Amblin' Pirates Drop Dodgers 3-1

Pittsburgh put 14 men on base Saturday night but five of them were cut down, three at the plate, but they rode the strong arm of Ian Snell to a 3-1 victory over the suddenly hapless Dodgers who managed only six hits, three of them by rookie Tony Abreu, now hitting .367, who was left on base each time.

Snell held Los Angeles in the palm of his right hand, turning on the gas with runners on base and working eight solid innings. After Andre Ethier singled and Abreu doubled with one out in the seventh, he struck out both pinch-hitting Wilson Betemit and Juan Pierre, hitting 97 on the speed gun with his 100th pitch.

But Snell (5-4) allowed only six hits in his strongest start in a month. Matt Capps, newly anointed the closer for the Pirate, disposed of all three Dodgers in the ninth on five pitchers for his second career save.

The Dodgers (32-23) had won seven of nine and were trying to move 11 games above .500 for the first time this season. Pittsburgh ended a three-game losing streak and won for only the second time in their last seven home games.

Had Hong-Chih Kuo been a Broadway play, might have closed after the first performance. However, he strengthened the second act and worked into the fifth, allowing two runs on five hits.

But things could have been worse. Much worse.

Kuo allowed three singles to start the game and quickly trailed 1-0. With one out he reloaded the bases by hitting Xavier Nady and then walked in a second run.

However, wearing a white hat, Andre Ethier galloped to the rescue of [a Kuo and [b the reputation that the Dodger outfield is week-armed. He caught a fly in median right field and threw a perfect one-hopper to catcher Mike Lieberthal to complete an inning-ending double play.

Leiberthal, subbing for Russell Martin, was hit by a pitch in the second and scored on Abreu's first of two doubles to put L.A. on the board.

In fact, other than Abreu, that pretty much ended the Dodger offensive efforts. Cleanup hitter Jeff Kent was 1-for-16 coming into the game and took another 0-for-4.

Luis Gonzalez belied his 39 years by streaking back into left-center to haul in a long drive in the 410-foot crease in the outfield with a man on base to save a run in the fifth inning.

The long shot jolted manager Grady Little out of the dugout to replace Kou with Brett Tomko, who ended the inning with a force play at second.

Nady perhaps took exception to Kou's hit-by-pitch in the first by slamming a shot into the L.A. bullpen for a 3-1 lead. Then Pittsburgh put on another Keystone Kops baserunning exhibition in the sixth, costing them multiple runs.

Adam LaRoche whacked a double to left field and catcher Ronny Paulino followed with another double off the right field wall but for the second day in a row, Pittsburgh failed to score on back-to-back doubles.

Jack Wilson then missed a squeeze play and LaRoche was caught dead off third base. Wilson then bounced to Furcal and he threw out Paulino at the plate. Tomko then struck out Snell having dodged not just a bullet but a hand grenade.

Rudy Seanez put on an exhibition during his two-innings of work, striking out five including the final three in a row.

But the Dodgers were unable to lay a glove on Snell and later Capp, going quietly after Abreu's third hit in the seventh.

The Mets beat Arizona 7-1 and San Diego topped Washington 11-3 so, coupled with the Dodger loss, the N.L. West is again packed tighter than the old college 15-kids-in-a-Volkswagon trick.
 N.L. West	 w-l   pct   gb
Los Angeles	32-23  .582  --
San Diego	32-23  .582  --
Arizona	        33-24  .579  --
Today the pitcher with the second-base ERA in the National League, Brad Penny (7-1, 2.06) opposes the Pirate's Tom Gorzelanny (6-3, 2.39) who has the third best ERA with a rainy afternoon forecast for Pittsburgh.
 Score by innings
Los Angeles	010 000 000-1
Pittsburgh	200 001 00x-3

 Los Angeles	ab r  h  bi  ave
Pierre cf	4  0  1  0  .275  
Furcal ss	3  0  0  0  .294
Garciaparra 1b	3  0  1  0  .289
Kent 2b	        4  0  0  0  .262
Gonzalez lf	4  0  0  0  .285
Lieberthal c	2  1  0  0  .231
 Martin ph	1  0  0  0  .306
Ethier rf	4  0  1  0  .271  
Abreu 3b	4  0  3  1  .367
Kuo p	        2  0  0  0  .000
 Tomko p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Betemit ph	1  0  0  0  .191
 Seanez p	0  0  0  0  .000
   Totals	32 1 6 1
   Pittsburgh	30 3 8 3

 2B- Abreu 2 (5). RBI- Abreu (4). LOB- Los Angeles
7, Pittsburgh 7. DP- Ethier and Lieberthal.

