<
>

Nomar's walk-off grand slam keeps L.A. on heels of leaders

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- If this were July, Nomar Garciaparra probably
wouldn't be playing because of a sore left quadriceps that's
bothered him for over a week.

Fortunately for the Los Angeles Dodgers, he's helping them
battle for a playoff berth.

Garciaparra provided the heroics for the second time in a span
of seven games, hitting a grand slam with two outs in the bottom of
the ninth Sunday to give the Dodgers a much-needed 5-1 victory over
the Arizona Diamondbacks.

"I tried to get a good pitch, was able to get one. I'm just
glad and thankful I was able to do this," said Garciaparra, who
hit a 2-1 pitch from Luis Vizcaino over the left-center field fence
for his 19th homer.

By winning their regular-season home finale, the Dodgers
remained 1½ games behind the NL West-leading San Diego Padres and a
half-game back of Philadelphia in the wild-card race. The Padres
beat Pittsburgh 2-1 and the Phillies topped Florida 10-7 earlier
Sunday.

The Dodgers have six games left; the Padres and Phillies each
have seven remaining.

Garciaparra came out of the dugout a few minutes after his
latest homer to acknowledge the cheering fans.

Just last Monday night, Garciaparra hit a two-run homer in the
10th inning to give Los Angeles an 11-10 victory over San Diego
after the Dodgers matched a major league record by hitting four
consecutive homers in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game.

"He could barely run," Dodgers manager Grady Little said.
"With what he's giving us out there in his condition is just
outstanding."

Garciaparra smiled when asked before the game how he felt.

"Have you seen me run out there?" he replied. "You've just
got to go out there and do what you can."

Marlon Anderson started the winning rally by hitting a single
off Vizcaino (4-6), and Russell Martin sacrificed. Oscar Robles
grounded out, moving Anderson to third, and Rafael Furcal was
walked intentionally. Kenny Lofton drew another walk to load the
bases for Garciaparra.

"What really set that up were the at-bats before me,"
Garciaparra said. "Kenny's at-bat was unbelievable."

Arizona manager Bob Melvin agreed and gave credit to
Garciaparra, as well.

"Lofton had a great at-bat, and then Garciaparra -- you have to
tip your hat to Nomar, the year he's having, a big hit in that
situation on a slider against a very tough right-hander," Melvin
said.

Takashi Saito (6-2), the third Dodgers pitcher, pitched a
perfect ninth with two strikeouts to earn the victory.

Hong-Chih Kuo was outstanding in his fourth big league start,
allowing four hits in a career-high seven innings with two walks
and eight strikeouts. But he left after throwing 100 pitches with
nothing to show for it.

"He didn't leave anything over the middle of the plate --
nothing," said Arizona's Conor Jackson, who had two of his team's
five hits. "Command, I guess, has been his problem in the past.
But not today."

Arizona's Livan Hernandez also went seven innings, allowing five
hits and one run. He walked five, struck out two and threw 118
pitches.

Arizona scored an unearned run in the third for a 1-0 lead.
Stephen Drew walked, took second when third baseman Wilson Betemit
mishandled Chris Snyder's grounder for an error, and scored on
Carlos Quentin's two-out double.

Los Angeles tied it in the fifth, but blew a chance for more.
Kuo doubled with one out for his first major league hit, took third
on Furcal's single and scored on a single by Lofton. Garciaparra
walked to load the bases, but Jeff Kent fouled out and J.D. Drew
grounded out.

Game notes
The final regular-season game this year at Dodger Stadium
was played before a crowd of 49,822, lifting the total for the year
to a franchise-record 3,758,545 -- the sixth-highest in NL history.
That surpassed the previous Dodgers high of 3,608,881 in 1982, but
that figure was the turnstile count while this year's total was
tickets sold. ... Diamondbacks 2B Orlando Hudson left the team
Sunday morning to attend to family issues, according to manager Bob
Melvin. ... After taking Monday off, the Dodgers play three games
at Colorado and three at San Francisco. ... Arizona 3B Chad Tracy
didn't start because of what Melvin called a mild case tendinitis
in his left knee, an ailment that has plagued him all season. ...
The Dodgers went 49-32 at home this season, matching their highest
win total at Dodger Stadium since 1991, when they went 54-27.