Martin's first curtain call
He looks nothing like Ray Walston who starred the the TV series "My Favorite Martian", but Russell Martin, who has struggled to regain his rookie-season punch at the plate, found it in the sixth inning, ripping the first pitch thrown to him for a grand slam home run that broke a 2-2 tie and gave the Dodgers a 7-2 win in the opening game of a four-game series.
“It was big for us. Russell Martin needed that,” manager Joe Torre said. “It broke the tie and just gave Russell something to go on. We all pull for each other. They know when guys are struggling and trying to find it. The fact that Russell hit it really elevated everybody’s mood.”
Martin was 0-for-3 in the final game of the St. Louis series and his low throw to second led to the winning run for the Cardinals, was hitting just .246 in August and hadn’t homered since July 26 against Florida. It was his fourth homer of the season.
“I can't change the past. I haven’t had a great season so far,” he said. “Hopefully, this ignites a little fire within me. We haven’t been playing our best baseball lately. We believe in what we have here. It just takes a few guys to step up.”
As a rookie in 2007, Martin slugged 19 home runs and received the National League's Silver Slugger and Gold Glove. The big hit gave him 38 RBIs, down off some 49 runs from his rookie-season total. He had knocked in only three runs in August.
Over the previous seven games, the Dodgers had scored three runs or less in five of them. They had lost all five and watched their NL West lead slip to 3 1/2 games over Colorado, who beat Washington again.
The Cubs are struggling, too, going 4-10 in their last 14 games and they fell seven behind NL Central-leading St. Louis with the loss.
Jack of all pitching trades, Jeff Weaver, filling in for the injured Hiroki Kuroda, pitched a season-high 5.1 innings, allowing five hits and two runs to drop his earned run as a starter to 3.13. lower than all the other starters save Clayton Kershaw.
Ronald Belisario, Ramon Troncoso and Guillermo Mota allowed the Cubs three hits and no runs over the final 3.2 innings. The Dodger bullpen has allowed just one earned run over its last 15.1 innings (0.59 ERA) in five games.
"It starts with Weaver," Torre told the writers after the game, "He's a bullpen guy and he gives us an effective five innings. He gave us an opportunity to give Broxton and Sherrill the night off."
Weaver struck out Alfonso Soriano in the third inning with the bases loaded to avert disaster.
In the sixth, Manny Ramirez keyed the big inning with a single, one of his three hits, Casey Blake singled, Orlando Hudson bunted them over and James Loney was given an intentional walk to James Loney to bring up Martin.
"Just really looking for something out over the plate, something elevated so I could drive it," said Martin. "That was the only thing I was looking for, so worst-case I'd get a sacrifice fly."
Martin collected his second career grand slam and, by his own admission, his first curtain call.
Martin's off-season conditioning program that brought his weight down to 206 pounds for the start of Spring Training didn't work and since then he's picked up 16 pounds and believes that will be an advantage the rest of the season.
Furcal and Kemp singled to open the game and Ethier's ground ball drove in the first run. Chicago tied it in the second on a solo home run but Martin walked, Weaver bunted him to second and Furcal drove him in with his second hit of the game.
Another single run in the third tie the game and it stayed that way until Martin's blast in the sixth. Ramirez doubled and Blake singled him in for an insurance run in the seventh.
Ramirez had three hits, Furcal, Kemp and Blake had a pair each.
The Dodgers took a one-game advantage over the Cubs in their all-time regular-season series 1,015-1,014. And the Dodgers lead the Cardinals, who just left town, 995-994 in their series.
It will be Randy (Wolf) against Randy (Wells) tonight in the second game of the series.
Wolf (7-6, 3.43 ERA) took a one-hit shutout into the eighth inning for his ninth quality start in his past 10 outings against the Cardinals in his last outing and added three hits, including his fifth career home run. He's 4-7 lifetime against the Cubs.
Wells (9-5, 3.01 ERA) suffered his worst start of the season on Aug. 9 against the Rockies but bounced back against the Pirates on Friday. Wells has held the opposition to three earned runs or fewer in 14 of his 18 starts.
The rotation for the rest of the series:
Saturday afternoon, LHP Ted Lilly (9-7, 3.42) vs. RHP Charlie Haeger (0-1, 3.86)
Sunday afternoon, RHP Ryan Dempster (6-7, 4.28) vs. RHP Chad Billingsley (12-6, 3.70).
Score by Innings
Chicago 011 000 000-2
Los Dodgers 110 004 10x-7
Los Angeles ab r h bi ave
Furcal ss 5 1 2 1 .21
Kemp cf 4 0 2 0 .310
Ethier rf 4 0 0 1 .283
Ramirez lf 4 2 3 0 .313
Blake 3b 4 1 2 1 .281
Hudson 2b 3 0 1 0 .295
Loney 1b 3 1 0 0 .277
Martin c 3 2 1 4 .262
Weaver p 1 0 0 0 .250
Belisario p 0 0 0 0 .000
Abreu ph 1 0 0 0 .167
Troncoso p 0 0 0 0 .000
Mota p 1 0 0 0 .333
Totals 33 7 11 7
Chicago 35 2 8 2
2B- Ramirez (20). HR- Martin (9).
RBI- Ethier (83), Furcal (35), Martin 4
(38), Blake (68). S- Weaver; Hudson.
LOB- Los Angeles 6, Chicago 10.
Los Angeles in h r-er bb so era
Weaver 5.1 5 2-2 2 4 3.69
Belisario (2-3) 0.2 0 0-0 1 0 2.21
Troncoso 1.0 1 0-0 0 1 2.73
Mota 2.0 2 0-0 0 2 3.45
HBP- by Weaver. T- 3:01. Att- 49,974.
Dodger Blue Notes-- Martin's grand slam was the fifth by a Dodgers player this season (Kemp three, Ramirez). Martin’s other slam was a walk-off shot on April 21, 2007 vs. Pittsburgh. Los Angeles’ last grand slam was by Manny Ramirez on July 22 vs. Cincinnati and also broke a 2-2 tie in the sixth inning. ...Matt Kemp went 2-for-4 for his 39th multi-hit game of the season, one behind Andre Ethier’s 40 for the club lead. ...The Dodgers improved to 72-50 and remain 2.0 games ahead of the Phillies (69-49) for the best record in the National League. L.A. is 16-18 since the All-Star break, including a 7-11 mark in August and had lost five of their last seven and eight of their last 12. They have won just one of their last five series beginning August 3, losing 10 of 16 games overall in that span.