Hits Just Keep on Coming; Win Pirate Series

Led by a red-hot Rafael Furcal, the Dodger hit machine was again set on "high" in the final game of the homestand and the Dodgers batted around in the first inning and easily defeated the Pirates 8-1, banging out a season high and topping double figures for the fifth time in the past six games. Furcal batted .440 on the homestand (11 for 25).

Over the past two games the Dodgers scored a combined 19 runs on 28 hits, after losing a chance to sweep the Pirates in the opener Monday. Furcal, who probably should be hitting third in the lineup, opened the game with a bunt single and went on to equal his career high with four hits, boosting improve his batting average to the top of the National League charts at .407. He has hit safely in 11 of his past 12 games.

The all-around game the Dodgers have shown in their past two games would go a long way toward getting the team back on track. Wednesday's victory put the Dodgers one game below .500 at 7-8. Their two consecutive victories came on the heels of six defeats in seven games.

Brad Penny had trouble getting loose on the cool evening but you couldn't make the Pirates believe that. He worked into the sixth inning, allowing a run on five hits to even his record at 2-2 and left after 85 pitches.

The Dodgers put the game away in the first two innings, scoring four in the first and two in the second.

"I was a little stiff from the cold weather and the long first inning, but I had probably the best breaking ball I've had this year," Penny said. "Any time you get a six-run lead, you have a lot to work with and can be more aggressive."

The Dodgers rushed across the canvas at the opening bell and hit the Pirates flush on the chin before they could get up off their stool.

Furcal beat out a leadoff bunt on the first pitch of the game, beating pitcher Paul Maholm to the bag. Russ Martin whacked a single off Maholm's foot and Matt Kemp singled to make it 1-0. After Jeff Kent made it four singles in a row, Kemp got into a rundown between second and third, slipping to the ground as the Pirate third baseman Jose Bautista attempted to tag him, then dashing to third without a throw. br>
Kemp then scored on the first of two sacrifice flys from James Loney.

Jones fanned for the second out but Nomar Garciaparra, making his 2008 debut walked and Juan Pierre beat out an RBI bunt to make it 4-0. Penny hit the ball harder than anyone in the first innings but lined to shortstop.

Abandoning the short game, Furcal led off with a home run to left that bounced off the facing of the loge level and Loney added his second sacrifice fly. Loney later extended his season-opening hit streak to 15 games with a single to right in the seventh inning and scored on a double by Pierre.

After 15 games, with the return of Nomar Garciaparra from the disabled list, the Dodgers put their proposed opening day lineup on the field.

"It worked well," Torre said. "The top of the order did a lot of damage. We made the most of what we had in that first inning. Matt Kemp getting out of that run-down play was amazing but that's the kind of body control he has."

Garciaparra had a hit and two walks in four trips to the plate. Martin, Kemp, Kent and Pierre each had a pair of hits.

The Dodger bullpen made a clean sweep of the final 3.1 innings as Scott Proctor, Jonathan Broxton and Takashi Saito allowed Pittsburgh nothing but zeros.

Dodgers go to 7-8 and remain in third place, four behind the Snakes and after an off-day today, the Dodgers will take their new offensive show on the road to Atlanta and Cincinnati before returning home to face division-leading Arizona and defending NL champion Colorado.

Derek Lowe (1-0, 1.80 ERA) draws the opening start against former Dodger Buddy Carlyle (0-0, 0.00 ERA). On Lowe's last outing, he allowing just a run against the Padres and finished by retired 15 straight batters and 20 of 21. Carlyle is making his first start with the Braves after two for Triple-A Richmond. The right-hander went 5-4 with a 5.37 ERA in 10 starts at Turner Field last year after joining the Braves rotation in late May.
 Score by innings
Pittsburgh         000 001 000-1
Los Angeles        420 000 20x-8

