Dodgers Don't Lose Any Sweep

Times Staff Writer

Turns out there was something more hideous than the hip bruise that kept Shawn Green on the bench Wednesday night.

That would be his team.

Not even a ninth-inning rally could keep the Arizona Diamondbacks from turning in their third consecutive horrid performance, and the Dodgers gratefully accepted a 5-4 victory at Dodger Stadium for a series sweep that kept them in a three-way tie for first place in the National League West.

Certainly part of the reason the Diamondbacks looked bad was the pitching of Dodgers right-hander Brad Penny (10-2), who added to the glowing numbers he will take to the All-Star game by giving up two runs in seven innings.

And Takashi Saito pitched out of jams in the eighth and ninth for his sixth save, striking out Conor Jackson with a nasty slider to end the game with runners on first and second, two runs already having tightened the score.

But the reeling Diamondbacks were their own worst enemy, especially in the third inning when they gave the Dodgers three of their four runs and did their best to hand them more, only to be rescued by a questionable call by the first base umpire.

"We came in knowing this was a big series, and a lot of things fell our way," catcher Russell Martin said.

Green, the Diamondbacks right fielder, did not play after being drilled by Dodgers reliever Danys Baez a night earlier, the crowning blow in a string of seven batters hit by pitches in the first two games of the series.

Apparently a cease-fire was agreed upon because only one batter was hit, and it didn't appear to be purposeful. Baez grazed the arm of Luis Gonzalez with two out and a runner on second in the eighth, bringing the tying run to the plate and Manager Grady Little to the mound to remove Baez.

Gonzalez had objected strongly Tuesday after Baez pelted Green, but he had no reaction to being hit, jogging to first to bring the tying run to the plate. Saito, who has been exceptional as a closer in the absence of Eric Gagne, got Johnny Estrada to line to short to end the threat.

Otherwise, there were no casualties, unless one counts the eyeballs of baseball purists who watched the third inning.

Three of the four Dodgers runs in the inning were a direct result of second baseman Orlando Hudson's throwing away a probable double-play ground ball by J.D. Drew with one out and runners on first and third.

There could have been more damage had Rafael Furcal not been picked off first. And the inning ended with a blown call by first base umpire Tim Tschida, who ruled that Ramon Martinez did not touch the bag eluding a tag by Jackson, who leaned into the baseline to catch an errant throw by third baseman Chad Tracy and vainly tried to tag Martinez.

The call cost the Dodgers a run because it ended the inning and Matt Kemp would have scored on the play.

Dodgers bats were silent thereafter, leaving it to Penny, the two relievers and the defense to deliver the victory. Rookie left fielder Andre Ethier made the best play, sliding to catch Estrada's sinking liner and end the sixth with two runners on base.

"That was the pivotal play," Little said.

Ethier, the leading hitter among National League rookies, also hit his sixth home run to lead off the second for the first Dodgers run, pulling a 2-1 pitch over the fence in right-center. In three games since striking out four times against the Angels on Sunday, Ethier is six for 12.

"I'm getting more aggressive early in the count," he said. "Teams know I came through the Oakland farm system and think I'm always patient. So I'm adjusting."

Rookie Matt Kemp had two hits, ending a slump with a run-scoring double in the third and a single in the seventh.

As for pitches hitting batters, the Dodgers hope the Diamondbacks don't resurrect the feud when the teams meet in Phoenix in two weeks.

"All that is behind us," Little said. "We're convinced it's over."

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Mini streak

Nomar Garciaparra has hit safely in 17 consecutive games but still has a ways to go to reach the top four Dodgers hitting streaks since the team moved to Los Angeles:

*--* No. Name Year 31 Willie Davis 1969 25 Willie Davis 1971 25 Steve Sax 1986 25 Paul Lo Duca 2003

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