Lo Duca's walkoff HR keeps Dodgers in running


LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Paul Lo Duca told himself to look for a fastball and try to hammer it.

That's precisely what happened.

Lo Duca homered on Jeremy Fikac's first pitch in the 10th inning Friday night to give the Los Angeles Dodgers a 1-0 victory over the San Diego Padres and keep their slim playoff hopes alive.

Lo Duca's 10th homer into the left-field seats came about a
minute before San Francisco completed a 2-1 victory over Houston to
clinch a tie for the NL wild-card berth.

``I think it was a mistake, it was a little bit up in the zone,'' Lo Duca said of the pitch from Fikac (4-7), the fifth San Diego pitcher.

``It's frustrating,'' Lo Duca said of the Dodgers' failure to gain ground on the Giants. ``It's not like we're giving it to them, we're playing well. They just keep winning. What are you going to do?''

The Dodgers (91-69) trail the Giants (93-66) by 2½ games in the wild-card race. Los Angeles has two games left against the Padres while San Francisco has two against Houston plus a possible makeup game Monday in Atlanta.

One San Francisco win or Los Angeles loss would clinch a
postseason berth for the Giants and keep the Dodgers out of the
playoffs for the sixth straight season.

``They are playing exceptional baseball,'' Dodgers manager Jim Tracy said of the Giants. ``We are playing exceptional right now. They haven't finished us off yet. Tomorrow's game has relevance and we hope Sunday's will as well.''

The win was the third straight and fifth in six games for the
Dodgers, who won each of those five games in their final at-bat.
The Padres have lost six in a row and eight of nine.

Eric Gagne (4-1) pitched two scoreless innings to earn the victory.

Both starters were terrific. San Diego's Adam Eaton allowed three hits while walking one and striking out eight in seven innings, while Omar Daal blanked the Padres over a season-high eight innings, giving up two hits, walking three and striking out six.

Daal allowed 28 hits and 17 earned runs in 15 innings in his last four starts -- three losses and one no-decision.

``This is my best game of the year,'' Daal said. ``I had
everything under control. I was throwing the way I was throwing
before the last four starts. I was more aggressive, I was getting
ahead of the hitter.''

Eaton, who had ligament transplant surgery on his pitching elbow
13 months ago and was making his sixth start this year, held the
Dodgers hitless until Mark Grudzielanek singled with two outs in
the fifth.

``It feels great, things are finally coming around,'' Eaton said. ``To end the season like I did -- three good starts is really a good feeling. I'm looking forward to next year, the whole team is.

``They have a good lineup, they missed a lot of fastballs. They definitely brought out the best in me.''

Brian Jordan, who has an NL-leading 27 RBI this month, took a run away from the Padres in the third, reaching over the left-field fence to rob Wilbert Nieves of what would have been the rookie's first homer.

Daal retired the first nine batters before Mark Kotsay walked to open the fourth and Deivi Cruz singled to put runners at first and third.

But Phil Nevin took a called third strike and Ryan Klesko grounded into a double play.

The Padres put two runners aboard with one out in the sixth
before Cruz flied to center and Nevin lined to third.

Daal doubled to open the Los Angeles sixth for just his sixth hit in 39 at-bats, but Eaton struck out Marquis Grissom and Lo Duca and retired Shawn Green on a fly to right.

The Dodgers stranded two runners in both the seventh and ninth innings and left the bases loaded in the eighth.

Game notes
Eaton replaced RHP Brett Tomko, who was scratched for the
second straight night because of a stiff neck. Pitching coach Greg
Booker said Tomko (10-10) will start Saturday against RHP Kevin
Beirne (1-0) if he feels OK. ... The Dodgers will set a franchise
record in fielding this season, having committed only 90 errors in
160 games. The franchise record for fewest errors in a season is
106 in 1952. ... The Padres have been outscored by 143 runs (835 to
692) with two games left. This will be the first season they've
been outscored by 100 or more runs since 1977. ... The Dodgers are
assured of having their best record since 1991, when they went
93-69. ... Gagne has 114 strikeouts this year, putting him second
on the Dodgers' single-season strikeout list for a reliever. Mike
Marshall is first, striking out 143 while appearing in a record 106
games in 1974.