Tomko Misses No-Hitter But Wins 5-3

Brett Tomko took a no-hitter into the bottom of the sixth inning, then lost it on broken bat ground ball that turned into an infield hit. A couple more hits followed that and a run, then a two-run homer in the seventh cut the lead to 4-3 and things got dicey before the fire brigade -- Jon Broxton and Takashi Saito -- got things under control.

After the first run scored, Tomko got a pair of huge strikeouts to end the sixth and handed the game over to the 'pen with two out in the seventh inning after a pinch-homer by Mike Jacobs closed the gap to a single run. Tomko's first win of the season opened a little room at the top of the National League west when each of the other four teams lost.
 N.L. West	  w-l   pct   gb
Los Angeles	20-14  .588   --
San Diego	18-16  .229   2.0
Arizona	        19-17  .528   2.0
San Francisco	17-16  .515   2.5
Colorado	14-20  .412   6.0
It looked for a brief moment as if the Dodgers were going to blow a 4-0 lead for the second successive night when big Jonathan Broxton gave up a hit and a stolen base to Hanley Ramirez but he got a ground out, then threw a shutout eighth.

A fifth run in the ninth on Wilson Valdez's second bunt single of the night, scoring Russell Martin from third and manager Grady Little turned things over to Takashi Saito who recored his 10th save of the year, again allowing a hit just to keep things interesting it seems, and boosted his string of saves to 20 in a row, reaching back to 2006.

Valdez, who started in left field on a night in place of Luis Gonzalez, was part of a right-handed lineup Little used against Marlin ace Dontrelle Willis (5-2). Valdez also scored the Dodgers' second run in the fourth inning, darting across the plate on a perfect bunt by Tomko, courtesy of instructor Maury Wills who worked all spring with the pitching staff perfecting their bunting technique.

Rafael Furcal then doubled in Brady Clark, who started in right field for Andre Ethier, to give Los Angeles a 3-0 lead. They made it 4-0 on Olmedo Saenz's solo homer in the fifth. Saenz was at first in place of slumping Nomar Garciaparra, whose 0-for-13 slide and 2-for-21 trip earned him the night off.

With Garciaparra out, catcher Russell Martin moved up to third in the order and Andy LaRoche batted sixth and it was the first start in the outfield for Valdez, who has been an infielder most of his professional life.

The Dodgers scored in the first inning on a bases-loaded walk to rookie Andy LaRoche, who also started the two-run rally in the fourth inning with a leadoff single and finished the evening with an even .400 average.

Tomko's start continued the string of quality starts crafted by the Dodger pitching staff. A quality start is one in which a pitcher goes at least six innings and gives up three earned runs or less. And the Dodgers are the only team to have done that in more than 55% of their starts over the last five-plus seasons.

Brad Penny has made quality starts in all seven of his appearances and the Dodgers have won six of those. The Dodgers have recorded quality starts in 18 of their 33 games before Tomko made it 19 of 35.

"Any team you build, you have to build it on starting pitching," pitching coach Rick Honeycutt told the Los Angeles Times. "If you have good pitching you're giving yourself a chance to win every night and be in every ballgame. That's what you want.
 Score by innings
Los Angeles	100 210 001-5
Florida	        000 001 200-3

 Los Angeles	ab r  h  bi  ave
Furcal ss	4  0  1  1  .226
Pierre cf	5  0  0  0  .267
Martin c	5  2  2  0  .330
Kent 2b	        3  0  0  0  .298
 Broxton p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Betemit ph	1  0  1  0  .167
 Saito p	0  0  0  0  .000
Saenz 1b	3  1  1  1  .240
 Martinez 1b	1  0  0  0  .164
LaRoche 3b	2  0  1  1  .400
Valdez lf-2b	5  1  2  1  .260
Clark rf-lf	3  1  2  0  .270
Tomko p	        0  0  0  1  .000
 Ethier rf	2  0  0  0  .292
    Totals	34 5 10 5
    Florida	34 3  7 2

 2B- Furcal (5), Betemit (3). HR- Saenz (2).
RBI- LaRoche (3), Tomko (1), Furcal (7), 
Saenz (5), Valdez (5). S- Tomko 2, Clark. 
LOB- Los Angeles 13, Florida 6.

 Los Angeles	 in  h  r-er bb so  era
Tomko (1-3)	6.2  5  3-3  2  6  4.33
Broxton	        1.1  1  0-0  0  1  1.47
Saito (sv 10)	1.0  1  0-0  0  2  1.69
 HBP- Clark. T- 2:38. Att- 12,213.
12 Pitchers Coming Soon?--Little said adding another pitcher is "inevitable" and would probably happen before next Thursday's day off. He indicated that going to 12 pitchers might lead to the return to the starting rotation of Chad Billingsley, who struck out each of the three batters he faced Tuesday night. "It takes a while for a starting pitcher to get accustomed to the lifestyle of the bullpen, not that we want him to get real comfortable down there," Little said. "I don't think that's where he ends up. We could stretch him out if we got 12 pitchers. He could probably go four innings if it was tomorrow. This guy's been a starter his whole career." Adding another pitcher would necessitate cutting a position player and only LaRoche has options left. Wilson Betemit, who had a pinch-hit double, his third extra base hit in his last four at-bats, and Valdez are out of options. Clark, Saenz, Ramon Martinez and Mike Lieberthal have guaranteed contracts and enough service time that they could turn down Minor League a minor league assignment.

Dodger Blue Notes-- Tomko, who came into the game 0-for-10 this year, sacrificed twice and walked for the first time. ... The Dodgers' Russell Martin went 2-for-5 batting third for the first time in his career. ...In Thursday's afternoon and road trip finale, Derek Lowe (3-3, 3.89) opposes Sergio Mitre (0-2, 3.12). Marlins' powerhouse Miguel Cabrera third baseman is 0-for-13 lifetime against Derek Lowe. But the Dodgers right-hander wont talking about it. ...Atlanta designated LHP Steve Coyler for assignment. Texas activated RHP Eric Gagné from disabled list.

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