Angels Draw First Blood in Series

It may have just been an exhibition game, but when two cousins battled it out in the first of a three-game Freeway Series, it had the feel of a championship contest. At least to Dodger catcher Mike Liebenthal, who was crunched at the plate in a collision with Angel rookie Nick Gorneault and had to leave the game. Anaheim also unveiled a triple play and gained a 6-1 win.

The play at the plate was part of a three-run eighth inning that extended the Angeles lead from 3-1 to their final winning total.

The Dodgers started Randy Wolf, and his Dodger Stadium debut as a member of the home team was a good-news, bad-news thing. He fanned a couple in the first inning but then had big trouble in a three-run scored in which he allowed three runs on four hits.

He finished his three-inning outing after fanning four but allowing five hits before hitting his 60-pitch limit. Maicer Izturis, Gary Matthews Jr. and Orlando Cabrera hit consecutive doubles to give the Angels their 3-0 lead.

Dodger Manager Grady Little said, "He was making some good pitches but he was just missing with a number of pitches."

Then Chad Billingsley, whom many had penciled in as the fifth (fourth?) starter before spring training began but had wound up in the bullpen, demonstrated he would be ready to step into a starting role if anyone faltered.

He worked three scoreless innings, allowing only a single hit, walked one and struck out one.

The Dodgers' offense, which has sputtered off and on all spring, scored their lone run in the second inning, when Andre Ethier singled home Gonzalez. Matthew's diving catch of a Ramon Martinez looper held the damage to a single run.

They threatened again in the eighth but newly-acquired Brady Clark made his Dodger debut a spectacular one when came to the plate with Olmedo Saenz and Andy LaRoche on base with walks.

With the count full and the runners going, Clark lined to second baseman Howie Kendrick, who caught the ball, ran to tag the base for the second out, then threw to first for a the third out. Just your run of the mill triple play. It was only the sixth triple play in the history of the Angels' franchise.

Anaheim, with the help of the home plate collision, scored three runs off rookie Chin-hui Tsao and Takashi Saito had no trouble in a scoreless ninth.

As it turned out, the three-run eighth inning was not all that necessary for the Angels' victory, but it boosted the intensity level of the game and the series.

On a Howie Kendrick single, Gorneault, a rookie who will not be on the Angeles' 25-man roster, roared around third and slammed into Liebenthal when the off-target throw arrived a split second before the runner. The collision knocked the ball loose and the Dodger catcher a b it woozy.

Liebenthal reported a slight headache, but had no problems with the play. "It was a young kid so he was just trying to make an impression," Lieberthal said. "I like to play hard and with a good throw it would have been bang-bang."

Dodgers manager Grady Little also had no problem with the hit, and Mike Scioscia, who as a Dodger catcher wrote the book on both blocking the plate and receiving hard knocks as a result. must have smiled.

"Mike's a tough guy," Scioscia said. "He's going to hang in there. He's trying to make a play at the plate. Nick, he's trying to make a team. He's trying to score. That's what happens. Give both those guys credit."

Both teams played as many starters as possible. The Dodgers were without Rafael Furcal (sprained ankle) and new father Nomar Garciaparra while the Angels played without Chone Figgins (broken finger). The Dodgers started removing starters in the fourth inning while the Angels waited until the seventh.

The Angels continue to dominate the series, holding a 8-0-2 record in the last 10 meetings. The Dodgers fell to 16-15-1 for the spring, and they haven't won a Freeway Series game since 2003..
 Score by innings
Angels	030 000 030-6
Dodgers	010 000 000-1

 Dodgers	ab r h bi ave
Pierre cf	2 0 1 0 .358
 Bigbie cf 	2 0 1 0 .357
Martin c 	2 0 0 0 .240
 Liebenthal c	2 0 0 0 .217
 Stinnett c	0 0 0 0 .167
Barnes 1b	4 0 1 0 .267
Kent 2b 	2 0 0 0 .250
 Garcia 2b	2 0 0 0 .200
Gonzalez lf	1 1 1 0 .297
 Valdez pr-lf	2 0 0 0 .348
Saenz dh	2 0 0 0 .293
 Godwin pr-dh	0 0 0 0 .000
Betemit 3b 	1 0 0 0 .216
 LaRoche 3b	0 0 0 0 .185
Ethier lf 	2 0 1 1 .314
 Clark ph-rf	1 0 0 0 .000
Martinez ss	2 0 0 0 .200
 Abreu ss	1 0 0 0 .354
   Totals 	28 1  5 1
   Angels	35 6 10 5

 Error - Ethier (1). RBI - Ethier 
(5). LOB - Dodgers 4, Angels 7. 
CS - Pierre (1). DP - (Garcia,
 Martinez and Barnes.

 Dodgers	 in  h  r-er bb so era
Wolf (2-2)	3.0  5  3-3  2  4  4.95
Billingsley	3.0  1  0-0  1  1  1.17
Tsao	        2.0  3  3-3  1  3  4.26
Saito 	        1.0  1  0-0  0  1  1.17
 WP- Tsao. Time- 2:48. Att- 29,841.
Dodger Blue Notes-- Little said the Dodgers were going to be cautious with shortstop Rafael Furcal and if he is kept in mothballs for the opener in Milwaukee, Ramon Martinez, and not Wilson Valdez, will play shortstop and bat eighth because he wants to go with the veteran player in an opening-day game, although that could change for Game 2 on Tuesday night. Furcal, out with a sprained ankle, could go on the disabled list retroactively and return April 7, which would cost him only the first four games of the season. That seems to be the likely course of action. …Little said he would wait until Saturday night to make a decision and finalize his roster. …First baseman Nomar Garciaparra stayed home Thursday with his wife, Mia Hamm, and their newborn twin daughters. Little said Garciaparra would return to the lineup tonight.

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