Stults Catches Lightening in a Bottle

Eric Stults, up from Las Vegas for an emergency start or two while Brad Penny and Hiroki Kuroda are out with arm ailments, may be able to think about putting a down payment on an an apartment in Los Angeles after throttling the A.L. Central-leading Chicago White Sox with a well-crafted 5-0 complete game.

Manager Joe Torre congratulated him after the eighth inning and 100 pitches, usually the signal for the bullpen to take over. Perhaps he felt that he had received everything Stults had to give at that point.

But Torre's field general, Russell Martin, said, "Wait just a minute. He should finish what he started." Normally, a 25-year-old doesn't tell a Hall of Fame manager what should or should not be done, but Martin isn't a normal 25-year-old and this certainly isn't a normal season.

A surprised Torre agreed to let Stults continue on a batter-by-batter basis and Stults needed only 16 more pitches to complete the stunning victory, his second in two starts, and cut a game off the Diamondbacks lead.

Stults said he went into the spring understanding that time wasn't on his side. "When you're 28, you don't think you're old, but when you're in an organization with a ton of young talent, you have to take every outing seriously," he said.

The 28-year-old earned his first complete game in nine major league starts and in the three-run fourth inning helped out with a with a sacrifice fly, recording his major league RBI. Over his 21-game Major League career he is hitting .364 (8-for-22).

"When I was walking into the dugout after the eighth, Joe shook my hand and said, 'Good job,' and I went and sat down. And Russell was like, `You want to keep going?' I said yeah. So he went up to Joe, asked him if I could keep going. Joe looked at me and I was nodding my head yeah, so he said, `We'll take it one hitter at a time.' "

"I was getting tired, and I did feel like I started losing command of my pitches. When you're in that situation, you try to do everything you can to get outs. So I went at them with fastballs and I was fortunate to get three fly ball outs."

Stults (2-0) scattered four singles, struck out three and walked one. "I had a great year in Triple-A this year and I just wanted to carry that momentum over. That's just been my goal, to show them that I can pitch here."

Selected in the 15th round of the 2002 draft, he was up briefly in the previous two seasons, going 2-4 with a 5.75 ERA in five starts and seven relief appearances.

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen blamed his team's hitting woes on the fact that one on the roster had ever faced him before.

But White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski pointed out he deserved more credit than that. "That guy pitched pretty good," he said. "He used all his pitches and kept the ball down. We really only had one chance, and that was in the first inning. Other than that, he really didn't make too many mistakes."

The Dodgers gave Stults a pair of runs in the first inning. Juan Pierre singled, stole his 30th base, moved to third on a throwing error and scored on Andre Ethier's single. Jeff Kent reached second on another error and Martin made it 2-0 with a single.

They added three more runs in the fourth inning when James Loney singled, stole second and Matt Kemp walked. Brad DeWitt, who has been slumping, slammed a double to right-center to score them both. He was bunted to third and Stults, who has been used as a pinch-hitter at Las Vegas, drove him in with a sacrifice fly.

Five runs by the Dodgers offense is remarkable enough but the night belonged to the 30-year-old who everyone felt would be on a bus back to Las Vegas by now.

"I can't control that," Stults said. "I can just go out and when they give me the ball every five days -- however many times that would be -- and do my best and keep us in the game. Whatever happens in the next few days or weeks, I can't control that situation."

What he could control was his ability to throw strikes. Stults fired a first-pitch strike to 25 of the 32 batters he faced. Before falling behind to 3-0 to open the ninth inning, Stults hadn't even faced a 2-0 count. Of the 116 pitches he used, a remarkable 81 of them were strikes.

The next question on Torre's mind is what to do when Hiroki Kuroda and Brad Penny come back, perhaps leaving Stults and rookie Clayton Kershaw on the outside looking in.

"We don't know what we're going to do and we don't know about Penny and Kuroda coming back," Torre said. "You don't necessarily know when a starter comes back that another starter will leave."

In his previous start last week, Stults was in complete control against the Cincinnati Reds. In six innings he gave up three runs, but only one was earned. He had five strikeouts and just one walk.

Stults was eighth in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League with his 3.59 ERA. The rule of thumb in the PCL has always been take a run off the pitcher's ERA and 50 points off the batter's average.

So in the best Hollywood tradition, the unknown stepped up to pitch a dazzling game in the final reel, kick-starting the team toward a post-season berth and getting the girl.

No one can predict what will happen from here, but at the worst, and mis-quoting a Humphrey Bogart movie just a bit, "We'll always have the shutout."

Torre laughingly recalled watching the unassuming left-hander warm up for the first start of his latest big-league call-up six days earlier in Cincinnati. The first two pitches were in the dirt.

Torre said he looked at third base coach Larry Bowa and that Bowa looked back at him. "We'll see," Torre said he told Bowa.

He certainly saw last night.

Kershaw Searching For His First Win
Clayton Kershaw will still looking for his first career victory this afternoon when he takes the ball against the White Sox. He went winless in 10 games (nine starts) for Jacksonville and has not won any of his first six starts in Los Angeles, with five no-decisions.

But Dodgers manager Joe Torre would rather see Kershaw just pitch well as he has much of the year than put any extra pressure on himself to get that victory.

