Dodgers' Can't Solve Marlins' Pitching

There is the old story about opening day in Washington some time in the early 1920s. Hall of Famer Walter Johnson was the starter for the perennially second-division Senators and on his first pitch Johnson hit the leadoff man. A fan in front of the press box jumped up, screamed, "Oh, Damn, another lousy season" and ran out of the park. The Dodgers-Marlins game was over after seven pitches.

Like Johnson, starter Eric Stults (2-2) also hit the first batter, this time it was his third pitch and the hittee was Hanley Ramirez, which is as good a way to pitch him as the Dodgers have found.

There is no report of any Dodgers fans leaving at that time.

Ramirez stole second (fourth pitch) but didn't need to, since Jeremy Hermida homered (seventh pitch) and Jorge Cantu followed with another home run. The Marlins scored all their runs after having seen only a dozen pitches.

Fans slowed by freeway traffic would have to wait until the ninth inning to see a run scored.

Rookie Chris Volstad, in his first major league start, may become the best pitcher in the history of the game, well ... maybe it just seemed that way, but in any event, the Dodgers managed only three hits against him until there was two our in the ninth.

Pinch-hitter Delwyn Young singled with one out to open the ninth, Matt Kemp struck out before Young moved to second on a ground ball by Andre Ethier (the first time the club got a runner that far) and scored on Russell Martin's single (LA's fifth and final hit).

Veteran Jeff Kent, hitting under .250, still demands respect and the Marlins jerked Volstad and reliever Kevin Gregg retired Kent on a fly ball to the warning track in right field. Florida has gone 269 consecutive games without a complete game, an MLB record.

Volsted became only the sixth major league pitcher to win his first game in his first relief appearance (against Colorado) and win his first game as a starter in his second major league appearance.

Which, in reality, may mean nothing because the Dodgers have a way of making nearly any pitcher look like Cy Young himself.

James Loney, Nomar Garciaparra and Blake DeWitt didn't have an at-bat with a runner on base. Matt Kemp, Russell Martin and Andruw Jones came up with one on.

Stults allowed six hits and struck out six in six innings, a quality start and certainly well enough to win on a team that averages somewhere in the 3-to-4 run range. But this isn't your father's inept Marlins. They lead the league in home runs and are second in the N.L. East.

"I just left two fastballs out over the plate and they did a good job of driving them," Stults said. "They're a good hitting team with a lot of young talent, so if you make mistakes, they're going to take advantage of them."

Oddly enough, Ramirez is the only batter Stults has hit in 30.1 major league innings this year, and just the second in 86.2 career innings. He pitched 595 innings during his entire minor league career and hit only 11 batters.

Then too, Volstad lost three times to Jacksonville before being promoted. And, no, there is no thought of bringing up the Suns roster en masse to help out.

Go figure.

The Dodgers have compiled a Major League-best 2.73 ERA in 24 games since June 17 and lead the National League in ERA. So much for Connie Mack's "Winning is 90% pitching."

Stults' six innings were followed by two scoreless innings from Cory Wade and one more from Brian Falkenborg, who seems to be in an every-other-game mode. He pitched well after serving up a game-losing home run to Ramirez the night before.

"He just didn't make good pitches in the first inning," Torre said of Stults (2-2). "Those balls were high and they let him know about it. Then he settled down. Three runs in six innings. If we swing the bats, that's considered a pretty good start. Over his last few starts, he's had trouble getting his off-stuff down."

With the loss, the Dodgers cannot reach the .500 mark before the All Star break. The team has not been above the .500 mark since May 27. They fall to 45-48 and remain one behind the Snakes who lost, as did Colorado and San Francisco in the inept National League West.

After losing two in a row, the Dodgers will send RHP Hiroki Kuroda (5-6, 3.39 ERA) to the mound tonight break that streak. Kuroda has not allowed a run in 16 innings while winning his two starts since coming off the disabled list July 2, and he came six outs away from a perfect game and finished with a one-hitter against the Braves in his last start.

Kuroda has won consecutive starts for the first time all season and will be aiming for his third straight win, which would even his record after being a victim of poor run support and a faulty bullpen even when pitching well earlier in the year.

He will face RHP Ricky Nolasco (10-4, 3.74 ERA) who is coming off a brilliant eight-inning, five-hit performance at San Diego where he gave up one run and struck out seven. Nolasco has won his last five decisions, and nine of his last 10, not exactly the pitcher the struggling Dodgers want to face at this time.

Fans can watch fireworks on the field after Saturday's game. Torre hopes the Dodgers can supply some fireworks of their own during the game.

 Score by innings
Florida	        300 000 000-3	
Los Angeles	000 000 001-1

 Los Angeles	ab r  h  bi  ave
Kemp rf	        4  0  1  0  .280
Ethier lf	4  0  1  0  .284
Martin c	4  0  1  1  .300
Kent 2b	        3  0  0  0  .254
Jones cf	3  0  1  0  .172
Loney 1b	3  0  0  0  .296
Garciaparra ss	3  0  0  0  .231
DeWitt 3b	3  0  0  0  .260
Stults p	1  0  0  0  .182
 LaRoche ph	1  0  0  0  .175
 Wade p	        0  0  0  0  .000
 Falkenborg	0  0  0  0  .000
 Young ph	1  1  1  0  .260
  Totals	30 1 5 1
  Florida	31 3 6 3

 RBI- Martin (45). CS- Jones (1). LOB-
Los Angeles 3, Florida 6. DP- DeWitt,
Kent and Loney.

 Los Angeles	in  h  r-er bb so  era
Stults (2-2)	6.0  6  3-3  3  6  2.67
Wade        	2.0  0  0-0  1  1  2.63
Falkenborg	1.0  0  0-0  0  0  6.75
 HBP- by Stults. T- 2:14. Att- 49,545.
Dodger Blue Notes-- Torre announced the starting rotation after the All-Star break: Hiroki Kuroda, Chad Billingsley, Derek Lowe, Chan Ho Park, Eric Stults. Lowe won't start in Colorado, where he has had little luck, and will go about 10 days without pitching. Brad Penny and Jason Schmidt will join the rotation around the end of the month. ...The Dodgers have allowed eight home runs in their last four games (38 innings) after surrendering just six in their previous 16 games (146 innings) starting June 21. ...Former Dodger Cody Ross lined a fourth-inning single to extended his career-best hitting streak to 15 games, the longest of the season by a Marlins player. ...With a pinch-hit in the ninth on Friday, Delwyn Young now ranks third in the Majors in pinch-hits with 12. He is batting .364 off the bench. ...Organist Nancy Bea Hefley gave way during the seventh-inning stretch to allow 95-year-old Bob Mitchell --the team's first organist at Dodger Stadium back in 1962-- to perform "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." ...It was only a formality, but the Dodgers officially informed Vero Beach and Indian River County today that they won't return there for spring training in 2009. ...Homer Simpson threw out the first pitch while being joined on the field by fellow Simpsons characters Marge, Bart and Lisa. They helped promote The Simpsons Ride at Universal Studios.

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