No one would have blamed Dodger catcher Dioner Navarro if he had spent Friday night in the same place he has been for much of the week, at the bedside of his two-week-old son, Dioner Jr., who is in a Pasadena hospital because of an undisclosed ailment.
Instead, Navarro chose to take a three-hour break and spend the evening at Dodger Stadium.
Certainly not because of the importance of the game. Despite beating the Pittsburgh Pirates, 4-3, the Dodgers still trail the NL West-leading San Diego Padres by nine games with nine to play. That means the Dodgers can still tie for the division title in the minds of mathematicians if not anyone who has seen their roster.
And certainly Navarro did not have to play to impress the Dodger brass. They have already made him, at 21, their starting catcher.
Nevertheless, there was Navarro, after skipping the Dodgers’ three-game series in Arizona, not only playing Friday night but doing so as if the game really meant something. Coming to bat with one out in the sixth inning, the bases empty and his team trailing, 2-1, Navarro smacked a Paul Maholm pitch into left field, didn’t hesitate as he rounded first and dived into second.
That seemed to inspire his teammates, who went on to score three times in the inning en route to ending their six-game losing streak.
“For [Navarro] to be out here concentrating for nine innings,” said Dodger starter D.J. Houlton, “and to get that hit was pretty amazing. It shows what he is made of. You couldn’t be upset with him if he wasn’t here, but I really respect the guy for coming out and playing.”
Dodger Manager Jim Tracy also was impressed.
“What he had done for us offensively is beyond our expectations,” Tracy said. “And the way he has handled our pitchers, you have got to think about him being an integral part of the team.”
Navarro’s double was followed by a walk to Mike Edwards and an RBI single by Jayson Werth that tied the score.
Antonio Perez’s RBI single put his team in front and, after Jose Mesa came on in relief, Jeff Kent got his team-leading 105th RBI on a bases-loaded walk.
Jason Bay made it a one-run game in the ninth inning after hitting his 31st home run of the season, a solo shot off Duaner Sanchez.
Houlton (6-9) earned the victory and Maholm (2-1) the loss. Sanchez got his seventh save.
The Dodgers had staked Houlton to an early lead when Willy Aybar doubled to open the bottom of the first and scored on Olmedo Saenz’s single to left.
But in the third, Pirate second baseman Freddy Sanchez hit a towering two-run homer to left on a 1-and-1 fastball from Houlton for his fifth home run of the season.
And when the game ended, Navarro, his night of mental relaxation over, returned to the real world.
Dodger right-hander Brad Penny, who had to leave Wednesday’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks because of tightness in his pitching forearm, will throw in the bullpen Monday or Tuesday with the idea of making one more start this season.... X-rays on the right wrist of Jason Phillips were negative. Phillips injured it sliding into first Thursday against the Diamondbacks.