Dodgers (Sac) Fly Past the Nationals

While the Dodgers aren't playing the Pads or the Snakes, they are winning and starting to creep up on the leaders after topping Washington for the second game in a row, this time by a 4-3 margin. Chad Billingsley earned the win, Takashi Saito the save, Kent homered, Sweeney had a big pinch-double and Ethier knocked in the winning run with a long fly.

Jack of all batting slots, Andre Ethier hit third in Tuesday's game against Washington, and has apparently earned regular role in the Dodgers' outfield. He's hitting .294 and his fly in the seventh inning gave Los Angeles the run they needed to stay in the race.

Ethier took over for Matt Kemp, and Luis Gonzalez played left field. Manager Grady Little said the move had nothing to do with Kemp's baserunning mistakes in the first game of the series or his struggle against the Mets.

Kemp was doubled up when Jeff Kent lined out last night and missed a chance to score against New York when he didn't pick up the third base coach and was then picked off third.

"We talked about it," Little said of his baserunning adventures. "When you play these young men, you're going to expect to see some things you've never seen before ... but they learn from it."

Billingsley was solid, allowing three runs on eight hits while striking out six in seven innings and was helped by strong defensive play.

Three times he was helped by Kent to Furcal to Loney twin-killings, stopping the Nationals in the first, third and sixth and James Loney and Juan Pierre made run-saving plays to help out. Shea Hillenbrand, who went 2-for-4 and drove in two of the Dodgers four runs, raising his Dodger average from .217 to .240 and also made a spectacular diving catch to steal a Washington hit in the seventh inning.

"I got some great defensive plays behind me tonight," Billingsley said. "Shea, Juan and Raffy and Kent with those double plays, were big."

Pinch-hitting expert Mark Sweeney got the winning rally started in the bottom of the seventh after Billingsley has served up a game-tying home run in the top of the inning.

The Dodgers loaded the bases in the bottom of the inning when Sweeney led off with a double, Furcal walked and Pierre reached on a fielding error by the shortstop. Ethier untied the game with his long fly off a left-handed pitcher.

Sweeney's double was his 158th-career pinch-hit (second, all-time to Lenny Harris) and his Major League-leading 19th pinch-hit this season. The Southern California native is hitting .320 (8-for-25) in August. The first three all-time pinch-hitters have played in Dodger Blue: Harris, Sweeney and present Dodger coach Manny Mota.  

But Pierre went 0-for-4 to end his 15-game hitting streak.

The dynamic duo, Broxton and Saito, worked their magic in the eighth and ninth innings, putting two hitless innings in the books to nail down the win.

The pair have shortened Dodger games to seven innings and have posted earned run averages of 2.22 (Broxton) and 1.36 (Saito).

Saito, who seems to be getting better with age, earned his 36th save, moving him past Todd Worrell into sixth place on the single-season list and tied Charlie Hough for ninth place on the career list with 60. He has now converted 13 save opportunities in a row and has allowed just one run in 12.1 innings (0.73) innings this month.

Jeff Kent, who went 2-for-3, hit his 362nd career home run, moving him into a tie with Jason Giambi for 65th place on the all-time list and past Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio.

With the win, the Dodgers gained a game on the National League West-leading Arizona Diamondbacks and now find themselves 4 1/2 games back. The Dodgers have won six of their last seven games at home and nine of their last 13 as they make a push for the playoffs.

Dodgers go to 69-63 and pick up a game in the division because the San Diego beat Arizona, who seems to be coming back to the rest of the league. Los Angeles is now 4.5 behind the Snakes and 3.5 behind the Pods. And in the wild card, they are still 3.5 back.

All-Star Brad Penny (14-4, 2.65 ERA) takes on Nationals right-hander Shawn Hill (3-3, 2.31) this afternoon.
 Score by innings
Washington	100 100 100-3
Los Angeles	021 000 10x-4

 Los Angeles	ab r  h  bi  ave
Furcal ss	3  0  0  0  .291
Pierre cf	4  0  0  0  .289
Ethier rf-lf	3  0  0  1  .292
Kent 2b	        3  2  2  1  .290
Gonzalez lf	4  0  1  0  .278
 Broxton p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Saito p	0  0  0  0  .000
Martin c	2  1  1  0  .296
Loney 1b	4  0  1  0  .301
Hillenbrand 3b	4  0  2  2  .251
Billingsley p	1  0  0  0  .091
 Sweeney ph	1  1  1  0  .255
 Kemp rf	0  0  0  0  .333
   Totals	29 4 8 4
   Washington	31 3 6 3

 2B- Sweeney (9). HR- Kent (17). RBI- Hillenbrand 
2 (28), Kent (70), Ethier (54), S- Billingsley.
SF- Ethier. SB- Martin (21). CS- Martin (6).
LOB- Los Angeles 8, Washington 5. DP- Kent, Furcal
and Loney 3.

 Los Angeles	   in  h  r-er bb so  era
Billingsley (9-4) 7.0  8  3-3  1  6  3.50
Broxton	          1.0  0  0-0  0  0  2.22
Saito (sv 36)	  1.0  0  0-0  0  2  1.36
 HBP- Martin; by Billingsley 2. T- 2:41.
Att- 49,698.
Dodger Blue Notes-- The Los angeles Times reports that Luis Gonzalez may not be with the Dodgers in 2008. Gonzalez, 39, started for the first time in six games and only four of the last nine. His contract expires at the end of the season. Asked whether he saw himself coming back to play next year under similar circumstances, Gonzalez replied, "No, no, not here, but I don't want to go on a limb and say that," he said. "We've got good young players here and they're playing well right now. It's the direction that the team wants to go right now. Gonzalez has struggled in the month of August, batting .237 with just one homer and eight RBIs. On the season, the veteran is hitting .278 with 12 homers and 56 RBIs in 113 games. The emergence of 22-year-old Matt Kemp has moved into the the third spot in the lineup, hitting .333 with eight homers and 32 RBIs. In addition, Kemp provides speed on the basepaths and a strong arm in the outfield. ...Infielders Tony Abreu and Andy LaRoche are on the fast track for a September callup. Abreu, who has been suffering from an abdominal injury that has sidelined him since the All-Star break, was 2-for-5 with two doubles and two runs scored in Monday's game and had three hits with a double last night. LaRoche, who missed three weeks in August because of a disc injury in his back, returned to the lineup for the 51's on Saturday and played Monday night, going 2-for-5 with two hits and two runs scored. LaRoche struggled with the Dodgers when he was called up in early May, but according to Little, if he proves to be healthy, he will be another September callup. "LaRoche played three out of the last four games and he pinch-hit in the other game," Little said. "I think one week is going to make a lot of difference for him." ...Third baseman Nomar Garciaparra is closer to returning to the Dodgers lineup. On Tuesday, the veteran infielder took infield, hit and jogged prior to the game with no pain. "As soon as he can run and that's not far away, he will return," said Little. "He'll try towards the end of the week this week, and he feels like he'll be ready pretty soon." ...Derek Lowe's victory gave him six consecutive seasons with at least 11 victories. The only other pitchers in baseball to accomplish that feat are Roy Oswalt, Tim Hudson and C.C. Sabathia. Greg Maddux is one win away while Mark Buehrle is two wins short of joining that group this season. ...Dodger broadcaster Rick Monday received the James V. Day Good Guy Award from the American Legion during the organization's 89th National Convention in Reno, NV. Monday, who had a 19-year All-Star career with the Dodgers, Cubs and A's, is best known for rescuing the American flag from two would-be flag burners on April 25, 1976 and his patriotism toward his country. Monday will also miss last night's game while at the convention with President George W. Bush.