Broxton Staggers but Dodgers Win Again

The baseball gods seem to be testing the Dodgers to see if they really deserve the best record in baseball and so far they have proved worthy, although it may be taking its toll on manager Joe Torre's stomach. the club wriggled out of a number of jams during a 6-4 win over Florida that saw stopper Jonathan Broxton again falter but not fall.

That whizzing sound you heard last evening with a bullet passing by the Dodgers that was so close they didn't have time to duck. The Dodgers were held to only a single hit over the first five innings and trailed 3-0 going into the top of the sixth. They forged ahead with three in the inning and two more in the seventh, then fought for their lives over the final two innings, and holding off the Florida Marlins to take a 6-4 victory, their 25th of the season against a dozen losses.

The win not only gave them the best record in MLB, but increased their N.L. West Division lead to a full six games after the Mets knocked them off 8-6.

Outstanding clutch hitting, sparkling fielding and eye-lash close calls were de rigueur in the eighth and ninth innings with Los Angeles clinging to a 5-4 lead they increased to 6-4 in the final frame.

Fighting back from the 3-0 deficit, they tied the game with three of their own in the sixth, collected two in the seventh to take the lead, gave one back in the bottom of the inning and stranded two runners in scoring position then watched their closer, Jonathan Broxton, struggle again in the ninth and again leave two in scoring positions.

Jeff Weaver, working in his new role as a long reliever, worked a scoreless inning to get credit for the win. Juan Pierre had a pair of hits and knocked in the lead run in the seventh. Casey Blake (#8), and Xavier Paul (#1) homered and Andre Ethier had a pair of runs batted in.

Marlin starter Chris Volstad allowed only a double by Casey Blake in the first five innings while his teammates scored three times. Former Dodger Cody Ross picked on a change by former teammate Eric Stults in the fourth and deposited the ball in the center field seats to break the scoreless tie. A two out walk and a double by Hanley Ramirez in the fifth made it 3-0.

Volstad's stuff seemingly left him between innings when Blake homered to lead of the top of the sixth and Paul slugged the Dodgers first pinch-hit homer of the season while hitting for Stults.

Pierre beat out a bunt, Rafael Furcal singled him to second and Orlando Hudson's single loaded the bases. Ethier, locked in a horrendous slump, managed a sac fly to tie the game before Russ Martin bounced out to leave two runners on base.

Weaver worked around a walk to pitching a scoreless sixth and the Dodgers took the lead in the seventh.

Loney singled and Matt Kemp and pinch-hitter Mark Loretta walked to load the bases with one out. Pierre promptly slashed a ground ball to right field to put the Dodgers up 5-3.

Brent Leach took over and gave up a one out triple, a ground ball that allowed the runner to score and was quickly replaced by Ronald Belisario who retired the side on a fly to Ethier.

L.A. left two on in the top of the eighth and when Belisario wasn't in the same postal zone while walking the leadoff man in the bottom of the frame, manager Joe Torre, who has developed a quick hook out of necessity, called for Cory Wade, who allowed a single and seemingly hit Dan Uggla on the hand but Torre protested that he had swung, thus the ball hitting his hand was only a foul ball.

Plate umpire Joe West awarded Uggla first base, but first base umpire Ed Rapuano agreed with Torre and said Uggla was swinging and sent him back to the plate. Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez argued and was ejected. Uggla then struck out, shouted at Rapuano and was ejected.

Wade alternated the rest of the inning: single, pop to second, walk, fly to center boosting and relieving Torre's blood pressure as the inning ended.

Again the Dodgers put three men on base in the ninth. Pierre drew a walk in a wild rain storm and time was called and the grounds crew struggled for 17 minutes to get the tarp on the field and by that time the rain had stopped.

The delay did something to both the Marlin and Dodgers pitchers; both of them struggling in the final inning.

With play resumed and Pierre on first, Furcal lined to center for the second out. Hudson shot a single to right and Ethier dropped a gentle nine-iron chip into center field to drive in Pierre with the Dodgers sixth run.

Enter, stage right, Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton who had imploded with two out and none on to allow a pair of runs in Philadelphia to tie the score in the ninth.

The first Marlin lashed a shot and Loney made a diving stop. The 290+ pound Broxton thundered over to cover first and beat the runner by the thinnest of margins, eliciting another howl from the Florida bench and the fans. A cup of beer was tossed out of the second deck and landed between the stands and the first base line in protest.

Then Broxton, who had thrown 27 pitches in Philadelphia, had warmed up twice before coming into the game, had sat out the rain delay and had just hustled over to first base to record the first out seemingly lost complete command of his fastball.

Struggling with a cranky slider/cut fastball that also seemed to have a mind of its own as to where it would go, he walked two runners. Then XXX Cantu rifled a shot back at Broxton and he somehow blocked it, the ball dropping at his feet. He threw to first for the second out but both runners moved into scoring position.

He then retired pinch-hitter Ross Gload on a fly ball into right center that Etheir squeezed for the final out.

