Never Fear, Saito-San is Here

Observers say there is no phone booth in the visitor's bullpen at AT&T Park in San Francisco, so it is not known where Takashi Saito changed from his Dodger Blue uniform into the blue tights with the big red "S" on it's chest, but it is undeniable that the letter does not stand for Superman, but Saito.

The Dodgers cruised into the ninth inning, riding the crest of a pair of two-run homers from J.D. Drew in the first and Nomar Garciaparra in the eighth. Derek Lowe had worked a strong eight innings and was set to lock in a complete-game shutout having ony three hits.

But a strange thing happened on the way to the shut-out. San Francisco awakened just in time to make the game very interesting to the Giants' fans and quite a big disconcerting to the Dodger fans, not only at the park but across the nation.

Randy Winn singled off the glove of former Giants second baseman Jeff Kent, then Omar Vizquel's ground ball went through Kent's legs for an error. Ray Durham singled home Winn and Lowe was removed after walking Todd Linden to load the bases.

Saito didn't actually jump tall buildings in a single bound on his way in from the bullpen, but after his performance one thought it might not be out of the question.

He went 3-2 on old-friend Steve Finley, then struck him out. Big Burley Barry Bonds hit for Shea Hillenbrand and after fouling off a number of pitches, drew a walk that made it 5-2 with the bases still F.O.J. (Full of Jints).

A third left-handed batter, Felix Feliz swung and missed a 2-2 pitch for the second out and Saito-San disposed of Elizer Alfonso on three pitches to K the side. It was his 14th save in 15 opportunities, not bad for a guy who didn't even have a major league job coming into spring training.

Lowe (11-8) retired 13 straight after giving up a third-inning single to Eliezer Alfonzo. The 32-year-old veteran recorded his 22nd win in August, his highest total of any month. Lowe, who induced 14 groundouts, struck out six and walked one.

Drew, who has 18 RBI in his last 21 games, followed Garciaparra's two-out single in the first inning off Giants' starter Matt Morris with his third home run since June 1. Lowe helped knocked in the eventual winning run the second inning with a single, driving in Andre Ethier who had lead off with a single.

In the eighth, Kenny Lofton's one-out double was followed by Garciaparra's team-high 14th home run, seemingly locking in a victory and a winning series in San Francisco.

The win, coupled with Colorado's loss to the Mets and San Diego's win over Arizona, boosted the Dodgers to 10 games over .500 and their lead in the N.L West to four full games.
N.L. West standings
                  w-l     pct    gb
Los Angeles      66-58   .532    - - 
Arizona          62-62   .500    4.0 
Diego            62-62   .500    4.0 
Colorado         59-65   .476    7.0 
San Francisco    59-65   .476    7.0
Lowe has won four of his last five starts and the Dodgers have won 19 of their last 22 games. It was their sixth consecutive winning series.

The Dodgers open a three-game series in San Diego tonight with Chad Billingsley (4-3, 3.16 ERA) opposing former Dodger Chan Ho Park (7-7, 4.68).
  Score by innings
Los Angeles   210 000 020-5
San Francisco 000 000 002-2

  Dodgers      ab r h bi ave
Furcal, SS      4 0 1 0 0 2 2 .287
Lofton, CF      4 1 1 0 0 0 4 .319
Garciaparra, 1B 4 2 2 2 0 0 1 .330
Drew, RF        4 1 1 2 0 0 0 .279
Kent, 2B        4 0 0 0 0 1 0 .262
Ethier, LF      4 1 2 0 0 1 0 .343
Betemit, 3B     3 0 0 0 1 1 1 .275
Martin, C       4 0 0 0 0 1 3 .290
Lowe, P         4 0 2 1 0 1 1 .096
 Saito, P       0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
   Totals      35 5 9 5
   Giants      32 2 5 2

  Error- Lowe, Kent. 2B- Lowe (2), 
Lofton (11). HR- Drew (12), 
Garciaparra (14). RBI- Drew 2 (72), 
Lowe (2), Garciaparra 2 (66). LOB- 
4, San Francisco 6. SB- Furcal (30). 
DP- (Furcal, Kent and Garciaparra).

  Dodgers    in h r-er bb so era
Lowe (11-8)   8.0 5 2-1 1 6 3.84
Saito (sv 14) 1.0 0 0-0 1 3 2.24
  T- 2:15. Att- 42,052.
Dodger Blue Notes -- Manager Grady Little , looking ahead to crunch time in the N.L race, hinted that he would use his big three when the time came. "We'll do our best to run [Brad] Penny, [Derek] Lowe and [Greg] Maddux out there as close as we can to their regular rotation," Little said. "We feel that's how we'll have the best chance to win." Mark Hendrickson and Chad Billingsley could be skipped or pushed back but Billingsley and Hendrickson will make their next scheduled starts tonight and Tuesday in San Diego. Penny wraps up that series Wednesday night, then a Thursday day off will be followed by Maddux opening next weekend's series in Phoenix. …Shortstop Rafael Furcal, who came out of Friday night's game with a stiff right shoulder he blamed on the inactivity of two days off, was back in the starting lineup seemingly without any problems. Furcal has climbed into the league leaders in hits, multihit games, stolen bases, runs scored and batting average with runners in scoring position. …When Lofton signed a one-year contract it was felt he would be a fourth or fifth outfielder, but at 39 he's hitting .317 this year, and trails only Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera for highest two-year averages with at least 600 plate appearances. So far in August, he's batting .453. …Jason Repko said his ankle has healed "about 90 percent" and he expects to make up the final 10 percent through a winter of rehabilitation. …Rafael Furcal's sacrifice bunt Saturday night that scored two runs, including Furcal, reminded many of their little league career. Furcal followed Greg Maddux's leadoff double with a bunt fielded by pitcher Brad Hennessey, who looked toward third base, but Pedro Feliz was charging the bunt and shortstop Omar Vizquel wasn't yet at the bag, so Hennessey instead threw wildly to first base. While Maddux scored, Furcal rounded second and headed toward third. Giants second baseman Ray Durham chased down the ball, and his throw beat Furcal to third, but the ball skipped past Feliz. Hennessey, backing up the play, picked up the ball quickly, but double-clutched when he saw Furcal heading home and his throw to the plate was wide. "They had about four chances to get him," said coach Rich Donnelly. …Ex-Giant Brett Tomko got the usual greeting in San Francisco when he came in to pitch Saturday night. However, he was anticipating the abuse. "You've got to have a sense of humor about it. In the bullpen, they were incredibly brutal. They were all over me. It was pretty bad and they're right on top of you here. But if I took it personally, I'd be a wreck right now. When they introduced me while I was warming up, I started booing myself. The umpire [Fielding Culbreth] started laughing. I had a good laugh, too" he told MLB.com.

LA Dodgers Insider Top Stories