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DODGER DOGS THEY'RE DONE; STICK A FORK IN PLAYOFF HOPES THAT'S RIGHT, WE'RE CALLING IT: THE DODGERS' SEASON IS OVER; IT'S ONLY JULY, BUT THEY'RE OUT OF IT.

Byline: STEVE DILBECK

They're wilting in the heat, growing smaller by the moment ... going, going, gone.

Over two months of baseball remain and we can already kiss the Dodgers goodbye. So long, thanks for that little run in May and see ya in '07.

The Dodgers are not just losing, they're lifeless. Dead team walking. A $100 million roster worth of stiffs.

It's not that they have bad chemistry; they have no chemistry. No leader, center, no reason to believe.

It's not just that they've lost 13 of 14, it's the way they lost them. They're not competitive. They don't lack fire, they lack simple spark.

Meet the new season, same as the old season.

The last-place Dodgers lost their eighth consecutive game Wednesday, 10-3 to San Diego, falling to 47-55 and 7 1/2 games back of the Padres in the National League West.

And that's a wrap. Sixty games to go and they're done. A team left in the sun too long. General manager Ned Colletti's one-season patch job a failed experiment.

Forget about some white knight arriving with the trading deadline, this team is beyond any simple fix. There's too much wrong here, too much lacking to give up a highly regarded prospect for some two-month rental in a lost season.

Ride it out, suck it up and figure better days will come. It's not the Los Angeles way, not certainly the Dodgers' way, but it is reality.

``Every day we're coming here and getting our butts kicked,'' pitcher Brad Penny said. ``We're going to have to do something. It can't keep going on like this. It's pretty miserable.''

The only life the Dodgers showed Wednesday was when Penny and outfielder Kenny Lofton had words in the clubhouse.

And so much for not pointing fingers.

Lofton has suddenly forgotten how to catch a ball or, in this case, properly cut one off, but Penny was hardly in a position Wednesday to publicly call out anyone.

Penny had been the team's lone reliable starter, but hasn't won a game since starting the All-Star Game. Wednesday he gave up a two-run double and two-run homer to Padres pitcher Jake Peavy.

In the third inning, Penny surrendered six consecutive hits for four runs and, the way the listless Dodgers have been playing, that was the game.

But Penny was apparently upset at the effort Lofton displayed in running down ex-Dodger Dave Roberts' hit past second baseman Willy Aybar. A hustling Roberts stretched the hit into a double and later scored.

Penny let Lofton know of his displeasure later in the dugout and the two had to be separated.

``I overreacted,'' Penny said. ``I was a little mad. I was frustrated. That's about it.''

Penny said he apologized to Lofton later, and both players claimed the incident was behind them.

``When your team is not playing well and frustration kicks in, you don't think sometimes, that's all,'' Lofton said.

Lofton again failed to get a good jump on a ball, reacting slowly to Roberts' hit. He blamed losing the ball on the new pale yellow seats behind home plate.

``Daytime here with those bad seats, it happens,'' he said. ``It's always tough. Everyone, myself and other guys on the team see that.''

When you're losing, the blame can be deflected everywhere. Even to those vintage seats.

Manager Grady Little was concerned enough over the confrontation and continued team slide that he called a team meeting after the game.

But telling them to stay focused, united, look in the mirror, etc., is not going to take a team to the heights it briefly flirted with this season.

There is very little the Dodgers are doing right. It is a remarkable teamwide effort into the abyss.

Middle relief is a continuing problem. Their starting pitching has almost deserted them. Defense has become suspect. They can't hit in the clutch. They can't hit with power.

The Dodgers are last in the National League in home runs and runners left on base. They're 13th in slugging percentage.

The kids looked tired. The veterans injured or fading.

J.D. Drew hasn't hit a home run since June 1. He's so impassive, fans can't even get worked up enough to boo him. Worse, Colletti is stuck with another three years and $33 million on his deal.

Jeff Kent and Nomar Garciaparra are the latest oldie additions rotating on the injury shelf. Eric Gagne, Bill Mueller and Yhency Brazoban are out for the season.

And the team just seems to go through the motions. Penny questioned the team's enthusiasm a week ago and the Dodgers responded like they needed a good winter nap.

``We do need to do something,'' Penny said Wednesday. ``We need to make an adjustment, whether it's attitude or something else like that. Me, personally, I'm going to have to step up. I can't be giving up four RBIs to the pitcher and expect my team to win.''

They're sinking fast now, reaching for a life preserver and tossed another boulder. They see a winnable division, but the team of kids that Colletti tried to surround with pricey, short-term veterans shrinks by the day.

They are only one game better off than they were at this time a year ago, and that was a team that spiraled to a 71-91, last-place finish.

The calendar says there is still time. History says plenty of Dodgers teams in the past have overcome greater deficits at a later date in the season.

But those were experienced Dodgers teams that had spent years together, not this peculiar collection of green youths and last-go-around veterans.

Even as Colletti added stopgap veterans in the winter, this season was always about '07 and '08. Now it officially is.

Kent can come back, Garciaparra can return to form, but these Dodgers are not going to overcome four other teams to win the division.

It's July, and it's over.

stephen.dilbeck(at)dailynews.com

(818) 713-3607

CAPTION(S):

2 photos

Photo:

(1 -- color) Shortstop Rafael Furcal hangs his head in the ninth inning of L.A.'s 10-3 loss to the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday afternoon.

(2) Bored fans watching yet another losing effort by the Dodgers on Wednesday at Dodger Stadium amid empty seats seem to sum up the team's season of dismal play and frustration.

Hans Guknecht/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 27, 2006
Words:1061
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