Mueller Out, Penny Hurting, But Dodgers Win

Much like 2005, the daily report from the dispensary is the No. 1 topic in the morning papers but unlike that forgettable year, the club has the young talent to not only fill in but to stay competitive. Manager Grady Little started three rookies Friday night in San Francisco (Andre Ethier, Russell Martin, Willy Aybar) and Brad Penny pitched through pain the first five innings to give the Dodgers a 6-1 victory over the Giants.

For the second straight start, right-hander Brad Penny experienced stiffness in his lower back. It struck him last Saturday in the middle innings of a shaky but winning game against Milwaukee, but this time he felt it warming up in the bullpen before the game.

The pain grew with each inning until, Penny had leave for a pinch hitter in the top of the sixth but he lasted long enough to earn the win, thanks to an early four-run lead. He worked a neat two-hitter, allowing no runs and tap danced around six Giants baserunners.

His fastball was clocked at 98 mph and he had the best curveball of the season making Manager Grady Little wonder, as did Abraham Lincoln when told that U.S. Grant drank, if he could a barrel full of Old Bad Back for his other starters.

Despite it all, Penny moved to 3-1 with a 2.66 ERA, good for sixth in the league.

Only a few hours earlier the Dodger disabled list added the name of third baseman Bill Mueller, boosting the number to 10. At this time last year they had only eight en route to a league-leading 24 for the full season.

After Mueller joined the dreaded DL club, his name was put on the list that includes Nomar Garciaparra, Kenny Lofton and Dioner Navarro, Eric Gagne, Yhency Brazoban, Cesar Izturis, Jayson Werth, Jason Repko and Ricky Ledee.

The official announcement said he would be out for 15-days but, as expected, Mueller may require arthroscopic surgery to remove the spur, which would sideline the veteran for four to six weeks.

Mueller said the painful knee hampers his fielding, particularly when throwing after fielding slow rollers.

Mueller has had two arthroscopic operations on the right knee -- in 2004 and 2005 -- and also fractured his left kneecap in 2001 when he slid into the wall in foul territory at Busch Stadium, requiring surgery. He returned that season but needed cleanup surgery on the knee the following spring to remove bone chips.

Mueller was signed by general manager Ned Colletti to fill the big shoes at third base left by the puzzling departure of Adrian Beltré. He was hitting .354 but has slid .252 as the pain worsens and after knocking in 10 runs over the first 10 games, he has five RBI in the last 25.

The Dodgers recalled frequent flyer Oscar Robles, who had been optioned to Las Vegas only three days earlier when Odalis Perez returned from the Dominican Republic. Robles could not get to San Francisco until midway through Friday night's game, leaving the Dodgers with only four bench players until then.

Replacing Mueller in the lineup, Little tabbed Willy Aybar, dropped a double into left-center to knock in a run during the win.

As for Penny, no one seems to know what is causing the spasms, making his next scheduled start, Wednesday at Colorado, uncertain.

Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said the pain was on his left side, or landing leg and that it had stiffened up in the middle of his win over Milwaukee. Trainer Stan Johnston felt that it was a muscular thing.

As far as the actual game was concerned, former Giant Kenny Lofton drove in three runs, they kept Barry Bonds in the park and moved to 18-18 on the season and two back of the league leaders, Colorado and San Diego as the division tightens up.

The Dodgers offense was running on all cylinders. Lofton and Furcal (#8) stole bases and the top three hitters, including Garciaparra who had three, went 7-for-15, while the bottom of the Dodgers order -- which consisted of rookies Ethier, Aybar and Martin -- scored four of the runs.

A sellout crowd of 42,885, the largest of the season, was on hand to either see Bonds hit his 714th homer or to chant "Beat L.A" -- probably a little of both. Bonds, meanwhile, remained one home run behind Babe Ruth for second place on the all-time career list.

Penny walked him intentionally with a man on second and two outs in the first inning, and Bonds went 0-for-3, popping to third and flying out to right field.

With reliever Joe Beimel on the mound in the eighth inning and a runner on first, Bonds popped to Jeff Kent at second base and didn't run the ball out all the way. Kent let it drop and forced the runner, just missing a double play when Bonds put on the steam to just beat the relay throw.

