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PLAYOFF NOTEBOOK

Roberts, San Diego are left with empty feeling

Dave Roberts stood in the San Diego clubhouse shaking his head, unable to explain why the Padres failed to come up with any clutch hits in their first-round loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.

``I wish I knew," said the Padres left fielder, who hit .438 in the series. ``That's the difference, obviously, in the series. When they had to make pitches, they made pitches."

For the second straight year, the Cardinals eliminated the Padres in the opening round of the NL playoffs.

``We had numerous occasions to break games open, but they made pitches when they had to," Padres manager Bruce Bochy said.

The Padres were undone by their hit-and-miss offense in the playoffs, so adding hitters will be a priority in the winter. They were 2 for 32 (.063) with runners in scoring position for the series.

``We didn't hit very well with runners in scoring position and it came back to haunt us," Bochy said.

Several Padres, including general manager Kevin Towers, agreed the nucleus is strong for a return to the postseason, though Towers cited a need to pursue a second lefthander for the bullpen and ``a couple of big bats."

``I really thought we had a chance of going a long way and it didn't happen," Towers said. ``I think we have a good core going forward and hopefully bring back a large part of the club we put together this year."

Rolen on bench
Scott Rolen was dropped from the Cardinals lineup for last night's Game 4 division series victory over San Diego after hitting just .091 for the series and saying he had shoulder fatigue. Scott Spiezio started at third base and went 1 for 4 with run and an RBI . . . The A's decided on Esteban Loaiza as their Game 2 starter, following Barry Zito. The other contender was Rich Harden, who has only pitched three times since missing more than three months with an elbow injury.

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