Both General Manager Ned Colletti and Manager Grady Little are reluctant to insert a unproven player into the National League pressure cooker -- unless there is no other choice.
And when shortstop Rafael Furcal went down with a sprained ankle, that made room for Matt Kemp and the big outfielder demonstrated he isn't just a pretty bat.
In the top of the fifth, with Giants' lefty Noah Lowry having limited the Dodgers on four hits, Kemp led off and scuffed a ball down to third-base side of the mound. Lowry hustled off to get it, then made an off-balance throw that went past first base and allowed the speedy Kemp to take second.
He moved to third on a wild pitch, then with Wilson Betemit scorched a grounder to Pedro Feliz at third, Kent broke for the plate, stopped and inexplicably Feliz stopped too. Kemp then threw it into high gear again and beat the throw with a slide wide of catcher Bengie Molina to the foul side of the plate, touching it with his reaching hand for the first run.
"Bengie kind of reached around to his right side," Kemp told the Los Angeles Daily News. "I went around him, and I was safe. It worked, and we got on the board."
Kemp went 2 for 4 to raise his average to .333 and impress the Dodger staff with his range of talent.
Catcher Russell Martin, much wiser than his 24 years would indicate, guided Penny though seven difficult innings during which he scattered 10 hits and walked one. He threw out Omar Vizquel in the second inning and Ray Durham in the third, turning the game in the Dodgers favor in the fifth.
Feliz singled to lead off the inning and Randy Winn slugged a double down the left field foul line. The relay from Luis Gonzalez to Ramon Martinez to Martin at home nipped Feliz when the young catcher deked the runner by acting as if there was no play at the plate, then expertly blocking him out and making the tag.
Rafael's replacement, Ramon Martinez, handled the rest of the tough inning as well as any shortstop could. With the tying run at third now with one out, he threw out Lowry on an easy grounder, smothered a shot by Dave Roberts to keep the run at third, then backhanded a shot by Vizquel and threw to second for the inning-ending force.
Nomar Garciaparra doubled in the sixth and scored on a single by Jeff Kent to boost the Dodger lead to 2-0. The cold finally got to Penny and his arm tightened. The Dodgers had turned three double-plays behind Penny, who scattered 10 hits and left.
Rich Aurilia's catchable fly ball fell between Gonzalez and Pierre, costing Penny a run. Then Gonzalez made things dicey when he misplayed what would have been an inning-ending pop that glanced off his glove for an error, Beimel struck out Ryan Klesko to end the inning.
"That's as good as I've ever seen Penny mix in his off-speed stuff," Dodgers manager Grady Little said after the game. "He worked on it in spring training, and he utilized it to the best of his ability. We couldn't have asked for anything more. He came through tonight, but there was some outstanding defensive work tonight."
Closer Takashi Saito allowed a pair of hits in the ninth but worked out of it for the save.
Score by innings Dodgers 000 011 000-2 Giants 000 000 010-1 Dodgers ab r h bi ave Pierre cf 4 0 0 0 .125 Matin c 3 0 0 0 .250 Garciaparra 1b 4 1 2 0 .214 Kent 2b 3 0 1 1 .286 Gonzalez lf 4 0 2 0 .286 Clark pr-lf 0 0 0 0 .500 Kemp rf 4 1 2 0 .333 Betemit 3b 4 0 0 1 .083 Martinez ss 3 0 0 0 .091 Penny p 3 0 1 0 .333 Beimel p 0 0 0 0 .000 Saenz ph 1 0 0 0 .333 Saito p 0 0 0 0 .000 Totals 33 2 8 2 Giants 34 1 12 1 Error- Gonzalez. 2B- Garciaparra (2), RBI- Betemit (1), Kent (3). DP- Kent, Martinez and Garciaparra; Betemit, Kent and Garciaparra; Martin and Martinez. LOB- Dodgers 7, Giants 9. Dodgers in h r-er bb so era Penny (1-0) 7.0 10 1-1 1 1 1.29 Beimel 1.0 0 0-0 0 1 0.00 Saito (sv 2) 1.0 2 0-0 0 1 3.38 Time- 2:28. Att- 43,146.Dodger Blue Notes-- Rafael Furcal continues to take baby steps toward recovery, pun intended, but will not be activated today (Saturday) when he becomes eligible to come off the disabled list. make steady progress in his recovery from a sprained ankle. He did run a little and fielded some simple ground balls but still has pain in the ankle and will not see action until he is 100%. ...Fifth starter Brett Tomko was passed over by manager Grady Little to enable Derek Lowe to maintain the five-man rotation and pitch against the Giants today. Lowe is 2-4 with a 3.91 career ERA against San Francisco and was 1-1 with a 5.68 ERA in two starts last year. He faces Russ Ortiz, who has a 5.05 ERA in 20 career games against the Dodgers. Brett Tomko is tentatively set to start against the Rockies on Tuesday, his first action since March 31. ...The crowd of 43,146 was the largest for a regular-season game in AT&T Park history, topping the 43,069 attendance May 21, 2005, vs. Oakland.