Dodgers Add a Young Battery To Their Team Bus

The Dodgers reloaded for the stretch drive by adding a pair of 21-year-olds t the roster, then went out and beat the best team in the National League, the St. Louis Cardinals, 7-5 before a thumping crowd of 53,783 fans at Dodger Stadium. The roaring crowd got a glimpse of what is to be as catcher Dioner Navarro and pitcher Jon Broxton displayed their wares in the important victory.

To make room for the wonderkinders, 37-year-old Steve Erickson was designated for assignment and catcher Mike Rose was optioned back to Las Vegas.

Tracy didn't hesitate to use the two youngsters immediately, starting Navarro and inserting Broxton in the seventh inning with the game very much on the line.

Penny struggled, working five innings and throwing 106 pitches in six innings. He allowed a solo homer by Albert Pujols and a fourth run before turning over a 5-4 lead to Broxton.

Broxton performed as advertised, hitting 96 on the speed gun although he was understandably nervous. He gave up the tying run when David Eckstein and Abraham Nunez singled with none out, then made Albert Pujols his first major league strikeout victim before both runners advanced on a wild pitch. Broxton intentionally walked Jim Edmonds, and John Rodriguez hit a sacrifice fly that made it 5-all. He fanned Mark Grudzielanek to end the inning.

Duaner Sanchez worked a 1-2-3 seventh, Steve Schmoll benefitted from the third double-play of he game in a scoreless eighth and Yhency Brazoban overcame a two-out double by Grudzielanek in the ninth to record his 20th save.

St. Louis grabbed a 2-0 edge in the first against Penny, but the Dodgers responded in the bottom half with four runs. Kent singled home the first one and Ricky Ledee followed with his third homer.

Ledee came within a few feet of another three-run homer his second time up. Bradley reached on catcher's interference, and Kent singled. Bradley tagged up on Ledee's fly to the warning track in right and scored on Jason Phillips' single, giving the Dodgers a 5-2 lead through three innings.

The Cardinals added two runs in the fifth off Penny to draw within 5-4, including a solo home run by Pujols.

The eventual winning run came in the seventh inning when Cardinal pitcher Matt Morris, with runners at first and third. Milton Bradley bounced back to the mound and Cesar Izturis broke off third base hoping to give himself up to avoid a double play.

Morris looked at the Dodger shortstop who was in no-man's land between short and home, then, inexplicably turned and threw Bradley out at first as Izturis scored to break a 5-5 tie. Jeff Kent doubled home a second run in the inning to give the Dodgers a cushion.

San Diego dropped a game to Cincinnati and the Dodgers found themselves only four games out of first place.

"We're in this thing," manager Jim Tracy said, reducing the whole thing into simple terms.

Los Angeles called upon two 21-year-olds from their well-stocked minor league system. Catcher Dioner Navarro arrived from Las Vegas and righthander Jonathon Broxton came from Jacksonville.

Navarro singled and walked in four trips to the plate. Broxton allowed a run in his only inning of work on a pair of hits and a walk, deadlocking the game at five runs each.

But on balance the kids did the job. The Cardinals didn't steal a base -- in fact, Mark Grudzielanek was caught stealing home although on a blown squeeze play -- and Broxton used his 100-mph fastball to strike out Albert Pujols and Grudzielanek.

Navarro is the gemstone of last winter's Shawn Green trade to the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the move was obviously made to stop the stampede of stolen bases allowed in recent games.

With Navarro behind the plate, Jason Phillips again started at first base. Manager Jim Tracy was careful to point out that Phillips was not being pushed out from behind the plate full-time, but it's apparent that the job belongs to Navarro if he can show that he can handle it.

Broxton made a sudden move up the farm systems food chain. Until this year he had been a starter, and with a switch to the bullpen the former second-round pick saw his velocity increase from very good to exceptional . Broxton has hit 101 mph on the Jacksonville speed gun and had recorded a 4-3, 3.26 record with four saves, striking out 99 batters in 91 innings.

Dodger Blue Notes-- LHP Derek Thompson, fighting chronic elbow problems since 2003, underwent successful "Tommy John" surgery. He was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas on June 24. ...Erickson won a spot in the starting rotation in spring training but lost it in May and had pitched sparingly in relief, including two appearances in the previous 22 days. He had a 7.22 earned-run average in eight starts and a 3.24 ERA in 11 relief outings, and said the Dodgers had offered him a spot in the rotation at Las Vegas, with the likelihood of a September call-up. If he clears waivers, he said, he would be "more than willing" to accept the offer.