Eric Stults ... complete game shutout
Most of you gentle readers are too young to remember a once popular song that went, "Your happiness lies, right under your eyes; right in your own back yard." GM Ned Colletti was still fretting about adding another starting pitcher and perhaps a bat, after their top hitter had dosed himself with female fertility drug and, when it was detected, got the next 50 games off for bad behavior.
However, after the first two games sans Mr. Ramirez, both of them losses, a win in the third contest had Colletti humming the above tune. He had discovered the starting pitcher he was looking for, one with a 4-1 record, a 3.58 earned run average (third best of all the starters on his club) and with a rare complete-game shutout to his credit.
The name you ask? Eric Stults.
He found a left fielder who was only 31, was hitting .405 and had a stunning 431 stolen bases to his credit.
His name you ask? Juan Pierre.
Colletti had already located a perfect reserve infielder with a slick glove, 14 years of major league experience and a .438 average.
Well, you can see where this is going. He's Juan Castro.
The trio, if not forgotten at least overlooked, sparked the Dodgers to their first post-Manny win, a confidence-restoring 8-0 win over the Giants.
Stults, considered a blowout patch at best when the starting staff started to crumble a bit, worked a complete game shutout, retiring the first 12 San Franciscans he faced and allowing just four hits over the final five innings while striking out five and getting 17 outs on balls hit in the air.
On the day before Mother's Day, the victory was particularly bittersweet for Stults who lost his mother to cancer just before spring training started. "It's something that hopefully I can celebrate with my wife and kids and give my dad a call and tell him I love him," Stults said. "I'm going to miss her but I'm glad she's watching down over me."
Matt Kemp made three spectacular running catches to help Stults, including an important catch in the ninth that robbed Bengie Molina of a run-scoring extra-base hit after Edgar Renteria led off the inning with a double.
Pierre keyed the offense, smacking doubles in his first two trips to the place, scoring once, and driving in three runs while boosting his average to a stratospheric height.
Castro, filling in for Rafael Furcal who is getting days off on a regular basis this season, doubled twice and singled, knocking in two and elevating his average to near the absurd MLB mark (.438 or .440, depending on which record book you believe) of Hugh Duffy recorded in 1894.
The Dodgers broke their mini slump and increased their lead to 5 1/2 games over the Giants, eight over San Diego and nine over both Arizona and Colorado.
The Dodgers tacked a run up in the first inning when Pierre doubled down he left field line, Orlando Hudson singled him to third before Andre Ethier hit into a double play, Furcal scoring.
They added three in the second when Russ Martin walked, was forced by James Loney, Casey Blake walked and Castro collected his first RBI with a double. Pierre added his second double in two innings and L.A, had a quick 4-0 margin.
They added a single run in the fifth on Hudson's double and Matt Kemp's RBI single, then nailed things down in the eighth by scoring three more times. Martin singled, Blake lived on an error and Castro's RBI double to center drove in the first run. Stults singled to right to plate the second and Pierre ran his total to three RBI with a single to left.
Stults' second RBI of the season was just icing on the cake. "I enjoy hitting," said Stults, who is a career .238 hitter. "But it obviously doesn't always go the way I want it to."
The third, and rubber game of the series pits Giants ace Tim Licecum against newly installed fifth starter Jeff Weaver. But with the early part of the season filled with peaks and valleys, who's to know?
Score by Innings
San Francisco 000 000 000-0
LA Dodgers 130 010 03x-8
Dodgers ab r h bi ave
Pierre lf 5 1 3 3 .405
Hudson 2b 5 1 2 0 .336
Ethier rf 5 0 0 0 .279
Paul rf 0 0 0 0 .000
Kemp cf 4 0 1 1 .267
Martin c 1 1 1 0 .275
Loney 1b 4 1 0 0 .278
Blake 3b 3 2 0 0 .238
Castro ss 4 2 3 2 .438
Stults p 3 0 1 1 .100
Totals 34 6 11 7
San Francisco 32 0 4 0
Error- Hudson (2). 2B- Pierre 2 (3),
Castro 2 (2), Hudson (11).RBI- Castro 2
(3), Pierre 3 (6), Kemp (23), Stults (2).
2-out RBI- Pierre 2; Kemp. S- Stults.
LOB- Dodgers 7, San Francisco 5. SB- Kemp
(8), Martin (3).
Dodgers in h r-er bb so era
Stults (4-1) 9.0 4 0-0 0 5 3.58
T- 2:40. Att- 41,425.