Dodgers split with the Nationals

On the face of it, the Dodgers lost 4-3 to Washington, their fourth game of the spring against a pair of runs. But hiding behind the loss were a number of positive occurrences that made the night a bit brighter, and not just from the fireworks display afterwards.

Hiroki Kuroda pitched two more scoreless innings. Clayton Kershaw gave up a homer but struck out the side in his first game with the big club. Greg Miller threw a shutout inning, Yhency Brazoban was untouchable in his appearance and Andy LaRoche launched a long homer and added a single.

Balanced against a rather meaningless exhibition loss, the balance sheet seemed to tally up on the plus side.

Jonathan Broxton, Scott Proctor, Kershaw and Brazoban all made their first appearances of the spring.

Of course, all of them were not completely positive. Washington broke out their long game, smacking three doubles, a triple and three homers among their nine hits.

The Dodgers countered with a pair of homers, a pair of doubles and a triple with four singles thrown in.

Hiroki Kuroda made his second start of the spring and allowed a one-out triple in the first and walked the 1-2 batters in the second but emerged without allowing a run, helped by a LaRoche, Kent and Loney double play.

The Dodgers got on the board in the second inning when third baseman Andy LaRoche crushed a shot to left that departed Holman Stadium about palm-tree high and disappeared out into the soft Florida night.

George Lombard followed one out later with a long shot slightly to the right of center field that landed in the courtyard in front of the clubhouse.

Following Kuroda on the mound was the Dodgers top minor league pitcher Clayton Kershaw, who was making a command performance at the request of manager Joe Torre.

And Joe got his money's worth.

Wearing No. 96, Kershaw hit that speed on his third pitch to Luis Jiminez, who was apparently unimpressed and slugged it over the center field wall.

Kershaw then fanned Felipe Lopez on a nasty curve, Ronnie Belliard hit a ball up the middle that slid under Jeff Kent's glove, Elijah Dukes ripped a shot that ate LaRoche up at third and when Alex Escobar was hit by a pitch and bases were loaded.

Then, using his fastball to set up his curve, he fanned Kory Casto and Humberto Costa with crisp breaking balls.

After the game, Torre said, "Kershaw has a great curveball and a good changeup, too. But he didn't get the ball down to Jiminez. Then after the home run he just smiled as if to say, 'welcome to the big leagues.' It's great to see that kind of enthusiasm."

Three hits, one run, three strikeouts; altogether, a strong comeback from the leadoff homer. All in all a very impressive debut for a 19-year-old.

No wonder Torre, after seeing him pitch in the bullpen for the first time, told him simply, "Stay healthy."

Jonathan Broxton made his spring debut a solid one, stopping the Nationals 1-2-3 with a strikeout.

Continuing the theme, "The Night of the Bomb," Lopez led off the fifth inning with a home run to dead center off Scott Proctor, also making his debut.

Belliard followed with a double into the corner of right field that Matt Kemp nearly caught up with and Belliard found himself just a home run short of a cycle.

Russell Martin threw him out attempting to steal third and with a triple, single and double on the books, he still hadn't been able to score.

Hu doubled to lead off the fifth, was bunted to third and Martin launched a long, high drive that was caught on the warning track in center, allowing Hu to trot across the plate with the tie-breaking run.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Scott Proctor also made his debut in the sixth, serving up Jiminez's second home run, again to dead center, with a runner on base and Washington led 4-3.

Like a debutante's ball, it was also coming out for Yhency Brazoban, who took to the rubber for the first time in almost two years.

Using a good fastball and sharp slider, he got a ground ball and a pair of strikeouts in his one inning.

Greg Miller came in to pitch the top of the eighth inning. Miller had given up a pair of walks and then three straight hits in his first game this spring but has been working with Sandy Koufax who suggested gripping the ball differently.

He walked Casto on four balls and that quickly drew Joe Torre out of the dugout to talk to the talented but directionally-challenged lefthander.

Whatever he told him worked immediately. He got a 3-4-3 double play on the first pitch and a gentle fly to left field that retired the side.

