The Loney Ranger Rids to the Rescue

In a game that had everything except pitching, a game that would make a slow-pitch softball fan's heart beat faster, the Dodgers outslugged the Rockies 19-11 to sweep the series as Rookie first baseman James Loney threw his cap in the ring for the first base job in 2007 by collecting four hits, including two homers, one a grand slam, and knocking in a franchise-tying nine runs.

Loney, filling in at first base, made Dodger fans forget -- at least for a day -- Nomar Garciaparra who sat this one out with an aching knee and a slightly pulled oblique muscle. Nomar did pinch-hit in the sixth, however. The Dodgers, whose 19 runs were a season high, are 14-5 when Loney starts at first.

The rookie erased a 3-0 first inning Colorado lead with a grand slam homer in the second. He added a two-run double in the third, an RBI single in the fifth and a two-run homer in the sixth before striking out in his final at-bat in the eighth.

Let me assure you that Dodger batting coach Eddie Murray did not turn off the humidifier that the Rockies use to take some of the resiliency out of the baseballs they use. It just looked like it. In fact, it resembled a game played on old Mile High Stadium, where Colorado spent their first years in the National League.

The two teams combined for 30 runs, 36 hits and 54 baserunners during a typically sunny but cool fall day in the shadow of the Rockie Mountains. The Dodgers used seven pitchers: Brad Penny, Chad Billingsley, Joe Biemel, Aaron Sele, Mark Hendrickson (2-7), Brett Tomko and Eric Stults. Colorado used nine pitchers.

The wild win was the Dodgers' 15th in 19 games against the Rockies this season and the first time anyone had topped Colorado that many times in one season.

They blew a five-run lead when Colorado scored seven times in the fourth to take a 10-8 lead, but the Dodgers tied it in the fifth and then put together a seven-run rally themselves in the sixth and moved on to the important win.

Kenny Lofton and Marlon Anderson smacked back to back homers, Jeff Kent doubled and reached base four times as did Russell Martin. All eight Dodger starters plus a pair of replacements added to the 17 Dodger hits.

Dodger starter Brad Penny, the first pitcher to beat the Rockies fives times in one season, had held Colorado to a 0.63 ERA in Coors Field and was 5-0, 1.93 overall against the Rockies.

Colorado starter Byung-Hyun Kim came into the game 8-12 with an ugly 5.29 ERA, he is 2-3 against the Dodgers in 2006 with a 2.78 earned run average and his career ERA vs Los Angeles as a starter (2.95) is nearly a run lower than his overall career mark.

It was the perfect setup for a pitchers duel, right?

Not so. Penny lasted one inning, Kim left after two.

Penny seemed off from the opening bell; Kazuo Matsui one-hopped the left field wall leading off and Cory Sullivan walked. With one out, Matt Holliday sliced a home run just over the right field wall by the 375 sign.

When Todd Helton followed with a single to left, pitching coach Rick Honeycutt made a quick visit to the mound. It didn't immediately help, however, because Jeff Baker ripped a double down the right field line.

Penny struck out Troy Tulowitzki, walked Chris Innetta intentionally to load the bases and then fired three straight strikes past Kim for his third strikeout of the inning but he had expended 35 pitches and trailed 3-0.

Los Angeles loaded the bases in the top of the second on a four-pitch walk to Jeff Kent, a double to center by J.D. Drew and a one-hopper back to the mound by Russ Martin on which Kim attempted to nail Drew but his throw to second was late.

Wilson Betemit line out to short left before James Loney, starting for Nomar Garciaparra, slammed a shot down the left field line and into the seats for his first major league grand slam home run.

Chad Billingsley replaced Penny, who reported stiffness in his back, in the second inning. Penny, the 2006 All-Star Game starter who was 10-2 with a 2.91 ERA in the first half, hasn't pitched the same in the second half and came into the game with a 6-7, 5.99 record.

Los Angeles loaded the bases with out out in the third after Lofton singled, Anderson walked and Kent was hit by a pitch. That was it for Kim and Justin Hampson took over and walked Drew to force in the Dodgers fifth run.

