A Healthy Rafael Furcal Steps Up

The real Rafael Furcal has come forward to be counted, silencing the critics who early in the season pointed out his low batting average and his high contract just weren't compatible. His three-run double in the fifth inning sparked a five-run deluge that broke a 4-4 tie and swept the Dodgers to their fourth straight win, 10-4. He also singled twice and added a fourth RBI.

The Dodgers pounded out 17 hits off six Reds pitchers. Furcal had three hits, including a three-run double. Rookie James Loney also had three hits, two of them doubles. All nine starters had at least one hit, five knocked in runs and seven scored.

With everybody else in the division losing, the Dodgers jumped from last place into a tie for third with Colorado, suddenly only four games behind San Diego.

Furcal's batting average was a miniscule .198 through April has boosted his numbers to .281 (batting average) and .353 (on-base percentage). He credits hard work and better health, having battled knee, shoulder and back injuries.

He credits the fact that his right knee is now healthy after undergoing surgery in January to remove torn cartilage from his knee. He was able play on Opening Day but not very well.

The Dodgers (51-55) ran their winning streak to four games, during which they have scored 34 runs -- 8.4 per game. Their death-spiral after the All-Star break that resulted in a 1-13 record saw them average 2.1 runs.

Aaron Sele (7-4) was solid for five innings and battled through the sixth after seeing a two-run, score-tying homer to Adam Dunn erase a 4-1 fourth inning lead.

Although Sele got the win, just arrived Greg Maddux will make his Dodgers debut Thursday as Manager Grady Little works with a six-man rotation one time through while deciding on the final five-game group. Sele, Mark Hendrickson and Chad Billingsley will be pared down to just two for the next time through the rotation.

After Sele allowed a RBI single to former Dodger Dave Ross in the second inning, Los Angeles built a 4-1 lead, J.D. Drew doubled and scored on Andre Ethier's single. Wilson Betemit slugged his 10th home run and first as a Dodger before Russell Martin singled and scored on James Loney's double.

Ross would clout his 13th homer off Sele in the fourth and Adam Dunn banged a game-tying shot to center in the sixth. New Dodger second baseman Julio Lugo, drew a walk to open the seventh. After Drew singled, Betemit popped a little flyball to right and Reds' Ryan Freel dropped it, loading the bases.

Russell Martin hit an inning-ending, double-play grounder but Betemit slid hard into second and Royce Clayton made a off-balance throw wide of first that allowed Martin to beat it out to score Lugo from third.

"The pivotal point was the way Betemit went into second base on that double play that didn't happen," Little told MLB.com. "He was quick and aggressive, and that was the difference in the game -- that and the way Russell hustled to first."

Walks to James Loney and pinch-hitter Olmedo Saenz forced in another run for a 6-4 lead before Furcal laced a shot to left-center that scored three and made it 9-4.
  Score by innings
Los Angeles 004 000 501-10
Cincinnati  010 012 000- 4

  Dodgers ab r h bi ave
Furcal SS  6 0 3 4  .281 
Lofton CF  6 0 2 0  .292 
 Broxton P 0 0 0 0  .000
Lugo 2B    4 1 1 0  .250 
Drew RF    4 2 2 0  .279 
Ethier LF  5 1 1 1  .342 
Betemit 3B 5 1 2 2  .293 
Martin C   5 2 1 1  .296 
Loney 1B   4 2 3 1  .271
Sele P     3 0 1 0  .208
 Ledee PH  0 0 0 0  .265 
 Saenz PH  0 1 0 1  .293 
 Tomko P   0 0 0 0  .120 
 Beimel P  0 0 0 0  .000
 Repko PH  1 0 1 0  .300
    Totals 43 10 17 4
    Reds   34  4 10 3

  2B- Furcal (21), Drew (19), 
Loney 2 (4). HR- Betemit (10). 
RBI- Furcal 4 (37), Ethier (41), 
Betemit 2 (31), Martin (45), 
Loney (4), Saenz (39). LOB- 
Los Angeles 10, Cincinnati 4. 
SB- Martin (6) CS- Lugo (1) 
DP- 3 (Loney and Furcal; 
Beimel, Furcal and Loney; 
Furcal,  Lugo and Loney).

  Dodgers  in h r-er bb so era
Sele (7-4) 6.0 8 4-4 0 2 3.95
Tomko      1.0 1 0-0 0 1 4.94
Beimel     1.0 0 0-0 1 0 3.65
Broxton    1.0 1 0-0 0 0 3.19
  T- 2:53. Att- 25,127.
Cruz Released-- Despite a score-tying, pinch-hit home run off Washington Sunday, Jose Cruz was designated for assignment to clear a roster spot after the acquisitions of pitcher Greg Maddux and infielder Julio Lugo. This year, he hit only .233 with five homers and 17 RBI. A switch-hitter, he struggled batting left-handed (.199). The Dodgers have 10 days to trade Cruz, release him or outright him to the minors if he clears waivers. He will probably clear waivers, be released and become a free agent, with the Dodgers eating $900,000 of his $2.91 million salary for this year and the $300,000 buyout of an option for next year. The Dodgers kept James Loney, the first baseman they recalled from Las Vegas on Saturday and he responded by going 3-for-4 with two doubles and an RBI, boosting his average to .271. …The recent trades of Cesar Izturis and Odalis Perez leave only one player on the current 25-man roster that has been with the club uninterrupted since the 2004 Division Series against St. Louis -- Olmedo Saenz. Giovanni Carrara and Elmer Dessens were also on that postseason roster, but left the club and were reacquired. …GM Ned Colletti said he will still be on the lookout for possible trades in August once players begin clearing waivers. In the next few days, most of the active players in the majors will be placed on waivers by their respective clubs to see who clears and who doesn't. Any player who is claimed can be pulled back if his current club doesn't want to lose him, but that player then can't be traded for the rest of the season. Players who clear waivers can be traded through Aug. 31. …Maddux said when he left the Braves as a free agent after the 2003 season, he delayed picking a new team, hoping he could sign with the Dodgers. But the franchise was in the process of being sold, and thus in limbo. After the sale was completed, Maddux waited until general manager Paul DePodesta was hired on the eve of Spring Training, but no offer came and he ultimately signed a three-year deal with the Chicago Cubs after camp opened. "I wanted the chance, but it never came up," he said. …Kengshill Pujols, a 21-yaer-old catcher who plays for the Gulf Coast Dodgers, was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. Pujols is in his first season as a pitcher after compiling a .248 average in three seasons as a catcher. He is 0-0 with a 3.48 ERA and one save in nine games. He has 20 strikeouts in 21 innings pitched, but also allowed four home runs. …Brad Penny (10-5, 3.53), winless since the All-Star break, opposes Elizardo Ramirez (4-6, 4.22) tonight.

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