Two names that no one expected before the season to even be on the roster, Beimel and Takashi Saito, held the Giants to a single run on two hits over the final four innings to give the Dodgers' their sixth win in their past seven games.

The Dodgers scored first when Aybar walked to lead off the third, Martin singled to center and Penny bunted them over. Aybar scored when Rafael Furcal singled to right field and stole second base. Lofton singled to make it 2-0.

In the fifth Martin walked, Penny sacrificed him to second. He moved to third on Furcal' ground ball and scored on Lofton's infield down the first base line. In the sixth, Ethier singled and Aybar dropped a double between Bonds and center fielder Steve Findley as Ethier scored.

Pedro Feliz homered off of Beimel in the bottom of the inning for the first, and only, San Francisco run.

The Dodgers recorded their final run in the ninth when with one out, Furcal beat out an infield hit to second but was forced by Lofton, who promptly stole his ninth base. Nomar Garciaparra singled to center to drive in Lofton.

Rafael Furcal, has a touch of the Steve Sax throwing problem, committing two more throwing errors and has nine after only making 15 errors last year.

Aaron Sele (1-0, 1.35 ERA) makes his second start as a Dodger tonight after allowing one run in 6.2 innings in his Dodgers debut against Milwaukee last weekend. He's 1-1 against the Giants lifetime.
  Score by innings
Los Angeles   003 011 001-6
San Francisco 000 001 000-1

  Dodgers      ab r h bi ave
Furcal, SS      5 1 2 0 .229
Lofton, CF      5 1 2 3 .286
Garciaparra, 1B 5 0 3 1 .352
Drew, RF        5 0 0 0 .282
Kent, 2B        4 0 0 0 .215
Ethier, LF      4 1 2 0 .304
  Saito, P      0 0 0 0 .000
Aybar, 3B       3 1 1 1 .400
Martin C        3 2 1 0 .300
Penny, P        0 0 0 0 .250
  Martinez PH   1 0 0 0 .267
  Beimel, P     0 0 0 0 .000
  Cruz, LF      1 0 0 0 .260
    Totals     36 6 11 6  
    SFrancisco 33 1  4 1  

  Error- Furcal 2. 2B hits- 
Aybar (1), Garciaparra (9), 
Ethier (2). RBI Furcal (10), 
Lofton 3 (8), Aybar (2), 
Garciaparra (19). S- Penny 2.
Team LOB- Los Angeles 7, 
San Francisco 8. SB- Lofton 
(9), Furcal (9).

  Dodgers       in h r-er bb so era
Penny (W, 3-1) 5.0 2  0-0  3 3 2.66
Beimel         2.2 2  1-1  0 0 1.80
Saito          1.1 0  0-0  0 3 2.84
  T- 2:31. Att- 42,885.
Jon Weisman, editor of Dodger Thoughts, pointed out recently that the "weak" N.L. West Division isn't so weak right now. The standings compared to the other divisions in Major League Baseball"
pct   team        record
.526  NL West     (90-81)
.515  AL East     (86-81)
.512  AL Central  (86-82)
.512  NL Central (105-100)
.468  AL West     (65-74)
.457  NL East     (75-89)
Quote of the Day-- "We feel like these guys [the pitchers] can get the job done. ... If they're able to, it will be a big benefit to this ballclub. And if they're not able to, I strongly suggest they don't pay the rent too far in advance." -- Manager Grady Little.

Dodger Blue Notes-- Kent's home run against the Astros Thursday was his third in as many games and the 335th of his career, tying him with former Dodger Darryl Strawberry and former Angel Jim Edmonds for 81st place on the all-time list. It was also his 310th as a second baseman, the highest total at that position. …Eric Gagne threw off the mound for a second time and added changeups to the fastballs he threw Wednesday. He said he might throw a simulated game as soon as Tuesday in Colorado. …Nothing new on the Luke Hochevar watch. But vice president Roy Smith said the club retains rights to the pitcher and No. 1 pick in the 2005 pick until one week before the June draft and "anything is possible." The Dodgers, along with 30 other teams, are scouting Hochevar as he pitches for the independent team in Fort Worth, Texas.