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Penny’s not at his best, but Dodgers will take it

Times Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO -- Brad Penny gave up only one run, but his fastball sat mostly in the upper-80s.

He gave up only one hit but didn’t strike anybody out.

He won a game for the first time in more than three months but pitched only five innings.

The official end of Penny’s two-month stay on the disabled list, which came in the Dodgers’ 6-2 victory over the San Francisco Giants on Friday night at AT&T; Park, offered encouragement but no clear verdict for a team that moved a game over .500 and edged to within half a game of first-place Arizona in the NL West even though Manny Ramirez was hitless for the first time in an L.A. uniform.

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Asked if the Penny he saw was an improvement over the stiff-shouldered pitcher who was 0-7 in the eight starts leading up to his being put on the disabled list, Manager Joe Torre replied, “I think it’s too early to say that.”

Penny (6-9) himself described his 76-pitch evening, his first on a major league mound since he was pounded for seven runs in 3 2/3 innings in Detroit on June 14, as a kind of touch-and-feel session.

“I felt like I had OK command,” said Penny, who last won May 2 in Colorado. “I wasn’t trying to throw that hard.”

On a night when the game-time temperature was 59 degrees, Penny’s fastball topped out at 93 mph, according to the stadium radar gun, easing Torre’s concerns. Torre also noted that Penny threw hard in his rehab start for triple-A Las Vegas in Oklahoma City on Saturday. That day, Penny’s fastball reached 98 mph.

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Backup catcher Danny Ardoin, who started behind the plate for the second consecutive day and responded with a solo home run in the third inning that started a five-run inning for the Dodgers, said Penny’s command was solid.

“He was around the zone,” Ardoin said. “Even the pitches that missed were right on the edges. They were competitive pitches.”

The only trouble Penny encountered was in the first inning, when he issued two of his three walks and gave up a run-scoring double to Bengie Molina.

From the second inning through the fifth, Penny faced only one batter over the minimum, and of the two Giants who reached base, one did so on an error.

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“He’s not as sharp as he could be, but that’s probably because he’s a little rusty,” Torre said. “I thought it was coming out of his hand fine.”

And Torre once again thought Jeff Kent looked fine hitting in front of Ramirez, which is why he said the 40-year-old second baseman would remain in the No. 3 spot today for the second game of the three-game series.

Kent had the hit that blew the game open, a bases-clearing double off of Giants starter Barry Zito in the Dodgers’ big third inning. Kent was three for four the previous day in St. Louis, his first as Russell Martin’s replacement as the No. 3 hitter.

Torre said he was uncertain of where to bat Martin, who was five for 22 batting in front of Ramirez and was 0 for 4 with a walk Friday in the two-hole.

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The manager opted to field a lineup consisting exclusively of right-handed bats, as the Dodgers were facing the left-handed Zito (6-14), who broke from the mediocre and often poor form that has marked his two seasons in San Francisco when they met him on July 5. Zito struck out 10 batters for the first time as a Giant that night, limiting the Dodgers to two runs over 7 1/3 innings.

Martin started at third base to take the place of Casey Blake, who moved to first. Sitting out was James Loney, who is one for 14 against Zito.

Blake hit a home run, his second for the Dodgers, in the sixth off Keiichi Yabu, that increased the Dodgers’ lead to 6-1.

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dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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Dodgers at Giants

AT&T; Park, 6, Channel 9

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