, in the case of Rafael Furcal) into the most important week of the season to date, a seven-game stretch against the D-Backs and Pods.

The cure for what ails Edwin Jackson

E-Jax is finally going to get his first win big-league win since the Dodgers traded him to the D-Rays a year and a half ago. He was, as usual, quite hittable. But the Dodgers were, as usual, not in much of a hitting mood. Or at least not in much of a scoring mood. They got that two-run HR from Gonzo in the first inning and haven’t come close to scoring since. They have GIDP’s three times, plus run themselves out of another inning with a strikeout-caught stealing DP. They haven’t gotten a runner past first base since Gonzo doubled with two outs in the third and, naturally, was stranded. And the Dodgers, who fancy themselves contenders in the NL West, are going to lose two out of three to THE TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS. Last night, they were beaten by a homer from former Dodgers catcher Dioner Navarro, although they really were beaten by themselves — they stranded 15 baserunners, nine of them in scoring position. Today, they’re going to be beaten by E-Jax, whose six previous big-league wins all came for the Dodgers from 2003-05. He entered this one with an 0-8 record and 7.85 ERA for 2007. Nice trip so far. D-Rays 4, Dodgers 2, bottom 7

Much to the chagrin of Gavin Newsome, Aquafina wins again

Capping off a week in which San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsome banned bottled water from being purchased for city offices with city funds (something about global warming), Aquafina outpaced Pepsi and Sierra Mist yet again in the fourth-inning beverage race here today. Immediately thereafter, Hong-Chih Kuo went back to the business of making everyone forget his disastrous outing on Wed. night in Toronto. He has retired 10 of 11 thus far, the only exception being a solo homer by Ty Wigginton on Kuo’s first pitch of the second inning. Dodgers keep shooting themselves in the foot offensively against winless ex-mate E-Jax, but if Kuo keeps this up, it won’t matter. Dodgers 2, D-Rays 1, bottom 4

Gonzo tries to kill a Devil Ray

Luis Gonzalez went deep off Edwin Jackson in the first inning, with the ball coming down directly into the aquarium beyond the wall in right-center where the Devil Rays keep the actual devil rays. It’s the first ball ever hit into the fish tank. It came with Rafael Furcal on third, which was a good thing, because that allowed Furcal to jog home. That left ankle is really bothering him, and he practically limped from home to third on his own single, another single by Pierre and a GIDP by Russell Martin. Loney followed Gonzo’s homer with a double, then Matt Kemp struck out, so the Dodgers already have left a man in scoring position. Dodgers 2, Devil Rays 0, middle 1

By the way, here’s the lineup. Nomar is feeling much better, but Grady gave him another day

SS Furcal
CF Pierre
DH Martin
LF Gonzo
1B Loney
RF Kemp
3B Betemit
C Lieberthal
2B Abreu

LH Kuo