Dodgers Fight Their Way Back Up the Standings

The 1952-55 Dodgers were like a pride of lions; they would circle you for an inning or so and then move in and gobble you up. The 1977-78 Dodgers were like a heard of elephants, wandering around and impersonally crushing everything in sight. The 2007 Dodgers are like a swarm of bees; they keep stinging and stinging until finally they wear you down and make off with a win.

For the second game in a row, in tradition-stuffed Wrigley field before another packed house of long-suffering fans, Los Angeles started slowly and then built up enough momentum to leave the park with a 6-2 win and pull within three games of the National League West Division lead.

Brad Penny won his 15th game on a night he was not so dominating. Still he allowed only seven hits and a single earned run, waiting patiently for the swarm to find a weak spot, exploit it and score him some runs.

Only two of the hits he allowed was for extra-bases; doubles in the third and sixth innings and without the help of a Dodger error, neither of them would have been costly.

Penny is suffering from the Don Newcombe syndrome. Both were big and strong and when they were right, which is pretty often, it was lights out. But there seems to be an expectation that when they take the mound they will dominate each time and the various gods of baseball just don't allow such a thing. So when they are just good, not untouchable, there is a touch of disappointment among the Dodger faithful, or "The Flock" as they were called in Brooklyn.

But this night, Bradley Wayne Penny was plenty good enough as the Cubs would attest to. He knocked another game off their league-leading margin and they are now looking back at both the Cardinals (1/2 game) and Milwaukee (one game) behind.

After Arizona topped San Diego for the second night in a row, the Dodgers trail the Podres and the Snakes by three. Colorado keeps hanging around (one behind the Dodgers) and if they can't win the thing, they will certainly be a factor in who does.

Both teams squandered scoring opportunities like a $50 million dollar lottery winner in the early innings. And it took a two-out double by Penny in the top of the fifth to launch a modest two-run rally that saw L.A. take the lead for good.

Three more runs pattered across in the seventh and eighth in the midst of an attack that featured mostly singles. The Dodgers longest hit of the evening was a booming triple by Matt Kemp but he was left at third and the shot didn't factor in the win.

Los Angeles had two runners nailed on the bases and another pair shot down at home plate. The Cubs hit into five double plays, including three in the last four innings.

Chicago seemed to have Penny on the ropes in the first inning. He allowed a pair of singles, then threw a double play ball and gave up two of the three walks he had during the game on eight straight pitches before a fly ball ended the inning.

Kemp lived on a two-out error in the first, then was picked off first base. Jeff Kent singled to lead off the top of the second and Luis Gonzalez walked but when Russell Martin looped a "single" into right field, Gonzo had trouble determining if the ball was catchable -- it wasn't -- and he was nailed at second on a routine 9-6 force play. Then Martin was moving when James Loney lined to short and got himself doubled off first.

The Dodgers broke through in the top of the fourth when Kemp singled, stole second and scored on Luis Gonzalez's single to right. Chicago tied the game after consecutive singles and a fielder's choice but a double play killed the inning for them.

The Dodgers added two in the fifth after both Loney and Andy LaRoche had struck out. Penny crushed a double down the left-field line and Rafael Furcal and Juan Pierre singled, Penny scoring. Then Kemp singled to left to drive in Furcal but Pierre was nailed at the plate by a throw from Alfonso Soriano in left field.

Andy LaRoche let a ground ball go between his legs in the last of the sixth and Daryle Ward promptly doubles to cut the lead to 3-2. Furcal started a lightening double play to end that inning.

LaRoche redeemed himself in the top of the seventh, driving in Loney (who had singled), with a scorching double into the right field corner. Pierre beat out a perfect push bunt with two out to score LaRoche.

It looked like Los Angeles would break the game open in the eighth after Gonzalez singled, Martin doubled and Loney was intentionally walked. Ramon Martinez, who replaced LaRoche at third, walked to force in a run and Furcal flew to medium left field, allowing Soriano to demonstrate that his earlier throw was not a fluke. He shot down Martin at the plate this time to end the inning.

Jonathan Broxton took over for Penny in the eighth and Takashi Saito worked the ninth. Both allowed a runner and both got out of the inning with a double play.

Kemp finished with four hits to boost his average to .344. Pierre and Gonzalez each added a pair.

It was the seventh victory in the past nine games for Los Angeles and they won for the 12th time in the last 18 games. The Dodgers have won 11 of their last 16 games at Wrigley Field dating back to 2002 and since these two franchises began playing against one another in 1890 (as the Chicago Colts and Brooklyn Bridegrooms), they are separated by just three games, as the Dodgers hold a 1,009-1,006 advantage over the Cubs.

