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Brown Gives Dodgers What They Need

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Times Staff Writer

The transformation of the Dodgers usually occurs whenever starter Kevin Brown is scheduled to do his thing.

The inconsistent team often responds to the winning presence of the resurgent right-hander, and it did again Thursday night in a 5-2 interleague victory over the Kansas City Royals at Dodger Stadium.

Brown (8-1) was typically impressive for seven innings before 29,170, helping the Dodgers take two of three from the Royals in their first regular-season meeting.

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The second-place Dodgers (33-26) moved to within three games of the San Francisco Giants in the National League West, and Brown set the tone again.

“It was another fantastic performance by our starting pitcher, who seems to be doing that on a regular basis,” Manager Jim Tracy said. “He’s beginning to show Cy Young-type-caliber stuff.”

Following the pattern, the light-hitting Dodgers didn’t provide Brown with much support in a seven-hit attack.

But five runs were more than enough for Brown and the bullpen. Closer Eric Gagne, who had two strikeouts in a 1-2-3 ninth, remained perfect in 20 save opportunities and 28 spanning two seasons.

Leadoff batter Dave Roberts had two doubles and scored two runs. He led off the sixth with a double and scored the tying run on Shawn Green’s sacrifice fly -- Green’s second run batted in -- to give the Dodgers a 3-2 lead.

Paul Lo Duca extended his career-high hitting streak to 14 games with an eighth-inning triple, and scored on Fred McGriff’s two-run home run into the right-field pavilion. The 17-year veteran -- who has 488 homers -- needs one RBI to pass Joe DiMiaggio for 36th place on the all-time list.

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Cesar Izturis also had a run-scoring single and continued to dazzle defensively.

However, Brown was deservedly the Dodgers’ focal point.

“He’s one of the best in the game, that’s why he’s 8-1,” said Kansas City first baseman Mike Sweeney, listed as day-to-day after being hit in the left hand by a pitch from reliever Paul Shuey in the eighth.

“He can throw a 96-mph sinker with great movement. He’s got a great slider and a great splitter. He’s just tough,” Kansas City Manager Tony Pena said.

“We’re facing one of the best pitchers in baseball tonight.

“Whenever you face a pitcher like that, he gets tougher and tougher and tougher. That’s what you can expect.”

The Dodgers improved to 3-6 in their last nine games, with Brown winning twice during the stretch after a season-high 10-game winning streak.

With Brown on the mound, everything seems brighter for the Dodgers.

“I’ve said it before, ‘He’s the best pitcher in the National League,’ ” Lo Duca said.

“He’s just starting to get back to the way he was a few years ago, and to be able to do what he’s been doing is just phenomenal.

“His last outing, his fastball started to top at 96-97 [mph], so he’s only getting stronger and stronger. That’s the really scary thing -- it seems like he’s only getting better and better every time out.”

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Brown’s earned-run average increased slightly (from 2.02 to 2.06) after giving up five hits and two runs.

The Dodgers weren’t complaining, especially considering Brown improved to 5-0 with a 1.91 ERA in his starts following Dodger losses.

Kansas City left-hander Darrell May (0-2), who threw 104 pitches, was charged with four runs (three earned) in 7 1/3 innings.

“I was just getting a few breaks, and a good defense behind you helps you at a time like this,” said Brown, who joined Shawn Chacon of Colorado and Woody Williams of St. Louis as the National League’s other eight-game winners.

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