Martin singled to short center to score Anderson but Kent was nailed at the play on a throw from Tulowitzski. Betemit took a slow curve for strike three and Loney, now facing a lefthander, drove a shot down the first base line that scored two and earned him a double and his sixth run batted in over just three innings.

Billingsley struggled through the second and third innings, leaving a pair on base each frame, then was tagged in the fourth.

A single and a walk put two on, Todd Helton laced an opposite field single, Baker squeezed in a run and Tulowitzki singled just over the glove and Colorado was back in the game, trailing 8-6. Billingsley helped himself by picking Baker off second but Innetta singled and crowd favorite Vinny Castilla pinch-hit for the pitcher and banged a single to left to knock in Colorado's fourth run and knock out Billingsley.

It was Castilla's final Colorado home game -- he's retiring after the season ends -- and in the middle of the fifth inning, the game was stopped and third base presented to him.

Joe Beimel took over with runners at first and second and the Dodgers once solid 8-3 lead reduced to 8-7. He wild-pitched the runners into scoring position. He walked Matsui to load the bases, and Sullivan scuffed a ground ball that Betemit tried to one-hand but couldn't and the tying run scored.

Grady Little, desperate for a pitcher that could slow the surging Rockies, then replaced Beimel with Aaron Sele who hadn't seen action since September 20.

Atkins, the 11th Colorado batter of the inning, hit the first pitch he was into center field to put Colorado up 10-8. A line shot at Anderson in left mercifully ended the inning.

Opening the fifth, Kent doubled and Drew beat out a routine ground ball to short, then Martin walked to load the bases for the third time in four innings.

Former Dodger Mike Venefro came in to give up an RBI single to Betemit and Loney knocked in his seventh run with his third hit of the game to tie the game 10-10. Loney's shot tied the club high for RBI in a game.

After Nomar Garciaparra popped out as a pinch-hitter, Furcal slammed a liner to second that doubled Betemit off to end the inning.

Mark Hendrickson, the fifth Dodger pitcher, took over in the bottom of the fifth and walked Helton and Innetta but got out of the inning unscored upon. That ran the Colorado total to 22 baserunners in five innings. The Dodgers had 16.

Lofton put the Dodgers back in the lead 11-10 with a 395-foot shot into the Colorado bullpen leading off the sixth. Anderson followed with a booming drive down the right field line for his sixth home run as a Dodger, the ball traveling 405-feet.

Kent reached base for the fourth time by working a walk and with one out, Martin doubled into the left-field corner. Betemit lined a double off the 390 sign in left field to score both Kent and Martin and put the Dodgers up 14-10.

Loney, up for the fourth time, drilled a 392-foot drive into the right field seats to knock in his eighth and ninth runs of the game, tying the franchise record set by Gil Hodges on August 1, 1950, a game in which he had five hits, including four home runs.

Loney also boosted his average since being recalled for the second time from Las Vegas to a Roger Hornsbyesque .424.

Hendrickson and Furcal walked and Lofton lived on an error as the seventh run of the inning and the 17th of the game scored.

Hendrickson gave up a run in the seventh when Kent fumbled a two-out ground ball and Los Angeles led 17-11 after six.

Jason Repko, replacing Lofton, added a two-run single in the eighth to finally end the scoring. Eric Stults pitched the final inning and got the last out on an infield pop to -- appropriately -- Loney.

So the Dodgers dressed and bussed to the airport for a flight to San Francisco, with their destiny -- a wild card slot at least -- in their own hands. Both San Diego ( at Arizona) and Philadelphia (at Washington) played night games.

