Roberts Is Catalytic and Dodgers Convert
When it comes to offense, the Dodgers are not exactly packing a V-8 with a dual carburetor under the hood, but it’s amazing how much more pep the engine had with a new spark plug Saturday night.
Leadoff batter Dave Roberts, making his first start in eight games, singled twice, stole two bases and scored two runs, and right fielder Shawn Green added some muscle with a two-run home run and a double to lead the Dodgers to a 4-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates before 45,737 in Dodger Stadium.
First baseman Fred McGriff had an RBI single, a double and a diving stop in the infield, shortstop Cesar Izturis made spectacular plays up the middle and to the hole, perhaps saving a run or two, reliever Troy Brohawn escaped a two-on, two-out jam in the seventh, and closer Eric Gagne threw a perfect ninth for his ninth save.
About the only blemish to the victory was Dodger starter Darren Dreifort’s early departure because of soreness in his right knee. Dreifort will be re-evaluated today, but the Dodgers were confident the injury was unrelated to the knee surgery Dreifort had last season.
“It’s not even close, it’s something totally different,” said Dreifort, who gave up one run and four hits in six innings and threw only 84 pitches. “I tweaked it a little, and it continued to get tight. I threw a pitch and kind of felt it.”
Roberts was limited by a strained right hamstring to one pinch-hitting appearance in the previous seven games, but there was no doubt he was back at full strength Saturday night.
With the score tied, 1-1, in the fifth, Roberts reached on a two-out infield single and stole second, even though the Pirates pitched out. He then scored on Paul Lo Duca’s single to right, while outfielder Matt Stairs’ throw sailed over the catcher’s head, to give the Dodgers a 2-1 lead.
Then in the seventh, Roberts ignited a rally with a one-out single to left. After Lo Duca lined to right for the second out, Roberts stole second -- his 12th stolen base of the season -- and scored on Green’s home run, a liner over the center-field wall that was only his second home run since April 10.
“Dave is a catalyst, a base-stealing threat, a guy with the capability of leading the league in stolen bases,” Dodger Manager Jim Tracy said. “The potential to steal a base every time he reaches first is there. After stealing 45 bases last season, his awareness and understanding of the pitchers is even better this year.”
After Roberts helped give the Dodgers the lead in the fifth, the Dodgers nearly lost it in the seventh. The left-handed Brohawn, who came in with a 1.80 earned-run average, replaced Dreifort and ran into immediate trouble when he walked Stairs to open the inning and Reggie Sanders singled to center, moving Stairs to second.
Pokey Reese dropped what appeared to be an adequate sacrifice bunt attempt between the mound and third, but Brohawn fielded the ball and threw to third a split-second before Stairs’ arrival for the first out.
With pinch-hitter Adam Hyzdu at the plate, Sanders and Reese pulled off a double steal, but Brohawn struck out Hyzdu looking at a breaking ball and got Kenny Lofton to fly to shallow left-center, ending the inning.
With Roberts on second and two out in the bottom of the seventh, Pittsburgh Manager Lloyd McClendon made a curious move, bringing in Dennys Reyes to face Green, who was three for four with a home run and seven runs batted in against the Pirate left-hander.
Green tore into a 2-2 pitch, smashing it over the wall in center to give the Dodgers a much more comfortable 4-1 lead. Green also doubled with two outs in the first and scored on McGriff’s single to right.
Included in the Dodger highlight package was Izturis ranging far up the middle to field Jason Kendall’s first-inning grounder and throwing to first for the out, and making a back-hand stop of Randall Simon’s eighth-inning grounder to the hole and making a long throw to first for the out.
“He’s the best defensive shortstop in the league,” Dodger second baseman Alex Cora said. “The plays he makes don’t even surprise me anymore. If he’s not the best ... tell me who is.”