We Have Five … humm … Do We Hear Six?

Los Angeles thundered to their fifth consecutive win, moved to 17-17 on the season and are only 2 1/2 games behind the league leader. Most of the surge can be credited to veteran second baseman Jeff Kent, who rebounded from the depths of a slump and a one-game rest to collect seven hits, two doubles, two homers and 10 RBI.

Kent's first inning, three-run homer set the tone of the game Wednesday night and coupled with another three-run shot by Rafael Furcal and a solo dinger by Nomar Garciaparra, they rolled to a 9-6 win over Milwaukee in Dodger Stadium before 33,595.

Then there was the surprising Brett Tomko who the Giants didn't want after struggling to a 5-16 record last season who picked up his fourth win against a singe loss, allowing one infield hit over six innings and fanning three.

He turned the ball over to Tim Hamulack and Franquelis Osoria and the two generous relievers each gave back three runs to make the game much closer than it needed to be before Danys Baez got the last two outs of the ninth to close it out.

It was the Dodgers' season-high fifth straight win, and their hot streak coincides with Kent breaking out of his April-long funk to start the year. A week ago, Dodgers manager Grady Little sat the slumping Kent down, and since then, Kent has collected seven hits, two home runs, two doubles and 10 RBI.

Houston arrived in Los Angeles with a 19-13 record and in the thick of the N.L. Central race but the potent Dodgers bats have run up 21 hits, 12 of them for extra-base, and six homers.

The Dodgers also got a three-run home run from Rafael Furcal, a solo shot from Nomar Garciaparra and three hits and an RBI from J.D. Drew.

Asked why the hot bat all of a sudden, Kent told the Los Angeles Daily News, "I'm too tired and I've played the game too long to try to figure out why. I just play, you know? You never know what's going to happen in this game. I've been on some great teams that never won and some terrible teams that have won."

And the Dodgers had some luck, a commodity they have been sorely lacking most of the season.

The Houston first baseman couldn't handle a sizzling line drive off the bat of J.D. drew, allowing Kent to come to bat in the firt inning with two out and he made the most of it, slamming a shot into the left field pavilion for a 3-0 margin.

Rafael Furcal was watching closely from the dugout and when he came to bat with two runners on in the second inning, he hit one down the right field line that landed just inside the foul pole and L.A. led 6-0 after two. and hit a three-run home run just inside the foul pole over the short wall in right field.

The lone hit off Tomko, a scruffy little ground ball in the fourth inning that the official scorer ruled an error after Bill Mueller at third threw wildly to first base, then changed his mind. It made little difference to Tomko who struck out the final Astro to end the inning.

Then the bullpen pulled another "Perils of Pauline" nail-biter, giving up six runs and Baez had to work his ninth-inning magic to put the Astros away in the ninth.

J.D. Drew added three hits to the home run barrage, as the 3-4-5 spots in the order went 7-for-11. The Dodgers have scored 31 runs in the last three games.

Furcal has a resurgence much like Kent's and the pair of them, once flirting with the Miranda Line, have boosted their averages some 20 points.

Tomko has become a solid member of the rotation, behind Brad Penny and Derek Lowe. He now tops the staff with four wins and a 2.93 ERA. A seventh inning would have been possible for him but Manager Grady Little decided to save it for next week in Colorado, where Tomko is 0-4, 8.28.

Tomko has six quality starts, with a 9-5 loss to Pittsburgh attributed to the face he just found out his mother had breast cancer. She's since had surgery with good results.

Tim Hamulack gave up three runs in the seventh, and Franquelis Osoria served up a three-run homer in the ninth, when Little attempted to used him two innings for the second night in a row.

Repko on DL Jason Repko was placed on the disabled list with a high ankle sprain that came when he was attempting to catch a home run in centerfield Tuesday night. He is in a soft cast and will be out at least 15 days. He was replaced on the roster by the hottest hitter in the Dodger system, infielder Willy Aybar who had posted a .358 batting average, .409 on-base percentage and seven homers and 33 runs batted in over 30 games for Las Vegas.
  Score by innings
Houston  000 000 303-6
Dodgers  330 021 00x-9

  Dodgers ab r h bi ave
Furcal, SS      4 1 1 3 .220
  Hamulack, P   0 0 0 0 .000
  Osoria, P     1 0 0 0 .000
  Baez, P       0 0 0 0 .000
Lofton, CF      3 1 2 0 .296
  Cruz, PH-CF   2 0 0 0 .261
Garciaparra, 1B 4 2 2 1 .317
Drew, RF        4 2 3 1 .304
Kent, 2B        3 1 2 3 .221
Mueller, 3B     3 0 0 0 .260
  Aybar, 3B     1 0 0 0 .000
Ethier, LF      3 1 2 0 .278
Martin, R, C    3 0 0 1 .312
  Alomar, C     1 0 0 0 .364
Tomko, P        3 1 1 0 .143
  Martinez, SS  0 0 0 0 .276
    Totals     35 9 13 9  
    Houston    35 6  8 6 

  Error- Mueller. 2B hitss- Garciaparra (7), 
Drew (4). HR- Kent (3), Furcal 2 (3). RBI- Kent 
3 (21), Furcal 3 (9), Drew (25), Martin, R (5), 
Garciaparra (18). LOB- Houston 8, Los Angeles 
5. SB- Lofton (8).
 
  Dodgers       in h r-er bb so era
Tomko (W, 4-1) 6.0 1  0-0  3 3 2.93
Hamulack       1.0 4  3-3  1 1 6.43
Osoria         1.1 3  3-3  2 0 7.13
Baez           0.2 0  0-0  0 2 2.50
  T- 2:44. Att- 33,595.
Dodger Blue Notes -- The dodgers lead the Major Leagues with 37 stolen bases, led by their 1-2 hitters, Rafael Furcal and Kenny Lofton with eight each. The club stole only 58 bases all of last year. Lofton moved into a tie with Hall of Famer Hugh Duffey in 20th place on the all-time stolen base list when he added his 575th steal in last nights game. Lofton is only six runs short of Tony Gwynn who is in 82nd place. …Onetime Dodger ace Don Newcombe was honored at the annual Jackie Robinson Foundation at a gala held in Beverly Hills. The Dodgers have donated over $1 million to fund the "Team 42" scholarship program through the Jackie Robinson Foundation. …The ubiquitous Tom Lasorda was in South Bend, IN speaking at the "Coming together for Kids" dinner, honoring Notre Dame baseball coach Paul Maineri. …

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