DeWitt has the inside smack

Times Staff Writer

No attempt was made on the Dodgers' bench to conceal excitement this time, the players and coaches leaping out of their seats when Blake DeWitt touched home plate.

DeWitt initially received the silent treatment from his jesting teammates upon hitting his first career home run the previous day, but he was immediately mobbed in the dugout for his blast Tuesday -- a fifth-inning, two-run, inside-the-park home run that reversed a one-run deficit and put the Dodgers on their way to a 5-4 victory over the New York Mets.

The rookie third baseman was three for four and drove in four runs and Hong-Chih Kuo struck out a career-high eight batters in 3 2/3 innings of scoreless relief as the Dodgers won for the 10th time in 11 games, this time with shortstop Rafael Furcal sitting out because of tightness in his back.

DeWitt, who said he last hit an inside-the-park home run in tee ball, said he preferred this homer to the one he hit Monday.

"To be in a game like that, where we were down, it was bigger," he said.

Mark Sweeney, who was among the first players to greet DeWitt in the dugout, said he considered tackling him.

"After the home run, it gave us a sense of 'Hey, we can do this,' " Sweeney said. "We haven't had many of those."

Especially on days that started with bad news.

How bad was uncertain. Trainer Stan Conte said Furcal felt his back stiffen over the last three innings of the Dodgers' 5-1 win on Monday night, but that the discomfort was unrelated to the problems he experienced in the final month of last season.

Furcal, who hit a leadoff home run on Monday, is hitting .366.

"It doesn't seem to be something that's going to be a long-term thing," Manager Joe Torre said.

Minutes before being told that Furcal couldn't play, Torre was heaping praise on him.

"You knew he was a good player," Torre said. "You heard people talk about him, but you can't truly appreciate him until you see him yourself."

Torre has been especially impressed by Furcal's defense.

"He's done some stuff there that I find pretty amazing," Torre said. "It's like he's rubber man or something like that over there."

Dodgers starter Hiroki Kuroda had his worst outing of his brief major league career, failing to complete five innings for the first time. Kuroda lasted only 3 1/3 innings, giving up four runs (two earned) and eight hits while walking three.

He gave up a solo home run to Ryan Church in the first and his throwing error in the second led to two New York runs that put the Dodgers in a 3-0 hole.

A single by Juan Pierre, who started his sixth consecutive game, drove in DeWitt to close the gap to 3-1 in the second, but Moises Alou stole home on a double steal to extend the margin back to three in the Mets' favor. A two-run single by DeWitt in the third brought the Dodgers to within a run, 4-3.

Kuo (2-1), whose strikeout total was the most by a Dodgers reliever since Kevin Brown struck out nine on Aug. 25, 2002, against the Atlanta Braves, was put in line for the win on DeWitt's inside-the-park home run, which came on a ball that was missed by Mets right fielder Church and took an angled bounce off top of the wall. The last Dodger to hit an inside-the-park home run was Dave Roberts against the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 9, 2003.

Jonathan Broxton pitched a scoreless eighth and closer Takashi Saito earned his fifth save despite giving up back-to-back, two-out singles.


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