 Los Angeles	in  h  r-er bb so  era
Kuo (0-1)	4.2  5  2-2  2  3  7.71
Tomko	        1.1  3  1-1  0  1  5.69
Seanez	        2.0  0  0-0  0  5  2.86
 T- 2:37. Att- 31,931.
Wrong Average Considered?-- Jon Weisman on his thought-provoking website "Dodger Thoughts" had this to say about the demotion of Andy LaRoche:
"It continues to depress me to see batting average used as the sole statistic in talking about ballplayers. Everywhere you look, writers are talking about how Tony Abreu's batting average is higher than Andy LaRoche's, without mentioning the more important news that LaRoche's on-base percentage is higher than Abreu's. "Remember how LaRoche was getting all those so-called gift walks by batting low in the order (only they weren't all really gifts)? Abreu has none this season. Still, LaRoche gets no credit.
"It's nothing personal against Abreu, who has a higher slugging percentage than LaRoche in their short MLB experiences this year, to ask that if you're going to talk about batting average, talk about it in context. I understand that a single can be more valuable than a walk. Nevertheless, the fact remains that LaRoche has a higher OPS+ and EQA than Abreu.
"The way LaRoche's walks have been relentlessly dismissed by so many is troublesome; there is a very strong case to be made that LaRoche has been the more productive player. (Abreu is a short three-game slump away from having the same batting average as LaRoche, without the walks. Hopefully, Abreu can avoid that.)
"LaRoche, frankly, may be better off playing full-time in Las Vegas than part-time in Los Angeles, and I was never certain he deserved his May callup to begin with. But to say that LaRoche was sent down because he had a lower batting average justifies the Dodgers' decision in over-simplistic terms. If that's the reason being given, it's not enough."

Martin in Good Company-- Dodger catcher Russell Martin homered in his third consecutive contest last night, the first Dodger to do so in 2007, after Jeff Kent (May 9-11), Matt Kemp (June 1-3) and Nomar Garciaparra (Sept. 24-27) all did so last season. The last Dodger to blast homers in four straight games was Hee-Seop Choi, who accomplished the feat from June 10-14, 2005 and the Dodger franchise record stands at five (Shawn Green, Roy Campanella).

Dodger Blue Notes-- Jason Schmidt as been reeinstated in the rotation and Mark Hendrickson is back in the bullpen Manager Grady Little announced before the game. Schmidt passed a routine 58-pitch bullpen session and Little hopes for about 90 pitches for his first start Tuesday night in San Diego. ...Tony Abreu has apparently won the third-base job for now with Friday night's demotion of fellow rookie Andy LaRoche. "Today he is," Little said when asked if Abreu is his starting third baseman. "He's doing a good job. Right now, he can help us win games offensively, defensively and he runs the bases well." ...Left fielder Luis Gonzalez's 10-game hitting streak was broken when he went 0-for-4. Gonzalez has raised his average from .259 to .291 during the streak and leads the Dodgers with 25 free passes. The five-time All-Star is also the second-toughest player in the National League to strike out, fanning just once every 16.8 plate appearances. ...When Hong-Chih Kuo started Saturday, the Dodgers had started three straight left-handed hurlers (Mark Hendrickson, Randy Wolf and Kuo). The last time Los Angeles sent three straight lefties to the mound was more recent than one might think. Wilson Alvarez, Odalis Perez and Kazuhisa Ishii made several starts in that order during the 2004 season, with the last coming from Aug. 27-28-29.