Sweep of Padres Makes it Five Straight

A graph of the Dodgers recent progress would look a bit like the Coney Island roller coaster, all ups and downs. After losing eight straight and had apparently fallen out of the NL West race, a 6-4 win completed a sweep of San Diego to put them right back in it. They have now won five straight and trail by 1 1/2 games as they host Arizona for three big games this week-end.

When spring training started, all so long ago, had you been told that in the second week of September the Dodgers double play combination would be Angel Berroa and Blake DeWitt, you would have probably purchased the NFL television package instead of the MLB program.

But here we are and there Berroa and DeWitt are, having led the Dodgers to a victory over San Diego that completed a sweep and had combined for three hits, three runs, two runs batted in, a pair of homers and a double play.

Both L.A. and Arizona have the day off today, then will meet in Dodger Stadium in the final series between the two this season. Los Angeles need two of three from Arizona to cut the lead to one game in the loss column and a sweep would put them in the lead all alone.

After the series with the Snakes, the Dodgers' scheduled the rest of the way includes San Diego (6 games), San Francisco (6), Pittsburgh (4) and Colorado (3). Arizona will face San Francisco (7), Colorado (6), St. Louis (4) and Cincinnati (3). On paper, it looks like advantage- Dodgers.

Hiroki Kuroda (8-10) didn't have his "A" game going for him but he worked into the sixth inning, allowing 10 hits and four runs. It is the first time this season he allowed as many as four runs and earned a win. He gave up 26 hits and 10 earned runs in 39.1 innings over his previous six starts.

Kuroda is tied for the team lead with 17 quality starts but has just eight wins to show for it because of a lack of run support and less-than-outstanding relief work.

The Dodgers bullpen, now overflowing with fresh arms, stopped the Pads cold over the final 3.2 innings. Scott Proctor, Cory Wade, Scott Elbert and Jonathan Broxton allowed a single hit with Broxton earning his 12th save with a perfect ninth.

San Diego took the bat out of Manny Ramirez's hands, walking him intentionally twice. But Kuroda got plenty of support anyway.

DeWitt and Berroa hit the first back-to-back homers for Los Angeles this season in a four-run fourth inning that erased a 3-1 Arizona lead. Berroa's homer was his first since Sept. 25, 2006, when he was playing for Kansas City.

DeWitt and Berroa spent most of their time in the minors this season, and have started the last five games. DeWitt replaced the injured Jeff Kent and Berroa took over from the slumping Nomar Garciaparra.

The Dodgers are 5-0 during their time in the middle infield positions.

Manager Joe Torre consulted his crystal ball and moved Casey Blake into the cleanup slot, dropping red-hot James Loney to fifth. Blake, in the No. 4 hole for the first time since arriving from Cleveland July 26, singled and belted his eighth Dodger home run, driving in two. Loney, as was apparently predicted, was 0-for-4 and his 13-game hitting streak ended.

The Dodgers have scored 33 runs in the last five games after scoring only 15 in the previous eight.

The Dodgers took a 1-0 lead off in the third when Berroa doubled and scored on a one-out single by Martin. The Dodgers left the bases loaded.

The Padres scored three in the fourth on a leadoff homer and a two-out, two-run double.

Los Angeles scored four runs in the bottom of the fourth to go ahead for good on a two-run homer by DeWitt, a solo shot by Berroa and an RBI single by Blake.

Berroa, who also had a double, has hit .364 (12-for-33) in his last 10 games to raise his average to .235. "Now, I'm back, got my swing back," he said. "That's what it is. I feel good because I'm getting a chance to help my team."

"It's been great, I'm having fun," said the 23-year-old DeWitt, who's gone 6-for-19 (.316) since being recalled from Las Vegas. "I know I've got a lot to work on, especially at second base. After a couple games, I settled down."

The Padres got their final run and chased Kuroda in the sixth, scoring on Bard's RBI single.

San Diego threatened again in the seventh but Wade struck out Will Venable with runners at first and third to end the inning. Blake homered in the bottom half to of the inning complete the scoring. It was his third home run in his past four games.

The Dodgers returned to the .500 mark with the win.

Derek Lowe will start for Los Angeles on Friday and will face Dan Haren, with the Dodgers switching him and Billingsley, who will start Saturday against Diamondback ace Brandon Webb.

Los Angeles has held sole possession of first place once all year, after their 4-2 record topped the NL West on April 4.

"It's as big as it gets," Martin said. "At this point in the season, it's going to be a playoff atmosphere, and I think everybody's realized that we're close, we've just got to keep pushing, keep playing hard and just rolling on this wave that we're on right now."