Lefty Streak
Ken Gurnick of reports that On 12 occasions since 1947, the Dodgers started left-handers in four consecutive games, according to David Smith of Retrosheet. They're about to do it again, now that Eric Milton has been called up from Triple-A Albuquerque to start Saturday night's game against the Marlins. He followed Eric Stults and will be followed by Clayton Kershaw and Randy Wolf.

The last time it happened for the Dodgers was near the end of the forgettable 1986 season, when Fernando Valenzuela, Dennis Powell, current pitching coach Rick Honeycutt and Jerry Reuss started from Sept. 22-25.

It will be Milton's first Major league start in two years, after being sidelined with Tommy John surgery. The Dodgers were able to add Milton without opening a 40-man roster spot because outfielder Manny Ramirez does not count against the 40-man limit while on suspension.

He was in the battle for the fifth-starter job in Spring Training as a non-roster invitee, but his arm strength wasn't adequate to start in the Major Leagues after going 0-3 with a 10.07 ERA in Cactus League action.

In seven starts at Triple-A Albuquerque, Milton went 3-2 with a 2.83 ERA, throwing six scoreless innings in three of his last four starts. He is 1-3 with a 5.94 ERA lifetime against the Marlins.

He will face LHP Andrew Miller (0-1, 6.94 ERA), a Marlin first round pick who has just completed a pair of rehab starts after being sidelined with a right oblique injury.

  Score by Innings
LA Dodgers	000 003 201-6
Florida	        000 210 100-4

  Dodgers	ab r  h  bi ave
Pierre lf	4  1  2  2  .391
Furcal ss	5  1  1  0  .241
Hudson 2b	5  0  2  0  .344
Ethier rf	4  0  1  2  .271
Martin c	5  0  0  0  .277
Loney 1b	4  1  2  0  .283
Kemp cf	        3  1  1  0  .294
Blake 3b	4  1  2  1  .283
Stults p	1  0  0  0  .091
 Paul ph	1  1  1  1  .600
 Weaver p	0  0  0  0  .167
 Loretta ph	0  0  0  0  .344
 Leach p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Belisario p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Wade p	        0  0  0  0  .000
 Castro ph	1  0  0  0  .412
 Broxton p	0  0  0  0  .000
  Totals	37 6 12 6
  Florida	34 4  7 4

  2B- Blake (7). HR- Blake (8), Paul (1).
RBI- Blake (23), Paul (1), Ethier 2 (29),
Pierre 2 (9). SF- Ethier. LOB- Dodger 8,
Florida 10. CS- Pierre (3).

  Dodgers	 in  h r-er bb so  era
Stults 	        5.0  5  3-3  2  5  3.82
Weaver (2-0)	1.0  0  0-0  1  1  2.40
Leach 	        0.2  1  1-1  0  1 11.57
Belisario	0.1  0  0-0  1  0  3.00
Wade	        1.0  1  0-0  1  1  4.63
Broxton (sv 9)	1.0  0  0-0  2  0  1.50
  T- 3:46. Att- 20,039.
Manny Meets With Teammates
Outfielder Manny Ramirez met with and apologized to his teammates and staff at the team hotel before the game. Torre said the meeting was uncomfortable and that Manny was a little anxious, remorseful and embarrassed.. "It was uncomfortable, I'll give you that," said manager Joe Torre. "He went around, shook hands. The guys were happy to see him. It was more for him to show his face. He wanted to team to know how sorry he is."

The meeting lasted less than 10 minutes and was at the suggestion from club chairman Frank McCourt that Ramirez needed to face his club as part of the healing process.

"My advice to him -- it is what it is," Torre said. "Get ready to come back. Don't hide from it."

Dodger Blue Notes-- After rookie Xavier Paul hit his first major league home run he said, "It felt good. I don't even remember touching the bases." ...Torre was high in his praise for Juan Pierre. "It's the highest compliment," said Torre. "Two years ago, he plays 162 games, and he's been a bench guy ever since, but he never backed off being ready to play. Just a class act." Since Ramirez started his suspension on May 7, Pierre is 14-for-33 (.424) with six RBIs and five runs scored. Although the Dodgers lost four of their first five games after Ramirez was flagged, they've now won their last three. ...Blake now leads the club with eight home runs and his batting average, .225 the day Ramirez left, is up to .283 after a 14-for-31 (.452) tear, and he has scored 11 runs in 11 games. Torre said Blake is "such a tough competitor, this is the personality we want to have." ...Torre said he is likely to give several players today off, mentioning shortstop Rafael Furcal, catcher Russell Martin and third baseman Casey Blake. He said he also might try to find a start for Xavier Paul. ... Orlando Hudson had two hits and has hit in 15 of 16 games, but he also struck out twice and has six strikeouts in his last nine at-bats ... Cory Wade, pitching in back-to-back games for the first time since coming off the disabled list, allowed a single and walk in one scoreless inning. ...Dodgers opening-day starter Hiroki Kuroda (oblique strain) threw 36 pitches in a bullpen session and may throw a simulated game Monday.

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