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Dodgers go with experienced Padilla for Game 5

Their young ace has been beaten and supplanted. They lost a game 11-0, then, the next night, lost on the last pitch.

Their young ace has been beaten and supplanted.

They lost a game 11-0, then, the next night, lost on the last pitch.

The Dodgers are reeling, and they don't have answers.

"They're the champions. They have such a good lineup," Manny Ramirez said of the Phillies during yesterday's practice. "To beat those guys, you cannot make mistakes. They're getting the big hit at the right time. What can you do?"

You can send righthanded mercenary Vicente Padilla to the mound instead of 21-year-old lefty Clayton Kershaw.

You can hope your own lineup, hitting .233 in the series' four games, will awaken and send the series back West.

You can hope to mitigate how hostile the environment will be in Game 5 tonight.

"They've got a lot of momentum right now," said Dodgers slugger Jim Thome, part of this club's rebuilding process. "Their fans have helped them out a lot. You can feel it. You can see it."

Much of that will depend on Padilla. He allowed one run in 7 1/3 innings in Game 2, the Dodgers' lone win. Signed in August after being cast off by the Rangers, Padilla started that game after Kershaw cracked in Game 1.

There's no way manager Joe Torre is going to put callow Kershaw in this situation: Pitching in a do-or-die game, on the road, in a pitcher's nightmare of a park, against a lineup full of mashers who are supported by 46,000 towel-waving fanatics.

That's what Padilla will face tonight, his first start in Philadelphia since 2005, after which the Phillies, frustrated with his inconsistency, traded him to Texas, where he again exasperated an organization.

Padilla, 32, is a free agent after this season. He is pitching for a contract, and, possibly, for legitimacy in the league again. He might be pitching the best he's ever pitched, and that helped sway Torre.

"It's just the way he's pitched lately," Torre said, "his experience."

Padilla is 5-0 with a 2.54 earned-run average in 10 games since signing with the Dodgers, including the playoffs. More to the point, he's 2-0 with a 0.93 ERA in his last three starts - his last one of the regular season and two playoff outings - with 20 strikeouts and two walks in 19 1/3 innings.

He relishes this chance.

"I feel very honored to have this opportunity to pitch an important game," said Padilla, a Nicaraguan, through an interpreter.

Kershaw seems likely to get a home start, assuming he's available. He could pitch out of the bullpen tonight, Torre said. He noted that Kershaw's numbers at home are better than his road numbers (his home ERA of 1.83 in the regular season is about two runs better than his road ERA).

Getting away from the energy at the Bank, the Dodgers seem to believe, could cure all.

"If we could just get back to LA, we'd have a much better chance," Randy Wolf said.

"We win one game and we go home," Torre said. "To me, that is a momentum switch."

All of the momentum could swing on Padilla's right arm.

"We've got Padilla," Thome said. "If we go back to LA, anything can happen."


The Dodgers yesterday announced they have agreed to a long-term contract extension for GM Ned Colletti, but did not specify how long. Colletti quipped, "I'll be here for a long time. And maybe longer than that" . . . Joe Torre spat on accusations that closer Mariano Rivera, whom he nurtured to stardom as the Yankees manager, moistened a baseball Monday in Anaheim . . . Torre welcomed yesterday's off day and said it was important for his players to congregate for practice yesterday and regroup, and, sure enough, it was a full house for the optional workout.