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Dodgers Send a Clear Message From Get-Go

Times Staff Writer

Like a job candidate with a snazzy tie and a bright smile, the Dodgers make a great first impression.

The first two batters in their lineup, Rafael Furcal and Kenny Lofton, meet and greet with the best of them, getting on base frequently and creating havoc on the basepaths.

They were at it again Saturday night, keying rallies in the first two innings that gave the Dodgers a quick double-digit lead in a 14-7 victory over the San Francisco Giants at AT&T; Park.

Greg Maddux benefited from the three-run first inning and seven-run second, notching his 329th victory despite giving up a three-run home run to Moises Alou in a four-run fourth and two unearned runs in the fifth. Maddux (11-11) is tied with Steve Carlton for 10th place on the all-time victory list.

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“Runs can make you look good real quick,” Maddux said. “Our offense made it easy for me to pitch.”

Several Dodgers beefed up their batting averages during the 17-hit onslaught. Andre Ethier had four hits and three runs batted in, J.D. Drew had two hits and three RBIs, Nomar Garciaparra had two hits and scored three runs and Jeff Kent drove in two runs with a triple before departing after two innings as a precaution because he felt a twinge in his side.

“It was a fun day all around,” Ethier said.

The festivities began with Furcal and Lofton. They opened the game with consecutive singles against Brad Hennessey (5-3) and scored when Garciaparra followed with a single and Ethier tripled with two out.

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Maddux began the second inning with a ground-rule double and Furcal followed with a play normally confined to Little League fields. He bunted to the left side of the mound and Hennessey threw the ball down the right-field line, enabling Maddux to score. With Furcal racing around second, Ray Durham retrieved the ball and threw wildly to third, enabling Furcal to score.

Lofton doubled to right, triggering an avalanche of six consecutive hits. By the end of the inning, the Dodgers led, 10-0. Moments later, Jason Repko took over in center field, which will enable the 39-year-old Lofton to be in the lineup today. Kent said he also would play today.

“That was the point of them coming out of the game,” Manager Grady Little said. “Now they can play a day game after a night game.”

Any game with Lofton batting behind Furcal is a plus for the Dodgers. The two table-setters are batting a combined .300 and have 53 stolen bases in 66 attempts. Since July 1, they are batting .348.

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Furcal has overcome a slow start to rank among leaders in runs, hits, multi-hit games and batting with runners in scoring position. Lofton has batted .328 since the beginning of last season, higher than any other major leaguer besides Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera.

“That’s what we expected from those guys and we haven’t really got it until now,” Little said. “A lot of action comes forward when they get on base.”

Lofton said he has benefited from frequent rest and expects to remain strong through the end of the season. Furcal rarely needs a day off -- he has played in 11 more games than any other Dodger.

Furcal, in fact, said that tightness in his shoulder that caused him to leave Friday night’s game early resulted from the team having a day off Thursday.

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“The only time I feel sore is when we don’t play,” he said. “The more I play, the better I feel.”

His teammates can relate. The Dodgers (65-58) have won 18 of their last 21 and maintained their three-game lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks while gaining ground on the other three teams in the National League West.


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