for this game

Dodgers need to assert themselves in playoff hunt

Sep 24, 2006 - 3:35 PM Arizona (73-81) at LA Dodgers (81-74) 4:10 pm EDT

LOS ANGELES (Ticker) -- The Los Angeles Dodgers had hoped to secure a playoff berth with a spirited homestand. But as they enter their last game at Dodger Stadium this season, they still have a lot of work to do.

The Dodgers hope to move back into the thick of the playoff picture Sunday when they meet the Arizona Diamondbacks in the rubber game of a three-game set.

Los Angeles has lost five of nine games on its current homestand to drop one-half game in back of Philadelphia in the National League wild card standings. The possibility of a division title is starting to slip away from the Dodgers, who sit 1 1/2 games behind San Diego in the National League West.

Making matters worse, the Dodgers have to lean on their fifth starter in a game they desperately need to win.

Hong-Chih Kuo (1-5, 4.72 ERA) has made 23 of his 26 appearances out of the bullpen. The Taiwanese lefthander has not worked more than six innings in any of his three starts, including Tuesday's 10-6 defeat to Pittsburgh in which he surrendered five runs in 5 1/3 innings.

In seven career appearances against the Diamondbacks - all in relief - Kuo is 0-1 with a 5.19 ERA.

Arizona will turn to Livan Hernandez (12-13, 5.08), who is just 7-12 with a 4.67 ERA lifetime against the Dodgers. They roughed him up for five runs in six innings en route to a 6-3 victory on August 27.

Hernandez had his personal two-game winning streak snapped Tuesday, when he surrendered five runs in five frames of a 5-2 setback vs. San Diego. He has not won on the road since August 16 in Colorado.

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