 Los Angeles	ab r  h  bi  ave
Furcal ss	4  2  4  2  .407
Martin c	4  2  2  0  .208
Kemp rf	        5  1  2  1  .310
Kent 2b	        4  1  2  1  .280
 Betemit p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Broxton p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Sweeney ph	1  0  0  0  .091
 Saito p	0  0  0  0  .000
Loney 1b	3  1  1  2  .364
Jones cf	4  0  1  0  .157
Garciaparra 3b	2  0  1  0  .500
 DeWitt pr-3b	0  1  0  1  .261
Pierre lf	4  0  2  2  .281
Penny p	        3  0  0  0  .125
 Proctor p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Hu 2b	        1  0  0  0  .200
  Totals	35 8 15 8
  Pittsburgh	34 1  6 1

 Error- Furcal (4), Garciaparra (1), 2b hits-
Pierre (2). HR- Furcal (2). RBI- Kemp (4),
Kent (10), Loney 2 (8), Pierre 2 (5), Furcal
2 (7). SF- Loney 2. LOB- Los Angeles 9,
Pittsburgh 8. 

 Los Angeles	in  h  r-er bb so  era
Penny (2-2)	5.2  5  1-0  0  4  2.96
Proctor	        0.2  0  0-0  1  1  6.75
Beimel	        0.2  0  0-0  0  1  1.59
Broxton	        1.0  0  0-0  1  0  1.23
Saito	        1.0  1  0-0  0  1  4.50
 T- 2:56. Att- 53,629.
DeWitt Sticks Around- Blake DeWitt, who came from nowhere to become the starting third baseman when the injury bug felled Andy LaRoche, Nomar Garciaparra and Tony Abreu, stayed on the roster when Nomar came off the disabled list and Ramon Troncoso was sent to Las Vegas.

DeWitt said, "It's incredible to get your first taste of playing at this level. It's pretty fun. You do get your confidence when you get a chance and you show you can play." And play he did, hitting .261 with four doubles, five RBIs and scored six runs in 15 games this season and has been solid in the field.

"You know, I wish I could say I was responsible for this decision," manager Joe Torre said. "I was in China the whole time he really got the opportunity to play every day. By the time I got back the coaches were speaking glowingly, even though it was Spring Training, about how he was handling everything."

Troncoso has struggled in each of his past two outings, and hadn't pitched since Friday night. The Dodgers have three long relievers right now in Esteban Loaiza, Hong-Chih Kuo and Chan Ho Park, so they're going with 11 pitchers right now.

Martinez Out With Thumb Injury-- What is it this year with Dodger thumbs? Ramon Martinez came up with the same injury Andy LaRoche had, Ramon underwent the same surgery and faces an eight to 10 week rehab, beginning now. He batted .259 in eight games at Las Vegas this year. It could mean the end of the line for the popular utility man.

Jackson Improving-- Jerry Crasnick of ESPN. com points out that former Dodger Edwin Jackson, now 2-1 with a 2.84 ERA for the Tampa Bay Rays, is starting to reach his potential. He writes:

"Jackson is Exhibit A that even the most hyped talents need patience and time to find their niche. In 2004, Baseball America ranked him among the top prospects in the game. This was shortly after the Dodgers rushed Jackson to the majors and he celebrated his 20th birthday and beat Randy Johnson on the same day.

Jackson was born in West Germany, the son of an Army sergeant, and was a high school outfielder in Georgia when the Dodgers chose him in the sixth round of the 2001 draft. He sailed through the minors on the strength of an upper-90s fastball, but velocity has carried him only so far in the majors.

"His fastball is kind of straight, and he doesn't have a great foundation right now," said an American League scout. "When things go wrong, he doesn't have a great idea how to get out of that inning or make that pitch. But he's starting to figure some things out."

"Jackson ranks high in the makeup department, and he maintained a professional comportment while going a dispiriting 5-15 last season. Things were so bad at one point that scouts removed the "win" from the end of his name and jokingly referred to him as "Ed" Jackson.

"Jackson induces a lot of check swings, a sure sign that hitters don't recognize his slider until it's too late. But he won't take the next step until he's able to display better control night in and night out."