Dodgers Enjoy a Rare Laugher

The Dodgers put the Pirates away early, winning 8-2 before a quiet group of 13,147 in beautiful PNC Park. Hiroki Kuroda won his ninth game, Manny Ramirez and James Loney shared five runs batted in, Juan Pierre launched a rare home run and both Takashi Saito and Brad Penny tried out their injured arms with mixed results. Arizona topped San Francisco so the Dodgers' magic number slipped to nine.

James Loney had two hits and knocked in three runs, Manny Ramirez added two RBI and joined Juan Pierre with three hits. Nomar Garciaparra doubled and singled as the Dodgers collected an even dozen base knocks.

Hiroki Kuroda (9-10) allowed an infield hit and a ground ball that found its way into left field to the first two Pittsburgh batters but then didn't give up another hit until the sixth.

He left leading 7-0 after seven, surrendering only three hits and lowering his ERA to 3.77. He only used 85 pitches but the score allowed manager Joe Torre to get a look at a couple of pitchers coming off the disabled list.

Takashi Saito, sidelined with with a sprained ligament in his right elbow since July 12, worked a scoreless inning marred only by a base on balls. Saito, the Dodgers' closer until he was hurt, walked one and struck out two while facing four batters.

He chose not to have what would have been season-ending surgery and attempted instead to rehabilitate what often is a significant injury.

Saito threw 13 of 21 pitches for strikes, though his velocity was mostly around 90 miles per hour, but his breaking ball looked sharp.

The 38-year-old Saito is 3-3 with a 2.13 ERA in 40 games and has 17 saves in 20 chances. He was an NL All-Star last year, when he had 39 saves. He has converted 80 of 89 save opportunities, the third-best percentage (89.9) since the save became an official statistic.

Brad Penny, recovering from a shoulder injury, pitched the ninth in his second appearance since Aug. 13 and allowed a walk and Adam LaRoche's two-run, two-out homer, his 20th, in the ninth inning.

Torre visited him the mound before the homer because he felt the right-hander looked stiff. "We'll see how he is tomorrow," Torre said.

Despite all the fireworks, Pierre's home run drew a good deal of attention.

Starting a third consecutive game because Andre Ethier was at home in Arizona attending the birth of his first child, Pierre had three hits and scored three runs. The solo homer in the sixth was his first in 281 games and 1,070 at-bats, missing the exact date of his last homer by three days. He hit that one off the Phillies' Jon Lieber on Sept. 18, 2006.

Pierre was given the silent treatment when he returned to the dugout but it didn't last long, his teammates' pounding him on the bench after ignoring him for a time. Usually quiet, he seemed to spend the rest of the time in the dugout talking about the long shot.

The Dodgers loaded the bases with one out in the second on Garciaparra's double and a pair of walks but Kuroda tapped into a double play to end the inning.

The did break through in the third when Russell Martin walked and Pierre singled. After the moved up on a wild pitch, the Pirates chose to pitch to Ramirez and then regretted the decision.

He smacked a double to right field, driving in the first two runs of the game. The hit gave him 14 RBI in the last nine games and his three hits moved his average to .396.

Loney singled sharply to right field and then stole second, the ball skipping away from the shortstop as Ramirez scored the third run of the inning.

In the fourth, after Kuroda and Martin walked (the Dodgers were helped considerably by eight Pittsburgh bases on balls) and Pierre lived on a fielder's choice, Ramirez boomed a long, high shot to right field that the Pirate outfielder tracked to the fence but stopped a few feet away and leaped for. The ball cleared his glove and banged off the wall a few feet from the ground.

Neither runner could advance more than one base and Ramirez had to settle for a long single. Loney quickly knocked in two with a line drive to right field but rounded first base to far and was thrown out by the Pirate's right fielder.

Pierre's unexpected home run came in the sixth; DeWitt, who had walked three times without swinging the bat previously, finally took a cut and produced a sac fly in the seventh and then Loney's third ribbie came on a sac fly and followed singles by Martin and Pierre. DeWitt has drawn 10 bases on balls over the past six games.

After 150 games Los Angeles improved to 78-72 on the season, they hold a 4 1/2 games lead over Arizona with a dozen games to go and they are 57-6 in games in which they score five or more runs.

Tonight's contest, the second of the four-game series, will see RHP Derek Lowe (13-11, 3.48 ERA) drawing the start. He's also 5-0 with a 3.02 ERA lifetime against the Pirates and has allowed five runs in his last 40.2 innings (1.11 ERA).