Pitching matchups for the final three games of the season include tonight (Friday) Hong-Chih Kou (1-5, 4.12) vs Noah Lowe (7-10, 4.84); Saturday Greg Maddux (5-3, 3.38) vs Matt Cain (13-11, 4.09) and Sunday Derek Lowe (16-8, 3.63) vs. Jason Schmidt (11-9, 3.56). Both Maddux and Lowe will be working on three days rest.
  Score by innings        r   h  e
Los Angeles  044 027 020-19  17  1
Colorado     300 701 000-11  16  1

  Dodgers       ab r h bi ave
Furcal ss        4 1 1 0 .301
 Lofton cf       5 2 2 1 .298
 Repko cf-rf     1 0 1 2 .252
Anderson lf      5 2 1 1 .298
 Ethier lf       0 0 0 0 .312
Kent 2b          2 3 1 0 .288
 Tomko p         0 0 0 0 .120
 Young ph        1 0 0 0 .000
 Stults p        0 0 0 0 .667
Drew rf          4 3 2 1 .281
 Kemp cf         1 0 0 0 .255
Martin c         5 3 2 1 .285
Betemit 3b       5 1 2 3 .265
Loney 1b         5 2 4 9 .286
Penny p          0 0 0 0 .185
 Robles ph       1 0 0 0 .156
 Billingsley p   1 0 0 0 .083
 Beimel p        0 0 0 0 .000
 Sele p          0 0 0 0 .192
 Garciaparra ph  1 0 0 0 .305
 Hendrickson p   0 1 0 0 .000
 Lugo 2b         1 1 1 0 .226
     Totals     42 19 17 18 
     Rockies    42 11 16 10
 
  Error- Kent. 2B - Drew (33); Loney (6); 
Kent (27); Martin (26); Betemit (23). HR - 
Loney 2 (3), Lofton (3), Anderson (12). 
RBI - Loney 9 (17), Drew (96), Martin (65), 
Betemit 3 (53), Lofton (41), Anderson (38), 
Repko 2 (16). LOB - Los Angeles 5, Colorado 
14. SB - Lofton (30).DP -(Betemit, Lugo 
and Loney).

  Dodgers         in h r-er bb so era
Penny             1.0 4 3-3 2 3 4.33
Billingsley       2.2 8 6-6 3 1 3.84
Beimel            0.0 1 1-1 1 0 3.07
Sele              0.1 1 0-0 0 0 4.57
Hendrickson (2-7) 2.0 1 1-0 3 1 4.74
Tomko             2.0 1 0-0 1 2 4.77
Stults            1.0 0 0-0 0 0 6.39
  WP- Billingsley, Beimel. HBP- Kent.
Incredible Record-- Ken Gurnick of MLB.com reported that when the Dodgers' offense presented Greg Maddux with a 6-1 fifth-inning lead on Tuesday night, the game was over. Technically, the teams played the other four innings and the Dodgers went on to an 11-4 win, but all that was unnecessary, according to STATS, LLC. Maddux has a career record of 120-0 with two no-decisions when given a lead of five runs or more, according to the statistical organization.

*MA*S*H* Report-- Outfielder Jason Repko said he will probably have surgery to address plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the tissue connecting the heel to the ball of the foot that sometimes is associated with a bone spur. Repko said he was told that even with surgery, he should be ready for Spring Training. Andy LaRoche is also expected to be ready for Spring Training following arthroscopic surgery planned for third-base prospect Andy LaRoche's left (non-throwing) shoulder labrum, Nomar Garciaparra, who left Tuesday night's game early with a slight oblique strain, started Wednesday but James Loney drew the start in the series finale. Garciaparra has been disabled twice this year for a strained rib-cage muscle and a sprained knee, which is still bothering him.

Dodger Blue Notes-- Kent's double in the Wednesday night game was the 500th of his career, tying him for 43rd place on the all-time list with Goose Goslin and John Olerud. …It was a game of many offensive highlights and numerous fine fielding plays but a standing ovation that rivaled the applause given Vinny Castillo on his final Coors Field at bat, occurred before the game when five companies of soldiers and five different color guards were on hand to celebrate Military Appreciation Day with General Kevin Chilton, Commander Air Force Space Command throwing out the first ball and a light-tower-level flyover by a Air Force jets to ice the cake. It gave the crowd ample time to say "thank you" by their actions.

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