Furcal and Kemp Help Cut Magic Number to One

Rafael Furcal, who has struggled throughout most of the season with a sub-.250 batting average, became incandescent in Washington, battering Nationals pitching for a blistering .714 average (10-for-14) and was instrumental in the Dodgers 7-6 win that cut their magic number to a neat, trim one (1).

The win reduced the Dodgers' magic number to one for clinching a playoff berth, which would give them back-to-back postseason appearances for the first time since 1995-96.

Furcal's eighth inning home run broke a 6-6 tie and saved the Dodgers from a second consecutive ignominious defeat by the least successful team in the National League. After winning the opener of the series 14-2, Washington arose to hand the Dodgers a painful 5-4 loss in the second game of the series.

Furcal has now hit safely in 16 of his past 17 games at a .375 pace. Historically, Furcal has been much stronger in the second half of the season, with career marks of .293/.357/.415 compared to first-half numbers of .277/.344/.401.

On a night in which the pitching was less than spectacular, Furcal got ample help from Matt Kemp who banged out three hits, including a three-run home run in the first inning and put him not only in exclusive territory but above it.

Kemp is the first Dodger -- Brooklyn or Los Angeles -- to hit over .300 with 25+ home runs, 100+ runs batted in and 30+ stolen bases. Already, he is only the sixth player in Dodgers history to have 20 homers and 30 steals in one season, and the first since Raul Mondesi in 1999.

Kemp homered in the first, singled in the third, and tripled in the eighth. He lined a shot to left field in the fifth inning that Josh Willingham lost in the lights and at the last moment lunged and got his glove on the ball before it hit the ground.

Had he missed the ball altogether, it probably would have been called a double by the official scorer and given Kemp a rare single-double-triple-home run cycle. In honesty, it could have been called a double anyway.

The top four batters in the Dodgers' lineup were 9-for-18 during the evening, scoring all seven runs and knocking in five of them. The bottom five, including a pair of pinch-hitters, were 0-for-17 before Blake DeWitt, filling in for Casey Blake at third base, singled in the eighth inning. Blake had knocked in the other two runs earlier in the game with a sac fly and a ground ball.

Andre Ethier, who finished the series 1-for-12, chipped in with a perfect throw from right field in the eighth inning on a single to cut down the speedy Willie Harris at the plate that would have tied the game 7-7.

Starter Vincente Padilla had command problems but to be fair about it, so did the Nationals starter JD Martin, largely because of the home plate umpire's small strike zone. The plate seemed to have no corners and both team's waited patiently for the ball to come over the fat part of the plate and then pounced on it.

Padilla struggled through five innings, allowing five hits and four runs while walking three. He left after his 103rd pitch with a 5-4 lead that disappeared in the sixth after Ron Belisario took over.

Los Angeles started with a roar and it looked for a time as if they might duplicate the 14-2 win in the opening game of the series.

Furcal and Ethier singled and Manny Ramirez doubled in the first run. It was Ramirez's second, and final, hit of the three-game series. Then Kemp broke the magic 100-RBI mark with a three-run shot into the left field seats.

Washington killed all thoughts of a rout by scoring three times in the second on a walk, two singles and a double.

DeWitt's sacrifice fly made it 5-3 in the third but two more National's hits sandwiched around a sac bunt cut that to 5-4. DeWitt knocked in Kemp after he lived on the "error" in the fifth before Belisario gave up two in the sixth and needed Ramon Troncoso to bail him out of the inning. Troncoso would work a scoreless seventh and get the win after Furcal's tye-breaking home run in the eighth.

The Dodgers looked like they would break the 6-6 tie when Kemp tripled to open the seventh but Loney, DeWitt and Martin could not get him over the final 90 feet and he was left stranded.

Then it was George Sherrill's turn to struggle. After getting the first two outs in the eighth, he allowed a walk, a stolen base (without a throw) and a sharp single to right. However, Ethier's perfect throw to Martin ended the inning.

Jonathan Broxton took over in the ninth and the Dodgers shifted their infield to the right for the powerful Adam Dunn. Furcal at short moved close to the second base bag, third baseman DeWitt moved to the right of second base and Belliard further plugged the hole between first and second.

