Dodger Sparkplug Furcal Sparks 9-1 win

It may be for just one night, things like this change quickly in the N.L. West, but the Dodgers moved on top the division with a 9-1 pasting of San Diego, sparked by Rafael Furcal's two doubles and sparkling infield work. Derek Lowe sailed through eight innings to win his third game and nearly everyone went home happy.

 N.L. West	w-l  gb
Dodgers	        7-3  --
Diamondbacks	7-4  0.5
San Diego	6-4  1.0
Colorado	5-5  2.0
San Francisco	3-7  4.0
In professional sports, the loss of one player is normally not a call for panic, nor did the Dodgers push the button when their 2006 MVP Rafael Furcal sprained an ankle in spring training. Wilson Valdez and Ramon Martinez filled in nicely, thank you.

But on Friday the 13th, Furcal made it only bad luck for San Diego, dashing around the infield to make plays and smacking doubles in back-to-back innings as the club cruised into first place in the crowded N.L. West.

The true character of the team was an unknown quantity until last night. Sure, they had won six of nine without Furcal and the pitching seemed as strong as advertised, but it seemed a club that was not quite certain of itself.

However, if this is their true persona, it should be an exciting season for them and their fans.

Beating San Diego after being routed last year 12-6 in the division series between the two contenders, is perhaps not the first robin of spring -- but then again, it might be.

Furcal went 2-for-5 with a pair of doubles, driving in two runs with one of them, and made four solid defensive plays. Derek Lowe was outstanding for the second start in a row, this time scattering seven hits over eight innings while allowing just one run, keeping the starters string of outstanding performances alive.

Luis Gonzalez, whom many had given up, if not for dead at least terminal, smacked his third homer run and singled, knocking in two runs and boosting his average to .343.

Brady Clark, getting his first start of the season in place of slumping right fielder Andre Ethier, looked like anything but a journeyman outfielder as he singled, doubled, scored twice and knocked in a run.

But the club's reaction to Furcal's return seemed to be the key.

"Having him in there changes the whole look of our lineup," Gonzalez said. "It moves Russell Martin down behind me, which gives us much stronger depth down toward the bottom of the order. Furcal can hit for power, he can steal bases, and he can combine with Juan Pierre at the top of the order to create messes for their defense and their pitching."

After making outs in his first two trips to the plate hitting righthanded, Furcal, crushed a pair of doubles, one to right center and one to left center in the fourth and fifth innings.

But the acid test was his work in the field. In the third inning he ranged well behind second, made a diving stop and then threw to first in time to nip Padres's pitcher David Wells.

A collective sigh wafted over the 49,000+ fans in the stadium.

Lowe, in winning his third game in succession, crafted a seven-hit, eight-inning gem. He struck out six while walking two, and reached base three times on an infield single and two walks. He threw in a sacrifice, just to keep bunting coach Maury Wills happy.

The right-hander threw 108 pitches and turned the game over to Rudy Seanez, who worked a scoreless ninth.

The Dodgers scored first with two runs in the second on Luis Gonzalez's solo home run to left-center field and Brady Clark's double down the left-field line and a bloop single to right by Ramon Martinez.

In the third, the Dodgers added three more runs off Wells with one-out singles by Nomar Garciaparra, Jeff Kent, Gonzalez and Russell Martin, followed by Clark's RBI groundout.

The Padres scored their run in the fourth, but Lowe ended the threat by starting a 1-2-3 double play.

The Dodgers added two runs in both the fourth and fifth innings on Garciaparra's two-RBI single and Furcal's two-RBI double.

"It's a good win," Lowe said. "These guys owned us last year, so it's good to get some momentum this year."
 Score by innings
San Diego	000 100 000-9	
Los Angeles	023 220 00X-9

 Dodgers       ab  r h bi  ave
Furcal ss	5  1  2  2  .400
Pierre cf	5  0  0  0  .186
Garciaparra 1b	5  1  2  2  .256
Kent 2b	        4  1  1  0  .278
 Betemit 3b	1  0  0  0  .050
Gonzalez lf	4  2  2  2  .343
 Ethier lf	1  0  0  0  .111
Martin c	3  1  1  1  .324
 Lieberthal c	0  0  0  0  .000
Clark rf-lf	3  2  2  1  .444
Martinez 3b-2b	4  0  2  1  .190
Lowe p	        1  1  1  0  .250
 Seanez p	0  0  0  0  .000
    Totals	36 9 13 9
    Padres	33 1  7 0	 

 Errors- Garciaparra (2). 2B- Clark 
(3), Furcal 2 (2). HR- Gonzalez (3). 
RBI- Gonzalez 2 (6), Martinez (4), 
Clark (1), Garciaparra 2 (8), Furcal 
2 (2). S- Lowe. SB- Garciaparra (1). 
LOB- Dodgers 8, Padres 8. DP- Furcal, 
Kent and Garciaparra; Lowe, Martin 
and Garciaparra. 

 Dodgers	 in  h  r-er bb so era
Lowe (2-1)	8.0  7  1-1  2  6  3.79
Seanez	        1.0  0  0-0  1  2  9.00
  Time- 2:42. Att- 49,090.
Tsao Short a Time-- As expected, when Furcal came off the DL the Dodgers sent Chin-hui Tsao back to Las Vegas without having thrown a pitch, leaving the club with 11 pitchers. ...Brady Clark made the best of his first start. ... After leading off through the first nine games, Juan Pierre moved down one slot in the lineup. He had seemingly fought his way out of a slump but went hitless his first time hitting second. The move didn't bother him, however, saying as long as he was in the lineup it wasn't a big deal. ...In his career against San Diego, Derek Lowe has a 2.37 ERA, better than any other team except his 1.82 mark against Detroit. ...Eric Gagne recorded his first save for Texas, stopping Seattle in the ninth inning of a 5-2 win. ...Tonight the Dodgers and Jason Schmidt (1-1, 4.00) meet San Diego ace Jake Peavy in the second game of their weekend series.