Loney and Dodgers have a blast in win
PHOENIX -- Surprises were in store for Joe Torre on his 68th birthday Friday night.
The Dodgers, who were second-to-last in the league in home runs at the All-Star break, hit four of them Friday night in an 8-7 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field -- two by Nomar Garciaparra, one by Matt Kemp that pushed the game into extra innings, and a game-winning solo shot by James Loney off Doug Slaten that broke a stalemate in the 11th inning and moved the team into a tie for first place in the National League West.
“You never know what to expect after three, four days off,” Torre said. “We came out swinging the bat.”
Jonathan Broxton earned a save in his first opportunity in place of injured closer Takashi Saito to cap a strange night for the Dodgers.
Andruw Jones struck out twice and left the game with what were described as “flu-like symptoms.” Reliever Hong-Chih Kuo was used as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning. Garciaparra recorded his first multi-home run game since he hit two for the Boston Red Sox in Texas on Aug. 4, 2002. And the team’s four homers were a season high.
Dodgers starter Hiroki Kuroda lasted a mere two innings, his shortest start in the majors, and was charged with six runs (five earned) and eight hits.
This marked the fourth time Kuroda failed to complete four innings. The first three such games were blamed on shoulder problems that landed him on the disabled list last month, but the 94-mph clocking of his fastball Friday suggested something else was the cause.
Diamondbacks starter Doug Davis wasn’t much better, giving up five runs in three innings.
The Dodgers’ offensive outburst coincided with the return of Don Mattingly, who took over as the hitting coach in place of Mike Easler. Also added was Jeff Pentland, a former hitting coach with the Seattle Mariners and Chicago Cubs who was hired last month as a roving hitting instructor.
Mattingly, who resigned as the hitting coach in January because of an impending divorce but remained on Torre’s staff as a special assignment coach, said the Dodgers’ youth stood out to him when he watched the team in person and on tape.
Referring to the hitters’ approaches at the plate and lack of selectivity, Mattingly said, “I’ve seen us lose games the exact same way. That’s what bothers me. I want to see improvement. You should be improving. These are talented guys.”
The outset of the game was promising for the Dodgers, as their first three hitters scored and the first five reached base.
Kemp led off with a single to left and scored on a double to right by Andre Ethier. A double by Russell Martin, who played 10 innings in the All-Star game Tuesday, drove in Ethier and doubled the Dodgers’ lead. Martin scored on an error by left fielder Conor Jackson, who misplayed a single by Garciaparra, to put the Dodgers up, 3-0.
But Kuroda never found a rhythm, looking nothing like the pitcher who tossed 16 consecutive scoreless innings after being activated from the disabled list July 2 in Houston.
The 33-year-old from Japan took his wife and two daughters to Las Vegas this week, his activity over the All-Star break limited to playing catch at the Dodgers’ triple-A facility and a short workout at Dodger Stadium on Thursday.
Kuroda had a brutal opening inning, as the Diamondbacks tagged him for five consecutive singles in a four-run inning that put the Dodgers behind, 4-3. Jones’ failure to scoop up a ball hit to center by Miguel Montero resulted in the fourth run being unearned.
The deficit increased to 6-3 in the second, when Jackson scored on a wild pitch and Chad Tracy doubled in Orlando Hudson.
Garciaparra’s first home run of the game, a two-run shot, moved the Dodgers to within 6-5 in the third.