The Dodgers collected their sixth win in their last eight games following a five-game losing streak and moved to within three games of the first-place Arizona Diamondbacks who lost to Florida. It is the closest the Dodgers have been to first place since May 7.
What kind of a game was it?
Well, the Dodgers scored runs on a wild pitch, a passed ball and an error by Reds starter Johnny Cueto who misfired on a pickoff throw. They scored one on a suicide squeeze by Chin-lung Hu and James Loney launched his fifth home run.
Left-to-right gusts of wind that peaked during the early innings made any ball hit into the air an adventure. "I knew during batting practice it would be an interesting game," outfielder Matt Kemp said. "The ball was diving and dancing and doing all kinds of interesting stuff. In my mind, I thought, please don't hit me the ball, you don't know what's going to happen."
"It looked like the Candlestick days," said Reds' manager Dusty Baker, who played eight seasons with the Dodgers. "I played here for years, and I never saw the wind blow like this." Debris constantly swirled around the ballpark and at one point organist Nancy Bea Hefley played the title theme from "The Wizard of Oz" because the wind.
The Dodgers didn't worry about the esthetics of the offensive "attack."
"A win is a win, man," said Kemp, who scored on Hu's bunt. "Any way we can score runs, if it's driving in a run or them giving us runs, we'll take them just like any other team."
James Loney's home run into the Reds' bullpen in right field was the club's second home run in their past seven home games, the other also coming from Loney May 11 against the Houston Astros. The 24 home runs hit at Dodger Stadium this season is the lowest total in a major-league ballpark and the Dodgers' 15 home runs is the fourth-lowest total in baseball.
"We've been doing things fundamentally right here, and that's the way you win ballgames," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "We're not going to knock the fences down. We need good pitching, as most teams do. Since we're not going be a high-scoring team we need to do the little things, and the last few days that's happened."
The Reds opened the scoring with a run in the second, but the Dodgers came back with two in the bottom half. Loney singled and scored on a wild pitch after advancing two bases on Kemp's single. Kemp scored on a squeeze bunt by Hu.
After Cincinnati tied it 2-all in the fourth on a sacrifice fly, the Dodgers regained the lead in the bottom half with one when a pitch to Russell Martin caromed off former Dodger Paul Bako's glove for a passed ball that allowed Blake DeWitt to score.
Cueto retired his first two batters in the fifth before singles by Kemp and DeWitt put runners at the corners. The right-hander tried to pick off DeWitt and threw the ball away, enabling Kemp to score.
Starter Hiroki Kuroda (2-3) went eight innings to earn his second career victory and the first since his initial Dodger start on April 4, using only 99 pitches. He has allowed more than three earned runs just once this season, but has been tagged with three losses and five no-decisions. Three times the bullpen blew a potential save.
Kuroda reported he wasn't frustrated over the lack of victories, "I just want to contribute to the team as much as possible," he said. And contribute he did, becoming the second Dodgers pitcher to work eight innings, and he allowed two runs on only five hits.
It was the first time a Dodger pitcher went that deep into a game since Derek Lowe did it April 12 against the San Diego Padres. The Dodgers are 8-0 when a starter works at least seven innings. Closer Takashi Saito's perfect ninth inning nailed it down, recording his eighth save in 10 opportunities.
Entering the game Kuroda was only 1-3 overall, but had a 3.67 ERA, best among the Dodgers' regular four starters.
Manager Joe Torre said Kuroda was even better in allowing the Reds two runs over eight innings in this game than when he scattered three hits while allowing the Padres only one run his first 7-1 victory.
"This one was even better, because this was a close game," said Torre. "He was masterful tonight. He had a great pitch count and he got out of trouble and he was strongest in the eighth inning when he struck out three."
The wind was so strong that Kuroda said he and catcher Russell Martin stopped using breaking balls and went strictly with fastballs.
Matt Kemp and Blake DeWitt had two hits each, while Kemp and scored twice. Jeff Kent went 0-for-4 and slid to .234, his lowest mark of the season.
The Reds came into the series with a six-game win streak, but left with a 0-9 record in Los Angeles since 2005.
The Dodgers improved to 25-21 and the three game deficit is the closest they have been to first place since May 7. They have today off and will host St. Louis for three games before hitting the road again, this time to Chicago and New York.
Starters for the St. Louis series:
Friday: Derek Lowe (2-4, 5.34)
Saturday: Brad Penny (5-4, 5.34)
Sunday: Chad Billingsley (4-5, 3.76)
Score by innings Cincinnati 010 100 000-2 Los Angeles 020 110 10x-5 Los Angeles ab r h bi ave Pierre lf 4 0 1 0 .283 Ethier rf 3 0 1 0 .294 Martin c 4 0 0 0 .304 Kent 2b 4 0 0 0 .234 Maza 2b 0 0 0 0 .455 Loney 1b 2 2 1 1 .295 Kemp cf 4 2 2 0 .323 DeWitt 3b 4 1 2 0 .325 Hu ss 3 0 1 1 .186 Kuroda p 1 0 0 0 .125 Sweeney ph 1 0 0 0 .125 Saito p 0 0 0 0 .000 Totals 30 5 8 2 Cincinnati 29 2 5 2 2b hits- Ethier (10). HR- Loney (5). RBI- Hu (6), Loney (29). S- Hu, Kuroda 2. SB- Loney (2). DP- Kent, Hu and Loney; Kuroda, Hu and Loney. Los Angeles in h r-er bb so era Kuroda (2-3) 8.0 5 2-2 2 3 3.48 Saito (sv 8) 1.0 0 0-0 0 1 1.83 T- 2:41. Att- 33.224.*M*A*S*H* 4077 Report
v Rafael Furcal is eligible to be activated from the disabled list after a lower back sprain, and he hit, fielded, threw and ran before the game. Afterwards he said he felt good and expected to be ready for today.
v Andruw Jones reported the swelling and discomfort in his right knee had gone down. After two days off he resumed riding an exercise bike and hit off a tee. Jones is expected to require surgery on the torn cartilage in his knee and he hopes to put it off until after the season.
v Nomar Garciaparra underwent tests to determine if his repeated calf strains are the result of a condition where pressure from swelling builds within muscles and can affect nerves and blood vessels. Trainer Stan Conte said Garciaparra will see a vascular specialist to determine if that's the reason his healing has stalled. Among the possible treatments for the condition are surgical incisions to relieve the pressure.
v Brad Penny's bullpen session went well and he says he is ready for his next start Saturday against the Cardinals. The right-hander has been battling some discomfort since his May 2 start at Colorado, when he allowed three runs in five innings but got the win. Since then, he's gone 0-2 in three starts while allowing 20 runs in 16.2 innings (10.80 ERA).
Terry Collins, Jon Debus Resign
Terry Collins, the former Angels manager and Dodgers Minor League Field Coordinator left his position with Dodgers two winters ago to become the Orix manager in Japan. Recently Collins and Jon Debus, his bench coach, a longtime Dodgers minor-league coach and catching instructor, resigned along with pitching coach Mike Brown. The Buffaloes had just fallen into fifth place in the six-team Pacific League. Debus was the Dodgers 21st pick in the 1980 draft and later became a coach in the organization. He spent one year at the big-league level as Jim Tracy's bullpen coach in 2005.
Dodger Blue Notes-- Legends Maury Wills and Don Newcombe will join scout Brian Stephenson as Dodgers representatives at the 2008 First-Year Player Draft. Wills is a late replacement for Tom Lasorda, who has announced the Dodgers' first selection ever since Logan White took over the Dodgers' Draft in 2002. This year, however, Lasorda has a scheduling conflict and will be speaking that day at Compton College.