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IT'S NOT TWO GOOD DODGERS LOSE TO METS, NOW FACING SWEEP.

Byline: TONY JACKSON Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- Two games into what is beginning to look like another brief sojourn into the postseason, the Dodgers bear no resemblance to the club they were the final week of the regular season, when they won their last seven games to get here.

On the other hand, they bear a striking resemblance to the club they were the past six months. Streaky to a fault, with emphasis on the word fault.

One day after fighting back repeatedly and leaving the tying run in scoring position at the end of the game, the Dodgers essentially rolled over against longtime nemesis Tom Glavine on Thursday night and lost 4-1to the New York Mets in front of 57,029 at Shea Stadium.

That left them in a daunting, 2-0 hole in this best-of-five National League Division Series, which now shifts to Dodger Stadium for what the Dodgers desperately hope will be the next two games.

And what the high-flying Mets intend to be only one.

Meanwhile, first baseman Nomar Garciaparra appears doubtful for Game 3 after aggravating his left quadriceps injury running out an infield single in the fourth inning. He stayed in through the top of the sixth, when he grounded out, but probably will give way to left- handed-hitting rookie James Loney against Mets righty Steve Trachsel on Saturday.

This on an evening when the Dodgers, for the first time in this jolting amusement-park ride of a season, will play under win-or-go-home pressure.

``These are must-win games, and we'll see how good we are,'' Dodgers second baseman Jeff Kent said. ``One thing this team has been all year is resilient. (Glavine) is a tough pitcher to face when you have to force your game a little bit.

``We wanted to win here, and there was some frustration. He is the wrong guy to face when you have that. He throws a lot of batting-practice fastballs, and sometimes you get overanxious and end up rolling over or popping up. He did his job. Now we have to go home and do ours.''

Glavine shut out the Dodgers on four hits over six innings. In his past two appearances against them, including a 7-0 Mets win Sept. 7 at Shea, the crafty veteran lefty has blanked them for 12 1/3 innings. He has allowed just nine hits over that span, with only one runner reaching third base while he was on the mound.

This time, and perhaps most important, he joined Game 1 starter John Maine in siphoning off the top of the Dodgers' order, which had been so potent down the stretch.

Leadoff man Rafael Furcal went 0 for 3 with a walk and is 1 for 7 with two walks in the series.

For his part, No. 2 hitter Kenny Lofton has been awful, going hitless in eight at-bats, striking out four times and looking completely lost in the process.

Lofton was so discombobulated during an eighth-inning at-bat that he held up the game for two minutes until a bus waiting to take one of the teams to nearby LaGuardia Airport could be moved from behind the center-field wall.

Once that apparent distraction had been removed, Lofton struck out on the next pitch.

``They have been what made us go,'' Dodgers manager Grady Little said of Furcal and Lofton. ``But they have hit a little bump in the road.''

And so have the Dodgers, who are batting .235 as a team in the series.

Rookie Hong-Chih Kuo, who had pitched six shutout innings in his first major-league start here four weeks ago, was adequate, but he didn't stick around long. He retired the Mets in order in the first inning, then gave up a leadoff single to Carlos Delgado -- who at that point was 5 for 6 in the series -- in the second.

Kuo retired the next three batters in order, striking out David Wright and Cliff Floyd and getting Jose Valentin to line out to short, all without Delgado advancing.

But in the process, Wright, Floyd and Valentin worked him for a staggering 23 pitches -- a big reason Kuo had to be lifted with one out in the fifth, when he already had thrown 85.

``That took a lot out of him,'' Little said. ``Most of it was that one (11-pitch) at-bat by Floyd. The kid battled, but we can't have those misplays and get away with them against a team like that one over there.''

The most glaring of those came in the bottom of the sixth, with the Mets already leading 2-0 and Glavine having thrown his final pitch of the night. Brett Tomko gave up singles to Wright and Floyd to begin the inning. Valentin, trying to sacrifice, bunted hard to the grass between the mound and the third-base line.

Wilson Betemit, who had entered the game at third base to start the inning because Garciaparra was lifted, went to cover the bag, leaving Tomko to make the play.

Tomko got to the ball with no time to spare and made a wide throw to first, where second baseman Julio Lugo was covering. Lugo lunged and appeared to keep his foot on the bag, but the ball stuck in his glove momentarily and fell to the ground, loading the bases with none out.

The error was charged to Tomko, who thought Betemit should have fielded the ball.

``If it's bunted hard at him, he is supposed to take it,'' Tomko said. ``I thought it was bunted pretty hard. I had to go backward for it, but I still got there and had a play at first. I planted pretty good and had a good chance.''

But Little later said the play was all Tomko's.

``I thought he took a step in the wrong direction before he got the ball,'' Little said. ``But I still thought we could get the guy out.''

That was all for Tomko, who had escaped Kuo's bases- loaded, one-out jam with only one run scoring the previous inning. This time, lefty Mark Hendrickson almost got out of Tomko's mess, getting Endy Chavez to ground into a force at home and Julio Franco to hit an apparent double-play grounder to Furcal.

But in another one of those classic, game-of-inches moments, Franco's foot hit the bag about one one-hundredth of a second before Lugo's relay throw found the glove of Kent, who had moved to first when Garciaparra left.

That allowed Floyd to cross the plate with the Mets' third run, and Jose Reyes then singled in Valentin to make it 4-0.

Betemit's eighth-inning homer off Aaron Heilman gave the Dodgers their only run.

There is precedent for teams overcoming 2-0 deficits in best-of-five series. The Dodgers were the first team to do it, against Houston in a 1981 divisional playoff on their way to winning that year's World Series. And Little's 2003 Boston team did it after losing the first two games in Oakland.

After the game, Dodgers third-base coach Rich Donnelly optimistically paid his clubhouse dues not only for these two games, but for a potential Game 5 here Monday night.

On the flip side, one of New York's finest, in full uniform, stopped on his way out of the stadium after the game to offer a friendly goodbye to Furcal, who by now was dressed in a snappy tan suit.

``See you next year,'' said the smiling officer, who had gotten to know Furcal.

The Dodgers will send savvy veteran Greg Maddux to the hill against the middling Trachsel in Game 3. If there is a Game 4, it will pit struggling Brad Penny against disappointing lefty Oliver Perez. So there is hope for the Dodgers.

Especially if one policeman's overconfidence is shared by his favorite team.

``I hope so,'' Little said. ``We still like our team. We just have to start doing the things we need to do, playing the game the right way, the way we have been playing it, and things can turn around quickly.

``The heat is on us. But if we come back here to play Monday, I think the heat will be on the other people.''

tony.jackson(at)dailynews.com

(818) 713-3675

CAPTION(S):

3 photos, 5 boxes

Photo:

(1 -- color) Dodgers starter Hong-Chih Kuo mishandles a bunt by the New York Mets' Endy Chavez during the third inning of Game 2. Chavez was safe at first.

(2) Dodgers manager Grady Little, left, and coach Dave Jauss watch from the dugout as Los Angeles drops its second game of the NLDS to the Mets.

Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

(3) Endy Chavez, pictured, scores the first run of the game for the New York Mets, on Jose Reyes' groundout in the third inning.

Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Box:

(1) GAME 1

(2) GAME 2

(3) GAME 3

(4) GAME 4

(5) GAME 5
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 6, 2006
Words:1474
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