After 2,000 Games, Dodgers Hold One Game Lead

Rookie D.L. Houlton must have thought that his teammates didn't like him, after all he had been "supported" with four runs in the last five starts. That all changed in the second inning when Los Angles exploded for six runs and then held on for a 9-5 victory, their third win in a row. Jeff Kent slugged a pair of two-run doubles to help Houlton to his fifth win of the season after nine winless starts.

The victory was a long time coming. He last won on June 12 when he stopped the San Diego Padres over seven innings in a 5-4 Dodger triumph. The nine runs scored in the game equal the total he has been given in his previous six games.

Los Angeles sent an even dozen to the plate in the big second inning, with Holton himself earning the first RBI with a bases-loaded walk, Antonio Perez and Kent smacked two-run doubles to make it 5-0. Kent came into the game in a 4-for 23 slump. Nomar Garciaparra threw a force play past second and into right field to allow the sixth run.

Holton surrendered a long home run to Jeremy Bernitz in the bottom of the inning but Kent doubled across Jose Cruz and Oscar Robles, to make it 8-1.

But then the Dodgers maddening habit of going stone cold reared its ugly head. After Kent's two-run shot over the center-fielder to drive in the seventh and eighth runs, the Dodgers marched scoreless through the rest of the game until Jayson Werth slugged a home run in the top of the ninth. Tweny-six batters had gone to the plate and had collected a single, three walks and Werth's dinger.

In the meantime back at the mound, Houlton threw a home run ball to Garciaparra in the fourth, a home run to Todd Walker in the fifth and another home run -- solo shots all -- to Bernitz in the sixth to close the gap to 8-4.

Yhency Brazoban took over with a runner at first in the sixth inning and closed the inning out. He also added a 1-2-3 seventh.

Giovanni Carrara made his appearance in the eighth, showing Houlton how to keep Burnitz in the park by holding him to a smash into the right-field corner that went for a double. Jose Valentin, taking over for Ricky Ledee whose sore hamstring forced him out of the game in the third, made a sparkling stop for the first out or Bernitz shot would have scored another run.

Garciaparra singled to center and Valentin made another great stop on a shot to third but bounced his throw to second for an error as a run scored to cut the Dodger lead to 8-5. With the tying run at the plate in the person of Nefit Perez who had three previous hits, Carrara got a double play started by Valentin to end the inning.

Werth smacked his seventh homer into the center field seats in the top of the ninth and rookie Steve Schmoll took over in the bottom of the inning, working -- unknowingly -- with a felt-tip pen clipped to his uniform jersey. Despite that he got the first two outs before Garciaparra almost took his leg off with a sizzling single to center.

Walker then lofted a soft fly down the left field line and Werth made a valiant, but fruitless, dive in an attempt to catch it. The ball bounced by him for a double and the resulting run made it 9-5.

Duaner Sanchez came in to close things out with one pitch to earn his fifth save.

Crafty Cubs manager Dusty Baker used five pitchers, all of whom had a last name starting with 'W'. The ploy didn't work and the Dodgers won their first of the year from Chicago after dropping all three to the Cubs in their first meeting in Juen at Dodger Stadiium.

For years the Dodgers and Cubs have hammered at each other with Brooklyn winning the first game of the series 8-4 in 1890. When the two met Monday evening in Wrigley Field, the Dodgers held a slim, 1001-1000 record in the all-time series with 12 games ending in a tie. The win insures Los Angeles no worse than a tie in the series.

Demonstrating how timeless the game of baseball is, the Dodgers 9-5 win represents just a run more for each team than the first one some 116 years before.

Dodger Blue Notes-- Houlton wasn't at the top of his game on the mound but he walked twice and had an RBI and a sacrifice in his first three plate appearances. …Brad Penny will finally have the appeal of his five-game suspension heard before the final game of the Cubs series. …Jeff Weaver proposed a three year contract extention to the Dodgers but did not get a positive response and said he is preparing for free agency. …The "final" deadline for first pick Luke Hochever has extended itself to Friday. If he attends one class on Friday the Dodgers would lose rights to him and he would re-enter next year's draft as a graduating senior. …Brad Penny (6-8, 3.75 ERA) will start today against the Cubs.

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