Brad Penny earned his 15th win of the season and 32nd over the past two years. Since the start of last season, no National League pitcher has more victories than Penny, as he has 31 with Carlos Zambrano, Aaron Harang and Brandon Webb tied with 30 victories during that period.

And the Dodgers recognize his worth. Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said of Penny and his efforts this season, "He is giving us quality starts, and that's all you can ask him to do," Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said of Penny. "You still have to look at the season as a whole. I think there is a microscope where everybody wants to point to first half/second half, but if you give your team a quality start and lose 3-1, 3-2, or maybe the 'pen comes in and gives it up, that doesn't mean you didn't do your job. A starter's job is to ... give you a chance to win."

Score by innings Los Angeles 000 120 210-6 Chicago 000 101 000-2 Los Angeles ab r h bi ave Furcal ss 5 1 1 1 .278 Pierre cf 5 0 2 2 .291 Kemp rf 5 1 4 1 .344 Kent 2b 5 0 1 0 .295 Abreu 2b 0 0 0 0 .288 Gonzalez lf 3 0 2 1 .282 Valdez pr 0 1 0 0 .236 Ethier lf 1 0 0 0 .289 Martin c 4 0 1 0 .297 Loney 1b 3 1 1 0 .312 LaRoche 3b 3 1 1 1 .208 Martinez 3b 0 0 0 1 .185 Penny p 3 1 1 0 .250 Sweeney ph 1 0 0 0 .248 Broxton p 0 0 0 0 .000 Saito p 0 0 0 0 .000 Totals 38 6 14 6 Chicago 31 2 8 2 Error- LaRoche (3). 2B- Penny (5), LaRoche (4), Martin (30). 3B- Kent (4). RBI- Gonzalez (57), Pierre 2 (36), Kemp (35), LaRoche (6), Martinez (26). SB- Pierre (54). Kemp (9). CS- Kemp (4). LOB- Los Angeles 8, Chicago 6. DP- (5) Furcal and Loney; Kent, Furcal and Loney; Furcal, Kent and Loney; Loney, Furcal and Loney; Saito and Loney. Los Angeles ab h r-er bb so era Penny (15-4) 7.0 7 2-1 3 2 2.82 Broxton 1.0 1 0-0 0 0 2.13 Saito 1.0 0 0-0 1 0 1.31 T- 2:51. Att- 37,834.
More Help Arrives-- Prior to the game, the Dodgers recalled outfielder Delwyn Young, infielder Tony Abreu, left-hander Eric Stults, right-hander Eric Hull and infielder/outfielder Wilson Valdez, all of whom were playing at Las Vegas. Young finished the year with a .337 average, 106 runs, 17 homers and 95 RBI in 120 games. Abreu batted .360 with a .405 on-base percentage in 53 games and Valdez hit .337 with 42 walks and just 36 strikeouts in 89 games for the 51s. Stults was recently optioned back to Triple-A and will start for the Dodgers tomorrow while Hull was 4-3 with a 2.74 ERA and 11 saves in 49 games for Las Vegas. All five players have appeared in the Majors already this season. Dodger Blue Notes-- Jeff Kent had two RBI yesterday and another last night to surpass Eddie Mathews for 52nd place all-time with 1,455. Kent is now nine shy of Ed Delahanty for 51st place on the all-time charts. He leads the Dodgers with 34 doubles on the season and is second with 75 RBI. ...The Dodgers have the best record in the Majors when scoring first. They are 50-13 (.794), followed by Boston (57-19, .750) and St. Louis (42-14, .750) when crossing home before the opponent. ...Jonathan Broxton worked the first two games of the series and worked his 28th and 29th holds, tying him for the third-highest total in the Majors. Over his last 98 outings dating back to July 26 of last season, Broxton has a 1.90 ERA (22 ER/104.0 IP). ...Esteban Loaiza won his Dodger debut yesterday while wearing No. 25. He switched uniform numbers with first base coach Mariano Duncan, who is now wearing No. 35, the same number worn by Babe Ruth when he was a coach for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1938. And baseball fans who are numerologists have noticed that the Dodgers issued jersey No. 10 to Andy LaRoche, the rookie third baseman. It has belonged to a number of players over the years, including long-time third base fixture Ron Cey, Hall of Famer Al Lopez, Mickey Owen and Gary Sheffield.