Park Still Feels Right at Home
OK, so it was only the Arizona Diamondbacks, the team with the fewest wins in baseball, playing at Dodger Stadium Friday night.
And it wasn’t even the Diamondbacks at full strength. Their leading home-run hitter, Travis Lee, had to leave at the end of the third inning because of a strained groin. And Matt Williams, another power hitter, is on the disabled list because of a broken foot.
Twenty-four hours after sinking to one of their lowest emotional points of the year by blowing a six-run lead against the Houston Astros, the Dodgers defeated the Diamondbacks, 3-1, before a crowd of 36,150.
They didn’t care who they were facing as long as they could find a way to right their ship.
So, they turned to the anchor of their staff.
And Chan Ho Park responded by holding Arizona to two hits over eight innings.
Park struck out 11, to tie a career high, and walked two. Jeff Shaw pitched the ninth inning for his 29th save.
But none of this should come as a surprise. Good teams or bad, big games or not, Park has beaten everybody he has faced at Dodger Stadium for over a year. He has won 11 in a row at home over a span of 17 starts dating to July 10, 1997. His earned-run average for the 117 innings he has pitched during the streak is 3.08.
So how important is the streak to him?
Uh, what streak?
“I didn’t know about the winning streak,” Park insisted. “Home games make me more confident. The fans help me build my confidence.”
The fans had plenty to cheer about Friday night. The Dodgers got on the scoreboard first, breaking through against Arizona starter and loser Amaury Telemaco (3-4) with all their runs in the third inning.
And it was shortstop Juan Castro, of all people, who drove in the first two.
Everybody knows about Castro’s ability with a glove, an ability that places him among the league’s premier defensive talents.
His bat, however, is another story. He began the game with a goal of reaching the .200 mark, having started the night at .197.
When Castro came to bat in the third, Charles Johnson was on third and Wilton Guerrero on second.
Not for long.
Castro hit a ball down the left-field line for a double to drive the pair home.
“It was a high slider,” Castro said. “I just wanted to make a contribution. I feel a lot happier when I help the team with my offense. I know I can do it with the bat.”
Gary Sheffield then drove Castro home for the Dodgers’ final run of the night.
But, as it turned out, Sheffield helped the Dodgers even more by getting into a rundown as he tried to stretch the single into a double. Even though he was tagged out, Sheffield forced the Arizona first baseman to plunge headfirst at him in order to get the out.
“As I dove,” Lee said, “I felt it [groin muscle] go. I don’t know if it’s pulled or a strain, but I’m definitely feeling sore.”
With three Dodger runs in the bank, the big question seemed to be whether Park would throw a no-hitter. He had one until Yamil Benitez hit a 1-1 pitch over the wall in left-center with two out in the fifth for his seventh homer.
The next question was whether Park would be allowed to finish the game.
"[Manager Glenn Hoffman] told me during the eighth inning,” Park said, “if we score, I stay. If there is no more score, Shaw is pitching. I was like, ‘Let’s score. Let’s score.’ After last year and my first complete game, I got a lot of confidence.”
The complete game would have to wait for another night. Despite the dominance Park had demonstrated on the mound, despite the fact that Hoffman will have to find nights to give Shaw a rest, this was not one of them.
Shaw had not been used in Thursday’s debacle, so back he came Friday night.
“Once you get 24 hours off, it does wonders for you,” Shaw said. “Forty-eight hours is even better. I expect to be called every night. When the phone rings, I get up.”