The 5-4 victory before 20,208 chilly fans at Coors Field, reversed the trend of sending someone to the mound in the final innings, then holding your breath to see if they can hang on to the lead.
"He told me I was going back out for the ninth inning," Saito said, with Dodgers traveling secretary Scott Akasaki translating. "I was a little bit surprised."
So was Baez, who had blown his last four save opportunities and was warming up in the bullpen.
And things worked out very well, despite the fact that Rockies' Matt Holliday sliced an opposite-field home run with one out in the ninth.
The Dodgers (20-19) finally broke the elusive .500 barrier for the first time since April 10 and moved to within two games of first-place San Diego, who blew a late-innings lead at Arizona. The win was their eighth in their past 10 games.
Lost in the euphoria of a stopper who actually stopped, Brett Tomko (5-1), has become the ace of the suddenly strong Dodger rotation. He had come into the game 0-4 lifetime with an 8.28 ERA against the Rockies in Coors Field.
Although his 14 consecutive scoreless innings streak ended when the Rockies in the first inning, he worked seven strong innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits. At one point he retired 15 consecutive batters and dropped his ERA to a sparkling 2.88.
After the Dodgers tied the game 1-1 in the second on Jose Cruz's second homer of the year, Colorado took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the inning and held it until the sixth when Jeff Kent doubled in Nomar Garciaparra, who had walked, with the tying run.
Los Angeles put together a three-run inning eighth inning that saw Tomko display a baserunning skill even Maury Wills would have been proud of.
After reaching first on a leadoff walk and moving to second on Rafael Furcal's single, he scored the tie-breaking run on Garciaparra's tie-breaking, RBI single. The throw beat him to the plate but was down the left field line so Tomko changed directions and slid head-first on the infield side of the plate and tagged it with his hand.
Garciaparra has been on fire since his return from the season-opening stint on the disabled list. He's knocked in 23 runs in 21 games, and during his current 10-game hitting streak, he's batting .443 (19 for 43) and has 14 RBI -- and more importantly -- the Dodgers are 8-2.
Garciaparra, who batted .480 with three homers, eight RBI and a .519 on-base percentage, was named NL Co-Player of the Week with St. Louis' Albert Pujols.
Kent unloaded his third double of the game, a two-run shot that handed the Dodgers just enough runs to fight off the rejuvenated Rockies. Kent's only other three-double game of his career came on Sept. 18, 1998, against the Dodgers while he was with the Giants.
Tomko improved his record to 5-1. A year ago he was 8-15 and when the Dodgers signed him in the offseason, the goal was to pick up a reasonably priced veteran to eat the innings lost with the departure of Jeff Weaver.
He's certainly done that.
Score by innings Dodgers 010 001 300-5 Colorado 110 000 101-4 Dodgers ab r h bi ave Furcal, SS 5 1 2 0 .240 Lofton, CF 4 0 0 0 .270 Garciaparra, 1B 3 2 1 1 .354 Drew, RF 3 0 1 2 .290 Kent, 2B 4 0 3 1 .235 Saenz, 3B 4 0 0 0 .290 Martinez, 3B 1 0 0 0 .281 Cruz, LF 3 1 1 1 .252 Martin C 4 0 1 0 .259 Tomko, P 2 1 0 0 .125 Aybar, PH 1 0 0 0 .333 Saito, P 0 0 0 0 .000 Totals 34 5 9 5 Colorado 32 4 6 4 Errors- Saenz (2). 2B hits- Kent 3 (7), Drew (5). HR- Cruz (2). RBI- Cruz (8), Kent (25), Garciaparra (23), Drew 2 (29). LOB- Los Angeles 10, Colorado 3. Dodgers in h r-er bb so era Tomko (W,5-1) 7.0 5 3-2 1 3 2.88 Saito (S, 1) 2.0 1 1-1 0 1 2.86 HBP- Kent, Garciaparra. T- 2:42. Att- 20,208.Dodger Blue Notes-- Cesar Izturis is set to begin his minor- league rehabilitation assignment in nine days, and the Dodgers are mulling over how he will fit the team when he returns. …Little said catcher Dioner Navarro, on the disabled list with a bruised right wrist, is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list Saturday. However he is about a week away. That will leave the Dodgers with a tough decision. Rookie Russell Martin has been solid in Navarro's absence, posting a .433 on-base percentage and playing well defensively, and his May 5 call-up coincided with the start of the team's current stretch of seven wins in nine games. …Jeff Kent's homer on Sunday allowed him to pass Joe Adcock for 79th place on the all-time list with 337 home runs. He is now one homer shy of Don Baylor for 78th place. Kent also has 1,336 RBI, 75th place on the all-time RBI list, and is just one run-scoring hit away from tying Johnny Mize for 74th place. ...3B Bill Mueller underwent arthroscopic surgery in Phoenix on Monday to clean out loose particles and trim frayed cartilage in his right knee -- the third operation in that knee in less than two years. Little said Mueller is expected to work toward a Minor League rehab assignment that should have him back in the Dodgers lineup in five weeks, barring setbacks. Mueller was hitting .252 with three home runs and 15 RBI in 32 games with the Dodgers. But he had only one hit in his last 20 at-bats before going on the disabled list Friday. He had no RBI in May. …RHP Brad Penny fought through lower back spasms to pitch five shutout innings against the Giants on Friday. He had a precautionary MRI on Saturday that showed nothing unusual. Penny is not expected to miss a start. …RHP Luke Hochevar made his professional debut Saturday, pitching five innings for the independent Fort Worth Cats and striking out nine. Hochevar, the Dodgers #1 pick in the 2005 draft, has signed to make five starts with the Cats between now and the June 6 draft. The Dodgers have not reopened negotiations with Hochevar and his agent, Scott Boras, since Hochevar reneged on an agreement last September. The Dodgers had a scout at Hochevar's start Saturday, but Dodgers GM Ned Colletti said that was "due diligence." Hochevar is not likely to sign with the Dodgers before the May 30 deadline and will re-enter the draft.…Quote of the Day-- "Feels like a new elbow." -- RHP Eric Gagne will throw one more side session, then throw live batting practice for the first time Friday at Dodger Stadium.
Derek Lowe (1-2, 2.98 ERA) opposes former Red Sox teammate Byung-Hyun Kim tonight in the second game of he series. Lowe, a sinkerball pitcher, has a 2.08 ERA in two previous Coors Field starts. His tough-luck record this season:
date starter w-lscore opp in h r-erw so era April 3 Lowe L 10-11 Atlanta 5 9 8-7 1 2 12.50 April 8 Lowe ND 3-6 at Phil. 6 4 2-2 3 0 7.36 April 13 Lowe W 13-5 at Pitt. 6 6 4-2 3 5 5.82 April 18 Lowe ND 2-1 Chicago 7 5 1-1 1 6 4.50 April 24 Lowe ND 6-2 at Houst 7 4 1-1 2 4 3.77 April 30 Lowe ND 5-6 at SDiego 6 2 0-0 3 3 3.16 May 5 Lowe ND 4-3 Milwaukee 7 7 2-2 1 6 3.05 May 11 Lowe L 2-4 Houston 7 6 4-2 1 0 2.98