For well over 100 years, Dodgers and Giants fans have anticipated the meetings between their two clubs. National League standings have little to do with the intensity of the games, just the face-to-face with their oldest and most heated rivals. The Dodgers took the opening game of the series in San Francisco 4-2 in a meeting that could only be called crucial if one club swept all three games.
The Dodgers division lead, like the summer, has dwindled down and the Giants and Rockies have paired almost five games off the early Los Angeles lead. And after losing three of four to Atlanta some wondered if the Dodgers confidence level had also melted away.
But a clutch start by Hiroki Kuroda and a three-run double by Matt Kemp relegated all of that thinking on the back burner. The Dodgers are 31-12 within the Western Division and only 37-33 against the rest of the Major League teams on the schedule.
“It’s really too early to concern ourselves with winning anything,” Torre said. “It’s just a matter of trying to minimize your bad stuff. We’re coming off a three-game losing streak at home. Anytime you do something like that it pokes holes in your confidence.”
Los Angeles had not only lost three straight, they had dropped 11 of 17 heading into the series. Torre called a clubhouse meeting after the final loss to Atlanta and shook up the lineup, moving Russell Martin to second, Manny Ramirez to fourth (for the first time this season) and using Mark Loretta at first base instead of the slumping James Loney.
Ramirez started the winning four-run fourth inning with a one-out single. Back-to-back walks to Casey Blake and Orlando Hudson brought up Kemp who has three grand slams this season and was is 6-for-13 lifetime against Giants starter Jonathan Sanchez.
Kemp didn't hit one out but he ripped an 0-1 changeup from Jonathan Sanchez down the left-field line to clear bases and turn a 1-0 Giants lead into a 3-1 Dodgers advantage. Loretta singled home Kemp to make it a four-run inning.
Kuroda allowed a solo homer to Travis Ishikawa in the second, then Fred Lewis was nailed attempting to advance on a pitch that Martin blocked. Kuroda didn't allow another San Francisco hit until into the seventh inning. He allowed six hits and one walk while striking out a pair.
It was the Dodgers sixth win in Kuroda's last seven starts.
The Dodgers used four relievers the rest of the way. Hong-Chih Kuo took over in the seventh with one out and Randy Winn on first bases and struck out Lewis. Ron Belisario ended the inning by inducing a ground ball.
George Sherrill worked around a leadoff double in the eighth to keep the Giants off the scoreboard and Jonathan Broxton came in to save his 25th game in 29 opportunities, although he allowed a solo home run to Bengie Molina.
Juan Castro, taking over for Hudson, made a nice diving stop and a perfect throw to first to retire the final San Francisco batter.
Ramirez was booed at every opportunity by the sellout crowd in his first game in San Francisco since coming back from a 50-game suspension for violating baseball’s drug rules, echoing the treatment former Giants slugger Barry Bonds would get in Los Angeles. Ramirez finished 2 hits in four trips and now has five hits in seven trips since going 0-for-7 during the Atlanta series.
The wild crowd must have been a surprise for the rookies who were making their first trip to the city by the bay. “It felt like a playoff atmosphere out there,” Hudson said. “It was loud, the fans were into it.”
Despite ESPN's attempts to convince the world that the Red Sox-Yankees series the the best and longest-running rivalry in baseball, this sort of game was commonplace in New York and Brooklyn before the turn of the century and the American League was even a gleam in their founder's eye.
Always the perfectionist, Kuroda admitted after the game he was "not completely satisfied" with the way he pitched, pointing out that he lacked command of his breaking ball and his splitter.
But he was well aware of the importance of the game. "There definitely was a lot of pressure, because the Giants were playing well lately and we lost three games and with the extra day a lot of people were expecting me to pitch well," Kuroda told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. "I'm pleased I was able to pitch well. It felt a little bit like last October. I really like the atmosphere. We played good team baseball today."
The Dodgers scored only in the fourth inning and had four of their nine hits in that inning. Other than the fourth, they were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left eight on base. The top five in the order: Furcal, Martin, Ethier, Ramirez and Blake, left 13 hanging and struck out seven times.
In the second game of the series the Dodgers will send LHP Randy Wolf (5-6, 3.55 ERA) to the mound. Wolf said he had his best stuff in his previous no-decision start against Atlanta. Wolf has a 3.44 ERA in his career against the Giants.
