Can't Knock Dodger Bats

Times Staff Writer

So this is what it was supposed to look like: Dodgers running from first to third on singles, a Dodger scoring from third with fewer than two outs, a Dodger scoring from first on a double to highlight a 5-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies before 30,416 at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday night.

The Dodgers, visions of the 2002 Angels dancing in their heads, broke camp in March hoping to make up for their offensive shortcomings with an aggressive, opportunistic attack, one that emphasized ambitious but smart base-running and effective situational hitting.

Those who have followed the Dodgers in 2003 know their offense has been more of a retreat than an attack. They've ranked last in the National League in numerous offensive categories for several months, and most nights, the basepaths have been as deserted as a country road after midnight.

But the Dodgers moved into the fast lane Tuesday night, circling the bases at a break-neck pace to end a three-game losing streak and move to within 3 1/2 games of the Philadelphia Phillies in the NL wild-card race.

Shawn Green and Paul Lo Duca highlighted a 10-hit attack with three hits apiece, Green doubling to spark rallies in the fourth and eighth innings and Lo Duca breaking the game open with a clutch two-out, two-run double in the fifth.

That backed another strong start by Dodger right-hander Hideo Nomo, who gave up two runs -- one earned -- and six hits in seven innings to improve to 11-8.

Closer Eric Gagne added a perfect ninth for his 34th save this season and his 42nd consecutive save dating to last August, the second-longest consecutive-saves streak in baseball history behind Tom Gordon's run of 54 for Boston in 1998-99.

Newly acquired outfielder Jeromy Burnitz added a single in the fourth and an RBI single in the eighth and showed some savvy on the basepaths by tagging up from first on Adrian Beltre's sacrifice fly in the fourth.

"There was a lot to like about our offense tonight," Manager Jim Tracy said. "You're able to do some things when you strike the ball the way we did tonight; when Burnitz drives the ball toward the right-field corner, you're able to go from first to third. That's what we've not seen enough of consistently. Those kinds of things add energy.... We scored five, but the attack was persistent."

Green, who leads the major leagues with 36 doubles, belted a one-out double to right off Colorado starter Jason Jennings in the fourth and scored on Lo Duca's single to tie the score, 1-1.

Burnitz lined a single to right, sending Lo Duca to third, and Lo Duca's aggressive base-running paid off because he was in position to score the go-ahead run on Beltre's sacrifice fly.

The go-go Dodgers were at it again in the fifth, after Rickey Henderson reached on an error. Alex Cora lined a single to right, advancing Henderson to third, and Green popped to shallow center, not deep enough for Henderson to tag.

But Lo Duca grounded a double past the diving Chris Stynes at third, with Henderson jogging home and Cora racing home from first for a 4-1 lead.

The Rockies cut the lead in half in the sixth, as Preston Wilson singled, Jay Payton walked, Rene Reyes reached on Beltre's error, and Stynes singled to center for a run. But Beltre atoned for his earlier mistake, snagging Bobby Estalella's one-hop smash to start an inning-ending double play and preserve a 4-2 lead.

Green's double, Lo Duca's bunt single and Burnitz's RBI single made it 5-2 in the bottom of the eighth, and Gagne, who suffered a blown save and a loss for the National League in the July 15 All-Star game, retired the side in order in the ninth, lowering his earned run average to 1.89.

"He's been dominant," Lo Duca said of Gagne. "The All-Star game may be the only runs he gives up [the rest of the season]. You expect the game to be over the way he's throwing, and he just keeps getting better.... "

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