Pittsburgh will counter with RHP Jeff Karstens (2-5, 4.46 ERA) who threw 15 shutout innings in his first two starts, the second one a complete game. However, he lost his next five starts and most recently allowed eight runs in three innings to the Giants.

 Score by innings
Los Angeles	003 201 110-8
Pittsburgh	000 000 000-1

 Los Angeles	ab r  h  bi  ave
Martin c	3  3  1  0  .276
 Ellis c	0  0  0  0  .000
Pierre cf-lf	5  3  3  1  .274
Ramirez lf	4  1  3  2  .395
 Sweeney ph	0  0  0  0  .126
 Repko pr-rf	0  0  0  0  .000
Loney 1b	4  0  2  3  .299
Garciaparra 3b	4  0  2  0  .243
 Ozuna pr-2b	1  1  0  0  .158
Kemp rf-cf	5  0  1  0  .285
DeWitt 3b-2b	1  0  0  1  .261
Berroa ss	4  0  0  0  .238
Kuroda p	2  0  0  0  .120
 Young ph	1  0  0  0  .250
 Saito p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Penny p	0  0  0  0  .192
  Totals	34 5 12 7
  Pittsburgh	30 2  5 2

 Two-base hits- Garciaparra (7), Ramirez (11).
HR- Pierre (1). SF- Loney, DeWitt. RBI- Ramirez
2 (43), Loney 3 (86), Pierre (27), DeWitt (44).
LOB- Los Angeles 9, Pittsburgh 4. DP- Berroa,
DeWitt and Loney.

 Los Angeles 	in  h  r-er bb so  era
Kuroda (9-10)	7.0  3  0-0  1  2  3.77
Saito        	1.0  0  0-0  1  2  2.13
Penny        	1.0  2  2-2  0  0  6.27
 HBP- by Kuroda. T- 2:53 Att- 12,147.
Kuo Has Arm Trouble>br> The Dodgers most successful reliever, Hong-Chih Kuo, returned to action after taking 10 days off to rest a tired arm. He then allowed four hits in the 10th inning and took the 1-0 loss in the final game of the series.

Although he said his left elbow was fine after the game, he reported Monday that he had triceps pain. During his down time he received a cortisone injection in his triceps muscle above the left elbow

"From what I'm told, if we wait a few more days, it'll be the same result," manager Joe Torre said. "He's not out of the mix, but we have to be a little more aware of his usage. Even earlier in the season, when he was lights-out, it's safe to assume there was no time he never felt something."

Kuo, who has undergone four operations, two of them Tommy John reconstructions, has been the multiple-inning setup man this year, and is 5-3 with a 2.14 ERA, throwing 80 innings in 42 games.

Torre will now use Joe Beimel, who has served as a situational lefty, and rookie Scott Elbert, to fill in while Kuo takes some more time off.

Other roster notes include the fact that third baseman Casey Blake, who left Sunday's game in the sixth inning with lower back stiffness, felt well enough to take grounders but did not play Monday night. Torre has considered giving Manny Ramirez Thursday's day game off, but not if Blake is still sidelined.

Andre Ethier has returned and will be in the lineup tonight.

Jeff Kent has begun taking live batting practice in Los Angeles and running straight ahead as he recovers from left knee surgery, but still feels tenderness. And Torre said Rafael Furcal's return from back surgery might not happen during the regular season. Furcal has also been slowed by a strained hamstring. "Realistically, to get him into game shape, he might be available for the the postseason, if we're a part of that. As far as being able to play a significant amount of time, that's a long shot."

Dodger Blue Notes-- Sunday's final game in Colorado was the first scoreless tie to go into extra innings in Coors Field history and only the sixth 1-0 game at the ballpark. ...Greg Maddux allowed no runs on two hits for seven innings for the 11th time in his career. ...Cory Wade delivered two more scoreless innings on Sunday to run his streak to 16 straight batters retired going back to September 9, and has allowed one run in his past 11 innings, lowering his ERA to 2.25. ...Blake DeWitt had three walks for the second time in the last three games. ... The Dodgers hold the 11th annual "Viva Los Dodgers" celebration Saturday at Dodger Stadium before the game against the Giants. The festival includes live music and special guest Don Cheto. Contests will include a "¿Te Pareces a Manny?" The winner of this Ramirez look-alike contest will visit the field before the game to see the slugger up close. Plus Dodgers fans will have the opportunity to pay tribute to Hall of Fame broadcaster Jaime Jarrín in honor of his 50th season as "the Spanish-language Voice of the Dodgers."