All-Star Russell Martin had a career-high four hits, raising his average with runners in scoring position to .345, and Matt Kemp slugged a monster 436-foot home run, caught by a relief pitcher Chin-hui Tsao standing on the bullpen mound between warmup tosses, as the kids derailed the Braves in the first game of a four-game set.
Martin, who extended his hitting streak to a dozen games, and Kemp combined to go 5 for 8 with five RBI. Tony Abreu and Andre Ethier each scored a run as a pinch runner. Loney went hitless in four plate appearance, but he reached first base after striking out just before Kemp's shot.
The Dodgers led 3-1 at that point and when they added five more in the seventh it was time for Atlanta to put out the fire and call in the dogs.
It was a remarkable performance by a group that is beginning to remind one of the Garvey, Lopes, Cey and Russell-era Dodgers and if they keep performing at this level, a blockbuster trade before the deadline will not necessary, since every club in the major leagues has their own shopping list of young Los Angeles players.
The Braves worked Dodgers starter Derek Lowe to throw 104 pitches over his five innings and manager Grady Little went to his bullpen earlier than he had planned. After allowing consecutive singles to second baseman Jeff Kent, who made a diving stop and a perfect throw to end the inning and save two runs.
He allowed only one run with five strikeouts and no walks, yet his pitch count was out of control.
Despite the fact he did not have his "A" stuff, Lowe gave up only one run and eight hits, struck out five and walked none.
Beimel, as is the curse of the middle reliever, has allowed just two of 25 inherited runners to score all season and this time he was rewarded with the win, on the strength of Kemp's long shot. Rudy Seanez and Brett Tomko closed things out.
With the game still tied in the fifth, Smoltz got two easy outs, then fanned James Loney but when the ball skittered past catcher Brian McCann, Loney dashed to first base, getting there without a throw. "Before Loney got up to hit," Kemp said, "I just told him to get on base and I would drive him in."
In the seventh, the Dodgers put the game away with a five-run rally, opening things with bunt double by Juan Pierre, who bounced it over the head of third baseman Chipper Jones. Martin ran his RBI total to 55 with a single and Kemp coaxed a bases-loaded walk. Martin stole his 16th base (tying the all-time franchise record for a catcher set 104 years ago) and seven consecutive Dodgers would reach base by the time it was over.
Martin, who extended his hitting streak to a 12 games. Tony Abreu and Andre Ethier each scored a run as a pinch runner and the Dodgers (46-35) trail division-leading San Diego by only one game in the National League West.
The game featured a pair of pitchers, Smoltz and Lowe, who have had seasons of 20 wins and 40 saves. The only other player in big league history to accomplish that feat is Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley.
And neither pitcher has had much run support this season, the Braves have been outscored 22-4 in Smoltz's five losses and have score but one run during the 32.2 combined innings while he was on the mound.
Tonight Randy Wolf (9-6, 4.33) opposes Atlanta's Kyle Davies (3-7, 5.42).
Score by innings Atlanta 001 000 001-2 Los Angeles 000 012 50x-8 Los Angeles ab r h bi ave Furcal ss 4 1 2 0 .275 Pierre cf 5 1 1 0 .276 Martin c 5 1 4 2 .306 Kent 2b 4 0 1 1 .264 Abreu pr-2b 0 1 0 0 .290 Gonzalez lf 4 0 2 0 .294 Ethier pr-lf 1 1 0 0 .274 Garciaparra 1b 4 1 1 1 .272 Loney 1b 3 1 0 0 .393 Kemp rf 3 1 1 3 .397 Lowe p 2 0 0 0 .188 Beimel p 1 0 0 0 .000 Saenz ph 0 0 0 1 .219 Seanez p 0 0 0 0 .000 Tomko p 0 0 0 0 .000 Totals 36 8 12 8 Atlanta 35 2 11 2 E- Furcal (11). 2B- Furcal (15), Martin (20), Pierre (11). HR- Kemp (3). RBI- Martin 2 (55), Kemp 3 (112), Kent (40), Garciaparra (41), Saenz (12). SF- Saenz. SB- Martin (16), Pierre (32). LOB- Los Angeles 9, Atlanta (10). DP- Furcal and Loney; Beimel, Furcal and Loney. Los Angeles in h r-er bb so era Lowe 5.0 8 1-1 0 5 2.98 Beimel (2-1) 2.0 0 0-0 2 1 4.15 Seanez 1.0 0 0-0 0 2 3.29 Tomko 1.0 3 1-1 0 0 5.89 HBP- Abreu. T- 3:03. Att- 40,571.Mueller Remains Batting Coach-- Interim batting coach Bill Mueller, who replaced Eddie Murray on June 14, will remain in the job for the rest of the season. "Our total approach has been different," Little said. "We're seeing more pitches, our on-base percentage has been better. I don't know how much of that you can attribute to one person, because a lot of personal responsibility goes to the players."
Mueller had talked it over with his wife and accepted the job for the rest of the season. "Everything about this situation has been so good," Mueller said. "I'm learning a lot about these guys, mechanically, mentally, all that. They're always listening, but they listened to Eddie, too. They always want to learn, and they're hard workers."
Mueller, who retired as a player last season after knee surgery, had been working as a special assistant to Colletti. Under Murray, who was replaced June 14, the Dodgers were 38-28 (.575). The team batting average was .261 and the on-base percentage of .329 was seventh in the league while scoring an average of 4.4 runs per game. Under Mueller, the Dodgers are 8-8 (.500). The team batting average is .288 and the on-base percentage is .354 while scoring an average of 4.6 runs.
Dodger Blue Notes-- Little said left-hander Mark Hendrickson, who will return to the starting rotation on Wednesday night against the Braves, should be able to throw up to 90 pitches even though he hasn't started since May 31. Hendrickson has pitched as many as three innings in a relief appearance twice since then. ...Martin joined Mike Piazza and Paul Lo Duca who since 1979 have become an All-Star for the Dodgers. (fellow catchers Mike Piazza and Paul Lo Duca the others).