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Saenz’s pinch-hit single gives Dodgers a win

Times Staff Writer

These Dodgers don’t hit home runs. They don’t deliver with the bases loaded.

But they kill earthworms with the best of them.

Olmedo Saenz hit a single up the middle with two out in the ninth that must have bounced 15 times, prompting most of his teammates to bounce out of the dugout and one to bound across home plate with the winning run in a 2-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium.

The victory propelled the Dodgers back into first place and made the crowd of 36,029 forget the two squandered bases loaded opportunities and an ill-advised dive in the outfield.

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“We battled as a team, didn’t get frustrated when we could have, and I felt like my job was to come through in that situation,” Saenz said. “I was really concentrating up there. Our bullpen had done enough the last few days and we had earlier chances that didn’t work out.”

That’s for certain. Load the bases, and the pressure is on the pitcher. Load them up, and there is no place to put the next hitter. Except, in the case of the Dodgers, back to the dugout with a frown.

Their batting average with the bases loaded is .067 this season after Juan Pierre flied out to left field to end the sixth inning, stranding three runners and leaving the Dodgers’ lead at 1-0. The previous batter, Rafael Furcal, was called out on strikes.

The Dodgers also left the bases loaded in the second, when they scored their only run. Brad Penny popped up after Russell Martin doubled, Andre Ethier singled and Wilson Betemit walked. Furcal drew a walk to force in Martin with the first run, then Pierre’s soft line drive to left was caught on a dive by Eric Byrnes.

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The only Dodgers hits with the bases loaded have been a double by Saenz in the third game of the season and a memorable grand slam by Martin in the 10th inning on April 21.

“I think we’ll put a runner on each base during batting practice and see if we can’t turn that around,” Manager Grady Little said. “I think it’s something we need to work on.”

But none of the futility mattered when Saenz rolled a pitch by Brandon Lyon up the middle to score Furcal, who killed a few worms himself with a groundball single to lead off the ninth.

Penny kept the Dodgers in the game as long as he could, pitching six scoreless innings to lower his earned-run average to 1.64. Chin-hui Tsao sailed through the seventh.

But with Jonathan Broxton pitching in the eighth, Ethier left his feet on a ball he had no chance to catch, and it rolled to the wall for a triple. Orlando Hudson singled to tie the score.

Penny pitched his way out of several early jams, some his own doing, others caused by teammates.

Marlon Anderson, playing first base for the first time as a Dodger, dropped a foul pop fly by Carlos Quentin with none out in the second, and Quentin promptly singled. Penny got Alberto Callaspo to hit into a double play however.

In the third, Byrnes stole second despite a pitchout when Furcal couldn’t handle Martin’s throw. But Hudson flied out to end the threat.

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Penny walked two with two out in the fourth, and also gave free passes in the first and fifth innings. Yet he made big pitches every time the situation required. “I would have been disappointed if we didn’t win,” he said. “This was the type of game that says a lot about a team.”

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steve.henson@latimes.com


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