Eric Milton ... long-time coming
Eric Milton, who last won in St. Louis on August 8, 2008, scattered seven hits and overwhelmed Colorado before leaving in the sixth inning as the Dodgers wrapped up a 7-1 win, their seventh in eight games against the Rockies. Casey Blake had a key three-run double in the fifth.
With the win, and with Arizona breaking the Padres string of 10 straight wins, the Dodgers have a 8 1/2 game lead in the division. The Giants trail by nine, Diamondbacks by 11.5 and Colorado by 13.
Los Angeles is now 14-10 on the road, 18-5 at home, 22-8 against West Division opponents (no other team is over .500 in this department) have won seven of their last 10.
It is a bit like a "Boys of Summer" redux with a little stronger pitching staff. If this be heresy, we stand guilty.
A former All-Star who pitched a no-hitter 10 years ago for Minnesota, Milton had reconstructive surgery on his left elbow in June 2007 and missed all of 2008 before joining the Dodgers as a free agent in February.
Making his second Dodger start after opening the season at Albuquerque, Milton (1-0) threw 58 of 82 pitches for strikes. He gave up seven hits, including Clint Barmes' fifth-inning homer, and no walks in five innings.
In his first start, a no-decision in the Dodgers' 6-3 loss at Florida on May 16, Milton threw 84 pitches in four innings and gave up two runs on two hits and four walks.
"It was like getting back on a bike," Milton said. "Tonight was my game. I was just throwing strikes, getting ahead of hitters and was able to come out with a win. I didn't want to leave the game with a bitter taste in my mouth, trying to pitch when I was hurt and not pitching to my capabilities. I wanted to come back healthy and show what I can do. Hopefully, I can get on a routine now, throw every five days and be a little sharper."
Such was one of the wonders of the 2009 season, that whomever manager Joe Torre inserts in the lineup comes up with a superior effort.
With Ramirez missing for 50 games and Andre Ethier sidelined with a battered toe, after batting eighth for 30 games this season and seventh for eight games, Blake hit cleanup again and in the two previous games, Blake went 5-for-11 with four runs scored.
The bearded third baseman, hitting cleanup .438 the past three games, will be out of the lineup Wednesday to rest. His three RBIs on Tuesday gave him 32 this season, tied for the team lead with first baseman James Loney.
The Dodgers bullpen came up nearly perfect with Cory Wade, Ramon Troncoso and Brent Leach finishing out the final four innings without allowing a hit.
The amazing Juan Pierre had three more hits, including a triple and a two-run single to continue a torrid pace since stepping into the lineup earlier this month in place Ramirez. He has hit .410 (32-for-78) in 18 games since May 7, the day Manny took the hit for his actions.
Orlando Hudson went 2-for-3 with an RBI and a pair of walks, extending his career-best hitting streak to 16 games for the Dodgers, now a season-high 17 games over .500, a pace that would result in a 98-64 final record. Hudson is hitting .377 (26-for-69) during the streak.
The Dodgers struck for a run in the first inning when Pierre singled, Hudson walked and Andre Ethier reached on a fielder's choice and Pierre scored on pitcher Aaron Cooks error. Blake hit into a double play ad James Loney bounced out to end the inning.
Milton started a bit shakily, allowing a single in the first and two in the second but settled in nicely before leaving when Todd Helton opened the sixth with a single.
By that time Los Angeles had built up a nice cushion. Brad Ausmus, who was catching to give Russ Martin a day off, singled and was bunted to second. With two out both Hudson and Loney walked before Blake lined a shot to the left-center field wall to drive in two and run the lead to 4-0.
Colorado's Clint Barmes touched Milton for a leadoff homer in the fifth.
L.A. tacked on a run in the seventh when Pierre banged his third home run and scored when Hudson singled him home to tie Loney for the club lead in RBI with 32.
The ubiquitous Pierre collected his second and third runs batted in when he knocked in Juan Castro, filling in for Rafael Furcal, and Ausmus with a single in the eighth.
The Dodgers have averaged more runs per game without Ramirez (5.94) than before he was suspended (5.55). “Offensively, we’re continuing to live up to our billing,” Ausmus said. “When we lost Manny, a lot of the naysayers thought we would have trouble scoring runs but apparently, that isn’t true.”
"They're a really patient team, and when they get mistakes, they don't miss them," Cook said. "I felt like I made about four bad pitches, and the four bad pitches, they hurt us. When a team's doing that, it makes it real tough. You've got to be so precise."
But when everything was finally in the book, this night belonged to Milton. "It's got to mean a lot to him," Torre said. "This kid worked very hard to get back here."
The Dodgers are in a position for a rare on-the-road sweep this afternoon. LHP Clayton Kershaw (2-3, 4.32 ERA) allowed only one run but walked four in his last start that lasted five innings. His critics stress his inconsistency but Torre pointed out, "He's only 21. I know I was barely feeding myself at 21."
The Dodgers will face RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (3-5, 4.25 ERA) who suffered a 4-3 loss at Detroit when his catcher couldn't stop a low breaking ball and a run scored. Jimenez is 4-2 with a 7.07 ERA in nine games, eight starts, against the Dodgers.
Score by Innings
Los Angeles 100 030 120-7
Colorado 000 010 000-1
Los Angeles ab r h bi ave
Pierre lf 5 2 3 2 .394
Hudson 2b 3 1 2 1 .349
Ethier rf 4 1 0 0 .250
Hoffmann rf 0 0 0 0 .300
Blake 3b 5 0 2 3 .309
Loney 1b 4 0 1 0 .291
Kemp cf 5 0 0 0 .290
Castro ss 4 1 2 0 .400
Milton p 2 0 0 0 .000
Wade p 0 0 0 0 .000
Troncoso p 0 0 0 0 .000
Leach p 0 0 0 0 .000
Totals 37 7 12 6
Colorado 33 1 7 1
2B- Blake 2 (12). 3B- Pierre (3).
RBI- Blake 3 (32), Hudson (30),
Pierre 2 (18). S- Milton , Troncoso.
LOB- Los Angeles 10, Colorado 10.
Los Angeles in h r bi so era
Milton (1-0) 5.0 7 1-1 0 3 3.00
Wade 1.0 0 0-0 1 1 5.74
Troncoso 2.0 0 0-0 2 2 2.08
Leach 1.0 0 0-0 2 1 6.00
T- 3:13. Att- 25,384.
Schmidt Shut Down
Torre announced that the organization stopped Jason Schmidt's rehab assignment at Albuquerque because of right shoulder irritation.
Torre said the decision to halt rehab had nothing to do with Schmidt getting hit in the head by a line drive in his last rehab start.
"They don't think it's going to be a real bad problem, but at this point now, they just decided to stop it for the safety of his condition," Torre said.
Also on the medical front, shortstop Rafael Furcal was held out of lineup for the second straight night against the Rockies with a sore left gluteus (butt) muscle. "They want to give me another extra day but I'm ready to go," Furcal said. "They don't want to take a chance and keep playing that makes it worse."
Torre said his availability for today is still unknown. "Can he play? Yeah," Torre said. "Do I want to use him? No. Unless something happens where we used everybody up and somebody got hurt, I probably wouldn't use him."