The pregame buzz involved rookies, the shuttling from triple A to the big leagues of infielder Tony Abreu, the return to the minors of pitcher Hong-Chih Kuo and the ramifications as the Dodgers pursue a trade for a power hitter.
Postgame comments, however, centered around three second-year Dodgers who play prominent roles barely a year after riding that same shuttle from triple A early last season.
Catcher Russell Martin and relievers Jonathan Broxton and Takashi Saito might be in their first full years, but they are as dependable as any veteran with double-digit service time. They proved so again in a 3-2 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium that ended a four-game losing streak and kept the Dodgers in first place in the National League West.
Martin adhered to the game plan against right-hander Ben Sheets by hitting the first fastball he saw for a two-run home run in the fourth inning to put the Dodgers ahead, 3-1. He also scored the first run on a hit by Luis Gonzalez after walking and stealing his eighth base.
Broxton retired the first three hitters in the Brewers’ order in the eighth inning, striking out two and lowering his earned-run average to 1.08. Opponents are batting .182 against him.
Saito notched his 14th save and has 24 in a row over two seasons by pitching a clean ninth. Gabe Gross singled with two out, but Saito blew a fastball past pinch-hitter Geoff Jenkins to end the game.
No wonder the Dodgers are 21-0 when they lead after seven innings, which is where Randy Wolf (6-3) left them. The left-hander gave up only three hits en route to his third victory in a row.
“It’s a pretty good blueprint,” Wolf said. “Broxton and Saito are as reliable as they come. Broxton is overpowering and Saito has 14 pitches he can throw 15 different ways.
“And I never get tired of talking about Russell Martin. He’s a perfectionist, always looking for ways to get better.”
The second-year standouts aren’t a bad blueprint for rookies such as Abreu and Andy LaRoche, either. Martin, Broxton and Saito serve as vivid examples of how far players can come in a short time.
Abreu was clearly nervous in his debut, making a throwing error on the first play of the game. Wolf pitched out of a first-and-third jam by striking out Johnny Estrada, though, and Abreu rebounded two innings later by starting a double play with one out and runners on first and third.
The Dodgers promoted Abreu despite having LaRoche and the suddenly hot-hitting Wilson Betemit at third. Kuo will join the starting rotation at Las Vegas, potentially giving the Dodgers a surplus of starters if Jason Schmidt recovers soon from his shoulder injury.
Would packaging a young third baseman with a starter be enough to land a power hitter? General Manager Ned Colletti won’t speculate, and it might take the addition of a top prospect from the well-stocked Dodgers farm system to get a deal done.
Until then, victories likely will come the way this one did, from strong pitching, a few good swings and a sound game plan.
Sheets beat the Dodgers on a two-hitter opening day at Milwaukee by getting ahead of hitters with his fastball. This time they were ready. Jeff Kent hit a first-pitch fastball for a double that preceded Martin’s third home run.
Sheets started Martin with a breaking ball for strike one. The next pitch was deposited in the left-field seats.
“He likes to pound the strike zone with fastballs, so I was ready,” Martin said. “He put a fastball in the zone and I took care of it.”