"If he went out there and won 10-9 I'm not sure that would please him even though he may have gotten the win," Torre said. "I think that Kershaw is at a point now where he thinks he can do things better, and when that happens the win will come. I think he's more concerned with the quality of what he does as opposed to what the end result is."

Torre said Kershaw knows what he needs to improve on and has seen how he needs to go about his business during his short time in the Majors. That has led him to a number of near victories, three times yielding two runs only to come away empty. His best shot at a win thus far may have been June 15 at Detroit when he gave up just two hits in four scoreless innings before being pulled after a rain delay.

All that's left is a win to show for that effort, although Torre knows he has bigger things on the horizon. "I think he's interested in more than that," Torre said.

Kershaw (0-1, 4.34 ERA) will face LHP John Danks (4-4, 2.80 ERA) tonight.?In Danks' debut he held the Cubs to one run on five hits over six innings in a no-decision. The southpaw has allowed two earned runs or less this year in 12 of his 15 starts.

With the win he Dodgers go to 36-41 and move within three games of the Snakes, two in the loss column, who are now just one game above .500 at 40-39. Colorado and San Diego also lost.
 Score by innings
Chicago	000 000 000-0
Los Angeles	200 300 00x-5

 Los Angeles	ab r  h  bi  ave   
Pierre lf	4  1  1  0  .279
Ethier rf	4  1  1  1  .277
Kent 2b	        4  0  0  0  .251
 Maza 2b	0  0  0  0  .226
Martin c	4  0  1  0  .313
Loney 1b	4  1  1  0  .310
Kemp cf	        3  1  1  0  .290
DeWitt 3b	3  1  1  2  .269
Berroa ss	2  0  0  0  .191
Stults p	2  0  0  1  .200
  Totals	30 5 6 5
  Chicago	30 0 4 0

 2b hits- DeWitt (9), Kemp (18). RBI- Ethier
(29), Martin (36), DeWitt 2 (31), Stults (1).
S- Berroa. SF- Stults. SB- Loney (3), Pierre
(30). LOB- Los Angeles 5, Chicago 5.

 Los Angeles	in  h  r-er bb so  era
Stults (2-0)	9.0  4  0-0  1  3  0.60
 T- 2:22. Att- 40,162.
Proctor Placed on DL
The Dodgers announced that reliever Scott Proctor had been placed on the disabled list with a sore elbow and that Brian Falkenborg was purchased from Las Vegas to take Proctor's spot in the bullpen.

"To me, it [the injury] sounds like an excuse and that's the hardest part for me," Proctor said. "Bottom line, I don't care how bad you're hurt it's just about execution.

?"Right now all I care about is the respect of my teammates and my coaches. As long as those guys understand this situation that's all that matters."

"You ask if anything was bothering him and he'd say, 'I'm all right,' " Torre said. "You love him for his heart and he has a belly full of guts and all that stuff but he doesn't always make the right choices."

Torre said that the original plan with Proctor was to option him to Vegas, and apparently, Proctor was willing to go, but after continuing to press him on the issue of his physical health, only then did Proctor admit that there was a problem with his elbow.

Proctor said he he's been hurting "for a month, a month and a half," in part because he didn't want to put a burden on a short-handed bullpen.

But he allowed all five Cleveland batters he faced to reach base with four scoring in a game the Dodgers eventually lost in extra innings, 6-4. Proctor has a 6.82 ERA after being scored upon in four of the last five appearances.

Falkenborg went 1-1 with 13 saves and a 3.60 ERA in 32 games with Las Vegas. He tossed 10.0 consecutive scoreless innings in his last nine appearances, allowing just four hits and striking out 10 in that span.

The 30-year-old, who signed with Los Angeles as a minor league free agent in December 2007, had 41 strikeouts and only eight walks in 35.0 innings with Vegas, an average of 10.5 strikeouts and 2.1 walks per nine innings pitched.  Opponents batted .244 against him, including a .194 mark (13-for-67) by left-handed hitters.

Backup catcher Gary Bennett was moved from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day disabled list to open a 40-man roster spot for Falkenborg. Players on the 60-day DL don't count against the 40-man roster.

Dodgers Top 3,000,000
The Dodgers have surpassed the three-million mark in ticket sales for the 2008 season, marking the 13th consecutive season in which they have reached that total and a Major League record 23rd time overall.

  In 37 home dates thus far in 2008, the Dodgers have drawn 1,667,629 fans, an average 45,071 fans per game. Since 1901, when Major League Baseball began tracking official attendance, the Dodgers have played before more fans than any other franchise in the sport's history with a cumulative attendance in excess of 177 million.

Dodger Blue Notes-- Stadium voting for the All-Star Game has ended but fans can still vote for their favorite players at ...Although Thursday will be the last game of the year between the Dodgers and White Sox, they will meet up a number of times in Spring Training in the coming years. The teams have broken ground on a shared state-of-the-art stadium complex in Glendale, Ariz., scheduled to open in 2009. ...First baseman James Loney extended his hitting streak to 12 in Wednesday's game. He's hitting .435 during that stretch. ...The Dodgers promoted pitcher Steven Johnson to Class A Inland Empire.

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