Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Two and counting.

by Ken Gurnick for MLB.Com

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers played at home Monday night. You know what that means.

A 7-2 victory over Arizona ran their home win streak at the start of the season to 11, setting a National League record. They also tied the 2003 Kansas City Royals for the second-longest in history, one shy of the MLB record set by Detroit in 1911. They are 34-9 at home since last year's All-Star break and 29-7 since Manny Ramirez came aboard.

The Dodgers now have the best record in baseball at 19-8, their best start to this point since 1983, the largest current lead in baseball at 5 1/2 games, the organization's largest lead since 2004 and they are 11 games above .500 for the first time since 2007.

They've won five straight, six of seven and are 17-5 since starting the season 2-3.

The only disclaimer: The Dodgers haven't played a team that currently has a record above .500. Not a one. That includes a stunning 18-6 record against the NL West and 3-1 against Arizona.

Not even hitting into their first triple play in 18 years could slow the roll, the Dodgers overcoming that and a pair of double plays with back-to-back homers on consecutive Doug Davis pitches in the first inning by Ramirez and Andre Ethier. Ramirez, coming off a one-day freshening, added an RBI double, a sacrifice fly, a double-play grounder and took a pitch in the backside.

Eric Stults, who didn't make it out of the third inning in his previous start and might have been pitching to keep his job in this one, contained the Diamondbacks to two runs in 5 2/3 innings and now is 3-1 as the rotation replacement for injured Opening Day starter Hiroki Kuroda, whose return date is still unknown.

"Obviously, after a rough one, it's always good to get back out there," Stults said. "I'd like to work deeper in the game, but it's just good to get a victory and keep the streak alive."

The 29-year-old Stults said he didn't come into this game worried about job security.

"For me, I just want to have a quality start," he said. "As far as what management does, I can't control that. I just have to be ready to pitch every fifth day. You start to think about too many other things, that's when bad things happen."

Manager Joe Torre said Stults showed the aggressiveness that was lacking in San Francisco last week. Stults said he even mixed in a cut fastball he worked on in his bullpen session, a pitch he shelved because it had little effect while he pitched predominantly in the desert air of Las Vegas the past three years.

"That was a good outing for him," said Torre. "I thought he mixed his pitches well. He threw inside to right-handed hitters, in off the plate. That's necessary with the changeup he has."

Stults was followed by Ronald Belisario, Guillermo Mota, Cory Wade and Jonathan Broxton, and the group allowed only one hit over the final 3 1/3 innings. Broxton struck out two and now has 23 strikeouts and only two hits allowed in 13 innings with a 0.69 ERA.

Torre said his concern over a letdown after sweeping the four-game series with San Diego was not realized.

"The thing I'm proud about was we had a very tough series with close games against San Diego and we came in like that didn't happen," he said. "We played with a lot of energy and a lot of resolve. This club didn't come in thinking it was an automatic win."

Of course, playing at home, that's been the outcome so far this season.

The triple play was a second-inning hit-and-run with Russell Martin on second, Matt Kemp on first and Casey Blake lining to shortstop Josh Wilson, who flipped to second baseman Felipe Lopez to double off Martin, with Lopez throwing to first baseman Conor Jackson to erase Kemp.

It was the first triple play the Dodgers have hit into since Aug. 4, 1991, against Houston, when Alfredo Griffin hit into one at the Astrodome. It also was the first at Dodger Stadium since 1998, when Colorado's Kurt Abbott hit into one.

"At least it means you've got guys on base with no outs, and usually good things happen," said Stults.

Ramirez, Ethier and Kemp each had two hits, Kemp also scoring twice with two stolen bases. One was third base, when he decoyed Arizona catcher Chris Snyder by intentionally wandering off second base to draw a throw behind him, then sprinting to third.


Blogger Michael Pascoe said...

It doesn't matter if those teams they beat are not above .500. The reason is because the Dodgers keep beating them. Each division plays each other tough.

2:03 PM  

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