The opening game of the series has been changed to a 7:08 p.m. (Pacific Time) start to accommodate a national audience on ESPN. The game will also be shown on FSN Prime Ticket.

The series matchups:
Friday RHP Dan Haren (14-7, 3.24) vs. RHP Derek Lowe (11-11, 3.69)
Saturday RHP Brandon Webb (19-6,3.19) vs. RHP Chad Billingsley (13-10, 3.13)
Sunday LHP Randy Johnson (10-9, 4.21) vs. LHP Clayton Kershaw (3-5, 4.50).

 San Diego	000 301 000-4
 Los Angeles	001 400 10x-6

 Los Angeles	ab r  h  bi  ave
Martin c	3  0  1  1  .283
Ethier lf	4  1  2  0  .284
Ramirez lf	2  0  0  0  .407
Blake 3b	4  1  2  2  .277
Loney 1b	4  0  0  0  .304
Kemp cf	        4  1  1  0  .288
DeWitt 2b	4  1  1  2  .261
Berroa ss	4  2  2  1  .235
Kuroda p	2  0  0  0  .109
 Proctor p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Elbert p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Wade p	        0  0  0  0  .000
 Sweeney ph	1  0  0  0  .134
 Broxton p	0  0  0  0  .000
  Totals	33 6  9 6
  San Diego	37 4 11 4

 Two-base hits- Berroa (9), Ethier (31). 
HR- DeWitt (7), Berroa (1), Blake (8). 
RBI- Martin (58), DeWitt (40), Berroa (9) 
Blake 2 (20) SB- Martin (14), LOB Los Angeles 
6, San Diego 9. DP- Berroa, DeWitt and Loney.

 Los Angeles	in  h  r-er bb so  era
Kuroda (8-10)	5.1 10  4-4  1  4  3.96
Proctor	        0.1  0  0-0  1  0  6.75
Elbert        	0.2  0  0-0  1  0  3.86
Wade        	1.2  1  0-0  0  1  2.54
Broxton (sv 12)	1.0  0  0-0  0  0  3.47
 T- 2:47. Att- 48,822.
*M*A*S*H* 4077 Report
Jeff Kent, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Tuesday, limped into center field for the Dodgers team picture, but left without speaking to reporters. "They did a simple procedure, but it was enough to make that thing go away," Torre said. "It's still going to take two, three weeks before he'll return, but he felt an immediate difference in how he felt.". Closer Takashi Saito will throw today before pitching in a simulated game Saturday and another Tuesday or Wednesday, and may return by Sept. 12. Juan Pierre, who suffered a back injury while running out a grounder Tuesday night, could play if needed. "It sounds like something that's going to gradually get better," Torre said. Rafael Furcal was checked out by trainer Stan Conte who traveled to Arizona where he has been working out. Conte reported that Furcal appeared to be comfortable while going through his routines. Furcal will rejoin the Dodgers this weekend, and the club will evaluate how soon Furcal could return. The shortstop has not played in the Majors since May 5. "Stan watched him go trough his routine, and he seemed very comfortable," Torre said. "To me, I don't want to put a timetable on his return because I think it's all guesswork at this point and time. I think maybe this weekend when we see what we see out here, it will give us a better feel."

?Dodger Blue Notes-- Clayton Kershaw will start against Arizona instead of Greg Maddux in the series finale against Arizona. Kershaw, who will be pitching on regular rest due to Thursday's off-day, threw six shutout innings against the D-backs on Aug. 1, when he also faced Randy Johnson in a game Arizona won, 2-1. Maddux sports a 9.75 ERA against the D-backs in two starts this season and a 5.37 ERA for his career, more than two runs higher than his career ERA and the highest against any club he's faced more than six times. Maddux will start against the Padres, on Monday. ... The Dodgers improved to 49-6 when scoring five runs or more on Wednesday. They have reached that mark in a season-high five straight games, and they have won 10 straight games when scoring at least five runs. ... During James Loney's 13-game hitting streak he hit .453 (24-for-53). The Dodgers recognized Loney for being named the organization's recipient of the Roberto Clemente Award before the game. A video of Loney's charity visits was shown on DodgerVision, and Chevrolet presented a $7,500 check to Loney's charity of choice, Union Rescue Mission, for winning the award. ...Jeff Probst, the host of reality television show "Survivor," threw out a ceremonial first pitch on Wednesday. ...The Dodgers celebrated Korean Community Night with traditional dances, martial arts and drum performances on the field before the game.