Xavier Paul opened the Dodgers eighth with a single to right and Martinez looped his first hit of the year into about the same place but Tiffee bunted into a force play at third and LaRoche grounded into a double play.

Thirty-seven year old Fernando De La Cruz, who wants to be called Fernando Desgue, came in to work the ninth and was tapped for a double by Justin Maxwell leading off.

Jiminez bounced out to move the runner to third. On a ground ball to Martinez at second, the veteran nailed Jiminez at the plate and a fly ball got him out of trouble.

With two out in the last of the ninth, Hu lived on an error and the Dodgers were given one more chance but although John-Ford Griffith lined a fastball to center, a diving catch sealed the win for Washington.

The club drops to 2-4 and Brad Penny, the probable Opening Day starter, and an improbable candidate for fifth starter, Chan Ho Park, are scheduled to face the new Mets ace Johan Santana at St. Lucie on Wednesday (today).
 Score by innings
Washington	001 012 000-4
Los Angeles	020 010 000-3

 Los Angeles		ab r  h bi  ave
Pierre lf		3  0  2  0  .294
 Griffin lf		1  0  0  0  .500
Martin c		1  0  0  1  .273
 Gutierrez c		1  0  0  0  .000
Loney 1b		3  0  1  0  .467
 Paul rf		1  0  1  0  .333
Kent 2b			2  0  0  0  .200
 Martinez 2b		2  0  1  0  .100
Kemp rf			3  0  0  0  .375
 Tiffee 1b		1  0  0  0  .000
LaRoche 3b		4  1  2  1  .385
Repko cf		4  0  0  0  .100
Lombard dh		4  1  1  1  .200
Hu ss			3  1  1  0  .222
  Totals		34 3 9 3
  Washington	        33 4 9 4

 2b hits- Pierre (1), Hu (1).
3b hit- Loney (1). HR- LaRoche (1), 
Lombard (1). RBI- LaRoche (1),
Lombard (1), Martin (1). S- Pierre. 
SF- Martin. DP- LaRoche, Kent and 
Loney; Tiffee, Hu and Tiffee.

 Los Angeles		 in  h  r-er bb so  era
Kuroda			2.0  1  0-0  2  1  0.00
Kershaw			1.0  3  1-1  0  3  9.00
Broxton			1.0  0  0-0  0  1  0.00	
Proctor			1.0  2  2-2  0  1 18.00
Brazoban		1.0  0  0-0  0  3  0.00
Miller			1.0  0  0-0  1  0 45.00 
De La Cruz		1.0  1  0-0  0  0  0.00
 HBP- by Kershaw. T- 2:39. Att-3,591.
Quote of the Day--"I took notice of him for the first time when he helped beat me in the 2003 World Series. I like his energy. He really doesn't strike out. He puts the ball in play and that gives the opposition a chance to mess up. To me, he's a good teammate. we have major decisions to make. We have more than four outfielders that can play at the Major League level," Manager Joe Torre talking about Juan Pierre.

Tommy Gets Keyed-- Prior to the game, Tommy Lasorda will be given the key to the city by Vero Beach Mayor Thomas P. White. Lasorda has been coming to Dodgertown since 1949, a year after the Vero Beach spring oasis opened. The Hall of Famer is now in his 59th year in Dodgertown.

Dodger Blue Notes-- Manny Mota threw out the first ball and it was caught by former Dodger Lenny Harris, all-time Major League pinch-hit leader, who is a coach for Washington. ...The Dodgers moved their bullpen into the right field corner of the field after years in the left field corner. It is easier to see the new position from the Dodger bench. ...Lefty Hong-Chih Kuo's beleaguered left elbow was hurting again and he was scratched from his scheduled appearance against the Mets on Wednesday. "It doesn't seem too serious, but in light of everything he's been through, he'll take a couple extra days before he throws in a game," said trainer Stan Conte. What Kuo has four elbow operations in his star-crossed career, including two Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgeries.

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