Dunn banged a ground ball to DeWitt who threw him out easily. There was some question about how that would be scored, 5-3 or 4-3, since DeWitt was playing in the second baseman's regular position but was still the third baseman.

Broxton didn't concern himself with that, retiring Ryan Zimmerman and Elijah Dukes to record his 36th save and moving past Todd Worrell into sixth place on the single season chart. Eric Gagné hold the top three slots (55-52-46), with Worrell (44), Jeff Shaw (43), Takashi Saito (39) in front of Broxton on the list.

This time of the season, if you are a contending team or not, it is tough to play someone who is well below .500. They have nothing to play for and are angry about that, taking it out on any team that comes along.

That became again apparent when Arizona and San Diego took two of three from San Francisco and Colorado and the Dodgers had to fight for their lives to get out of Washington with two wins in three games. Tonight, Colorado hosts St. Louis while the Giants face the Cubs again.

The Dodgers and are unbeaten in eight of their last nine series beginning August 20, going 7-1-1 in that time with a record of 19-10.  The lone series loss in that time was against San Diego at Dodger Stadium from September 4-6, when the Dodgers lost two of three.

Moving from one struggling team to another, the Dodgers open a four-game series tonight in Pittsburgh.

RHP Jon Garland (11-11, 4.02 ERA) will get the chance to pitch the Dodgers into the post season. He is 3-0 with a 2.33 ERA in his four starts with the Dodgers since coming to Los Angeles in a trade. He held the Giants scoreless after allowing a first inning run and worked eight innings.

The Pirates will start RHP Jeff Karstens (3-5, 5.53 ERA) in place of an injured Ross Ohlendorf, who has been shut down for the season. The Pirates plan to use a handful of relievers to get through this game since they don't have a true starter available.

 Score by Innings
Los Angeles	401 010 010-7
Washington	030 102 000-6

 Dodgers	ab r  h  bi  ave
Furcal ss	5  2  4  1  .268
Ethier rf	5  1  1  0  .279
Ramirez lf	3  2  1  1  .298
Kemp cf        	5  2  3  3  .306
Loney 1b	3  0  0  0  .286
Billiard 2b	4  0  0  0  .264
DeWitt 3b	4  0  1  2  .167
Martin c	4  0  0  0  .254
Padilla p	2  0  0  0  .154
 Pierre ph	1  0  0  0  .313
 Belisario p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Troncoso p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Thome ph	1  0  0  0  .247
 Sherrill p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Broxton p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Totals	        37  7 10  7
 Washington	31  6  9  6  

 2B- Furcal 2 (28). 3B- Kemp (7).
HR- Kemp (26), Furcal (9). RBI- Ramirez
(61), Kemp 3 (100), DeWitt 2 (4), Furcal
(45), SF- DeWitt. LOB- Los Angeles 10, 
Washington 8. 

 Dodgers	 in  h r-er bb so  era
Padilla	        5.0  5  4-4  3  6  4.62
Belisario 	0.2  3  2-2  1  1  2.14
Troncoso (5-4)	1.1  0  0-0  2  1  2.70
Sherrill	1.0  1  0-0  1  0  1.78
Broxton (sv 36)	1.0  0  0-0  0  0  0.75
 HBP- Ramirez. T- 3:41. Att- 22,432.
Dodger Blue Notes-- baseman Casey Blake remained out of the starting lineup for the second day in a row with a sore leg, but Torre said that he would have been available to pinch-hit if needed. ...The Sporting News named Torre its Manager of the Decade, while Dodgers left fielder Manny Ramirez was named to the publication's Team of the Decade. ...The Dodgers' 92-61 record still leads all NL teams with Philadelphia second at 89-63. Team records will determine home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs. ...Torre said 2B Orlando Hudson could play, but he held he out. ...Torre said he would stay with a six-man rotation because his pitchers needed the work. ...Jim Tome grounded out as a pinch hitter and is just 2-for-11 since his acquisition on Aug. 31.