A Glimpse of the Future

The Dodgers ended their six-game road trip by blasting Florida 12-5 behind the sparkling pitching of Clayton Kershaw, who took a no-hit game into the eighth inning, plus an 11-hit attack and some timely help from the Marlins whose misplays supplied three of the first runs scored by Los Angeles.

Kershaw, 21, has been plagued with the normal inconsistencies of youth, pitching well one day and not so well the next. But this day all things all came together and he gave everyone a sneak preview of the future by taking a no-hit, no-run game into the eighth inning before former Dodger Cody Ross tagged him for a double leading off the eighth inning.

He used a mixture of fastballs that hit 96, a looping curve ball that buckled the knees of a number of Marlins and was able to use his change to excellent advantage.

While the win was never in doubt by the eighth inning, manager Joe Torre was approaching a crucial decision. Kershaw had never thrown more than 105 pitches and the hit he allowed was on pitch 112. Had the ball been caught, how many pitches would he be allowed to throw, taking into consideration the no-hit prospect.

Torre didn't have to think about that when Ross allowed the hit. The Dodgers were leading 10-0 and Guillermo Mota was warmed and ready. Almost before the hit was relayed back to the infield, Torre was on his feet and heading toward the mound to remove his valuable young pitcher and bring in the veteran.

In the 82-degree Miami heat, Kershaw looked exhausted. He had never pitched more than seven innings in his 28 major league starts, and he didn't make it this time either.

It was a enjoyable turnaround for the left-hander, who came into the game winless in four previous road starts with a 0-3 record and 9.00 ERA.

The Dodgers provided brilliant defensive help in the first two innings, converting three potential hits into outs. But from that point on, Kershaw was completely in charge and didn't allow anything that resembled a hit through the seventh inning.

Orlando Hudson made a diving catch of a soft liner over the second base bag for the first out of the game and Juan Pierre covered a whole lot of ground to flag down a ball hit down the left field line. In the second inning, rookie Xavier Paul made a running, diving catch with out out to erase a potential hit.

Los Angeles scored two runs in each of the first three innings to give Kershaw a comfort factor that probably helped him. But aside from four walks he was never in trouble and after striking out the side in order the seventh, all on called strikes, he ran his strikeout total to nine.

Mota took over with the Marlin runner at second base and allowed a ground ball that moved him to third and a fly ball that scored him, the run belonging to Kershaw. He also got first two Marlins in the ninth before the wheels came off. He surrendered a single, a double, a walk to load the bases and a long shot over the center field wall -- again by Ross - for a grand slam home run.

Will Ohman only needed one pitch to retire the final Florida hitter and end the game.

Mota's earned run average has ballooned to 9.00, and with the almost constant movement on the roster in regard to the bullpen, he could be the next pitcher replaced by someone from the Dodgers' minor league system.

Torre chose to give a number of regulars a day off, replacing Casey Blake at third with Mark Loretta, Brad Ausmus behind the plate instead of Russ Martin, Paul in right field to give the slumping Andre Ethier a breather and veteran Juan Castro doing the same for Rafael Furcal.

The "stuntmen," as Mickey Hatcher used to call the Dodgers bench players, came up with seven of the club's 11 hits, and seven of the 12 runs.

Loretta (hitting .368) was 3-for-5 with three RBI; Castro (.450) was 2-for-3 with four runs scored and a homer and Ausmus (.346) was 1-for-5. The trio has 113 total years of experience and their presence and talents are a solid part of the club's league leading performances.

Pierre collected three more hits, including two doubles, knocked in three and scored twice, moving his average up to a giddy .419.

The Dodgers scored twice in the first, loading he bases on singles by Pierre and Loretta and a walk to Matt Kemp. James Loney checked his swing, tapping a soft grounder to the right side of the mound. John Koronka dove to stop it, then threw wildly to the plate allowing Pierre and Loretta to score.

In the second Castro slugged a home run, his first, over the left field wll. Kershaw walked as did Loretta and another comebacker to Koronka was thrown into center field this as another run came across.

Pierre doubled two in, making it three deuces in a row, in the third aftr Ausmus singled and Castro walked.

After Pierre's second hit of the game, 12 Dodgers went out in order before Loney singled in the seventh. They awakened in the eighth, however, to add four more runs. Tw-run doubles by Loretta and Hudson did the damage.

Leading 10-1 in the top of the ninth, the Dodgers played it base to base, not wanting to pile the runs up on the Marlins and could have probably scored four times but settled for a couple of runs knocked in by Pierre (2) and Loretta.

The Dodgers increased their MLB-leading record to 26-13 and return to Dodger Stadium where they are 14-3 this season and will host the New York Mets for three games. Scheduled pitchers for Los Angeles will be Randy Wolf, Chad Billingsley and Eric Stults, if his jammed left thumb is healed enough to make the start. If not, Eric Milton will perhaps get another chance.

  Score by Innings
Los Angeles	222 000 042-12
Florida	        000 000 014- 5

 Los Angeles	ab r  h  bi  ave
Pierre lf	5  2  3  3  .419
Loretta 3b	5  2  3  3  .368
Hudson 2b	6  0  1  2  .340
Kemp lf	        4  0  0  0  .287
Loney 1b	5  0  1  1  .272
Ausmus c	5  1  1  0  .346
Paul rf	        3  2  0  0  .333
Castro ss	3  4  2  1  .450
Kershaw p	1  1  0  0  .143
 Mota p	        1  0  0  0  .000
 Ohman p	0  0  0  0  .500
---------------------------------
  Totals  	38 12 11 10
  Florida	29  5  4  5

   2B- Pierre 2 (8), Loretta (2). HR-
Castro (1). RBI- Loney (27), Castro (4),
Pierre 3 (12), Loretta 3 (7), Hudson 2
(25). S- Kershaw 2. LOB- Dodgers 9,
Florida 4.

  Dodgers	 in  h  r-er bb so  era
Kershaw (2-3)	7.0  1  1-1  4  9  4.60
Mota	        1.2  3  4-4  1  0  9.00
Ohman	        0.1  0  0-0  0  0  5.40
  T- 3:12. Att- 16,332.
Dodger Blue Notes-- Marlins advance scout Joe Moeller was in Philadelphia earlier this week to watch Clayton Kershaw in his last outing and what he saw probably looked familiar. Moeller was the youngest starting pitcher in L.A. Dodger history when he took the mound at 19 years and 62 days old in 1962. Last season, Kershaw became the fourth-youngest Dodger starting pitcher at 20 years and 67 days of age. Dick Calmas is secod on the list (19 years, 228 days) and Edwin Jackson is third (20 years, 0 days). Rounding out the to eight are Mike Kekish in 1965, Dennys Reyes in 1997 and Rick Sutcliffe in 1976). ...The Dodgers lead the NL with 222 runs scored, 391 hits, and 81 doubles. ...Ethier, James Loney and Matt Kemp are all on pace to drive in more than 100 runs, while Casey Blake is on a pace to knock in 98. The Los Angeles Dodgers have never had three players drive in 100 runs in one season, with the closest trio coming in 1999 (Eric Karros (112), Gary Sheffield (101), and Raul Mondesi (99). The last trio in franchise history to accomplish the feat played for the 1955 World Champions, as Duke Snider (136 RBI), Roy Campanella (107), and Gil Hodges (102) pulled it off.

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