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Dodgers’ shuffled lineup is a big hit

Times Staff Writer

CINCINNATI -- The signs of desperation were everywhere, from the order of the names on the lineup card to the picture of a garden gnome posted on the back of one of the dugout benches. Russell Martin took early batting practice, and Manager Joe Torre told his team behind closed doors to consider its game Monday the start of a new season.

For a day, at least, the changes worked.

With Torre drawing up a curious-looking lineup that had an admittedly rusty Nomar Garciaparra hitting third and $36-million acquisition Andruw Jones eighth, the Dodgers produced 15 hits in a 9-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park.

“We were due to break out,” Torre said. “We had some good at-bats today. Everyone was aggressive tonight.”

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Lingering thoughts of being swept and scoring only three runs in a three-game series at Atlanta over the weekend vanished when Rafael Furcal led off the game with a home run to right against Matt Belisle. The floodgates opened from there, with Garciaparra belting his first home run and Martin reaching base five times on a three-for-three evening. The Dodgers, who were one for 22 with runners in scoring position in Atlanta, were five for 12 in those situations.

Garciaparra and Martin entered the game batting .100 and .197, respectively, which called for changes. Torre decided to bat Garciaparra in front of Jeff Kent, figuring that doing so would let him see better pitches. Garciaparra, who said Saturday that he thought his timing was off, was two for five and drove in three runs, two on a sixth-inning shot to left that handed starter Brad Penny a 9-1 cushion.

Martin was part of a group of eight players to take early batting practice on the field and said he made a couple of minute adjustments, not all of them technical.

Left-hander Joe Beimel handed Martin a picture of a garden gnome cloaked in Dodger blue that is sold on the team’s official website, telling him that he needed a “hitting gnome” similar to the gnome the relievers carry to the bullpen every game for good luck. Martin wrote on the image, “Hitting Gnome. Rub Me Here for Hits,” and taped it on the back of one of the benches. Martin and Garciaparra said they touched the picture.

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Penny got a hit without making contact with the image -- “I don’t like gnomes,” he said. “They’re evil-looking” -- but wasn’t about to question its power, as he said the offensive surge allowed him to relax and pitch six effortless innings in which he gave up only one run.

“It worked,” Penny said. “We better have him in there again.”

Martin laughed.

“It should,” he said. “I’m not superstitious, but I’m not the only one who got hits.”

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Martin laughed again when asked whether he would purchase a gnome to put in the dugout.

“I’ll put it on a chain, I’ll be like Flavor Flav,” he said, referring to the rapper and reality TV star known for dangling an oversized clock from his neck.

Jones, who was hitless in four at-bats and lowered his average to .159, never had the chance to test the gnome’s powers. Jones touched the picture in the ninth inning at Martin’s insistence -- “He got pretty excited,” Martin said -- but when Jones stepped into the on-deck circle, James Loney grounded into an inning-ending double play.

Like the hitting gnome, Monday’s lineup will remain in place for today’s game.

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“I’m not, right now, going to change anything, for obvious reasons,” Torre said. “I’m not that smart.”

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dylan.hernandez@latimes.com


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