Dodgers win it top to bottom
One home run would change everything for Russell Martin, hitting coach Mike Easler had said over the last week.
Martin got the pitch he was looking for and sent it where he wanted, crushing a fastball from Eric Meek into the right-field stands, his first home run of what has so far been a trying season.
Martin’s blast came at the tail end of the Dodgers’ 11-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium, a 13-hit breakout performance that was as important to the low-scoring lineup as the home run was to the slumping All-Star catcher.
With the victory, the Dodgers (6-8) avoided losing for the seventh time in eight games and climbed out of last place, moving past San Francisco by half a game.
“The last couple of games, I feel like I’ve been having better at-bats,” said Martin, who entered the game hitting .178. “We won and I hit a home run, so it’s a good combination. I know what I’m capable of.”
Manager Joe Torre said of the home run: “That will make him sleep a little better.”
The top of the Dodgers’ lineup did most of the damage, the first four hitters combining for eight runs and seven RBIs.
The Dodgers pounded Pirates starter Matt Morris (0-2) for six runs and seven hits over 4 2/3 innings, the offensive outburst starting with a three-run fourth that put them ahead, 3-1. James Loney drove in the final run of that inning with a single to right that extended his hitting streak to 14 games.
Andruw Jones, whose $36.2-million contract and .114 average made him the target of boos this homestand, had his first multihit game of the season, going two for three with a double, a walk and two runs. Torre said he considered resting Jones, but opted to leave him in the lineup after noticing him at the plate the previous night “with an idea of what he’s seeing” for the first time this season.
“There are a lot of things going through your mind when you come to a new team,” Jones said. “You want to show the fans what you’re all about, trying to drive in four runs every at-bat.”
Jones drew a walk to start a fifth inning during which the Dodgers blew open the game. Jones advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Esteban Loaiza and scored on a single by Rafael Furcal, who stole second and scored on a triple to right-center by Matt Kemp. Andre Ethier was hit by a pitch, placing runners on the corners, and Jeff Kent responded with a three-run shot that increased the Dodgers’ advantage to 8-1.
Torre said he would rest Ethier in the series finale today and start Juan Pierre in left field.
Starting the game for the Dodgers was Hong-Chih Kuo, who faced seven batters in the first but allowed only one run, as he struck out Jose Bautista to escape the inning with the bases loaded. Kuo settled down, striking out the side in the second, but his pitch count reached 75 after four innings, prompting Torre to pull him.
Kuo, who struck out six, was replaced by the man he replaced in the Dodgers’ rotation as the fifth starter, Esteban Loaiza.
Loaiza (1-2) earned the win by giving up only one run over the last five innings, pitching well enough for Torre to say he isn’t sure whom he’ll hand the ball to the next time he needs a fifth starter.
“He really started getting in a groove at the end of the game there, painting the corner,” Martin said.