The 'Jints counter with RHP Joe Martinez (2-0, 5.87 ERA) who suffered skull fractures and a concussion after being struck him in his forehead by a line drive in the season's third game. He won his first Major League start in his last outing at Houston.
Score by Innings
Los Angeles 000 400 000-4
San Francisco 010 000 001-2
Los Angeles ab r h bi ave
Furcal ss 4 0 1 0 .263
Martin c 5 0 1 0 .270
Ethier rf 4 0 0 0 .269
Ramirez lf 4 1 2 0 .314
Blake 3b 3 1 0 0 .290
Hudson 2b 3 1 1 0 .294
Castro 2b 0 0 0 0 .317
Kemp cf 4 1 1 3 .314
Loretta 1b 4 0 2 1 .237
Loretta p 1 0 0 0 .237
Kuroda p 1 0 0 0 .118
Kuo p 0 0 0 0 .000
Belisario p 0 0 0 0 .000
Sherrill p 0 0 0 0 .000
Pierre ph 1 0 1 0 .316
Broxton p 0 0 0 0 .000
Totals 33 4 9 4
San Francisco 33 2 9 2
2B-Kemp (17), Hudson (30). RBI- Kemp
3 (72), Loretta (21). S- Kuroda 2.
LOB- Los Angeles 8, San Francisco 5.
CS- Furcal (5). DP- Furcal and Loretta;
Hudson, Furcal and Loretta.
Los Angeles in h r-er bb so era
Kuroda (5-5) 6.1 6 1-1 1 2 4.21
Kuo 0.1 0 0-0 0 0 4.63
Belisario 0.1 0 0-0 0 0 2.37
Sherrill 1.0 1 0-0 0 0 2.12
Broxton (sv 25) 1.0 2 1-1 0 1 2.96
T- 3:04. Att- 40,522.
Chad Billingsley worked a brief bullpen before the game and reported discomfort in his hamstring. He was quickly scratched from his scheduled start in the final game of the series and Torre said he was leaning toward using Jeff Weaver and the rest of the staff since Thursday is a a day off.
GM Ned Colletti said the club continues to search for pitching help from outside the organization, a move that would require a waiver transaction, candidates are scarce. If it necessary to put Billingsley on the disabled list, left-handed pitcher Scott Elbert could get a return ticket from Albuquerque.
All-Star second baseman Orlando Hudson suffered a slight groin pull in the sixth inning. Hudson had previously extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a double in the top of the sixth inning, but was injured when Giants Eugenio Velez's ground ball bounced off first baseman Mark Loretta's glove and Hudson had to make a sudden change of direction.
His feet went out from under him and he felt a twinge. "I don't wear spikes," Hudson said. "I never do. Always wear rubber cleats. It's just one of those things."
Torre said he expected Hudson to miss at least Tuesday night's game
Loney May Start Tonight
With a right-hander starting for the Giants tonight, James Loney may be back in the lineup for the Dodgers.
The slumping Loney is suffering through a 1-for-20 (and 0-for-13) slump that has dropped his average down to .282, a three-week low.
"Every year I have a slump," Loney said. "More than one, probably three this year. And it's just something you have to fight through. When you're in a slump, you're in a slump. Sometimes you feel bad for a few days and then the day you feel good, you still don't find a hole. And the slump gets bigger."
Dodger Blue Notes-- Torre said injured reliever Will Ohman is throwing bullpen sessions in Arizona and will work out with the club in Phoenix on Friday. He is not expected to rejoin the club until next month. ...Following three games in San Francisco, the Dodgers will take Thursday off and then open a three-game series at Arizona before returning home to open a seven-game stay with the first of three vs. St. Louis. ...Of the Dodgers remaining 50 games, 31 are against NL West opponents. Los Angeles went 28-22 over their 50 contests of the 2008 regular season, and won the National League West Division going away. ...The Dodgers still have the best record in the National League at 68-45 and the largest lead of any first-place NL team, 5.5 games better than the Rockies. The Dodgers’ biggest lead was 9.5 games entering play on June 4. ...Coming into the series, San Francisco led the big leagues with a 3.49 ERA, while the Dodgers ranked second among the 30 clubs with a 3.65 ERA. The Dodgers led the Majors with a .234 opponents’ average and the Giants ranked second with a .238 mark.