video thumbnail

DET@LAD: Jackson's leaping grab ends the game

LOS ANGELES -- Dioner Navarro was convinced he had just won the game, his ninth-inning line drive carrying deeper and deeper into center field at Dodger Stadium.

"I thought it was gonna go over his head for sure," the Dodgers catcher said. "That was the game."

Navarro was right about one thing: That was the game. But instead of a walk-off extra-base hit, speedy Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson beat the baseball to the warning track and squeezed it into his glove for the final out of a 7-5 Tigers victory on Wednesday.

A bases-clearing double would have given the Dodgers their fourth straight victory for the first time this season as well as their first sweep. Instead they'll have to settle for their first Interleague series win since they took two of three last May, also against Detroit.

Watching the replay in the Dodgers' clubhouse, Navarro could only tip his cap to Jackson, who entered in the ninth as a defensive replacement.

"He took a great jump on it," Navarro shrugged.

"Austin can fly," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "He can play some center field. It looked like he just kind of outran it at the end. That ball just kind of ran out of steam at the end, and he just kept going."

The Dodgers fell behind early after it became clear Ted Lilly wouldn't continue their run of hot starting pitching. After three solid starts in a row from the staff, Lilly labored. He threw 98 pitches in 4 2/3 innings and gave up six runs on six hits -- three of them home runs.

"Today was one of those days," Lilly said. "I was behind in the count more than usual. When you try to pitch like that, the hitters are more comfortable and can shrink the strike zone and you have less room for error."

He surrendered a homer in each of the first three innings. Casper Wells put Detroit up right away with a leadoff shot. He extended his bat to pull a ball Lilly had placed well on the outside corner, and the ball cleared the left-field fence by a few feet.

It may have been tough to blame Lilly for the first home run, but the other two were obvious mistake pitches, missing their intended spots badly. Two veteran hitters, Magglio Ordonez and Miguel Cabrera capitalized. Don Kelly also homered for the Tigers, giving them four long balls on the afternoon.

"The ball travels pretty good here during the day," Mattingly said. "You still gotta hit it, but [Lilly] was just missing spots. Teddy can't really afford to. He's not a guy that's gonna overpower anybody."

Lilly said even with his poor stuff, as a veteran pitcher, he needed to do a better job of damage control.

"I have to look at myself in the mirror, and as I go back over the game, there were quite a few occurrences where I needed to make better pitches," he said. "Sometimes your command isn't as good as it usually is, and you have to eliminate the damage."

Tigers starter Rick Porcello was in trouble most of the afternoon, too. Like Lilly, he lasted only 4 2/3 innings and like Lilly he got hit hard. He allowed nine hits and five runs, but he managed to keep the Tigers in front.

The Dodgers grabbed their only lead of the game in the bottom of the first inning, when Matt Kemp tripled home a run, then scored on a James Loney single. Kemp finished 3-for-3 with two walks to raise his average to .328.

Kemp was on second base representing the tying run when Navarro came to the plate in the ninth. He was approaching home plate when Jackson made the catch, causing Kemp to toss his helmet aside in disbelief.

"That last at-bat, when the ball left the bat, I thought for sure it was at least a base hit," said Kemp, who was robbed of extra bases by Jackson on Monday night. "We fought back, but Jackson made a hell of a play."

Los Angeles had baserunners all afternoon and converted them into five runs. But the Dodgers could have scratched more across in both the fourth and fifth innings.

In the fourth, Ordonez fired a one-hop strike from right field to nail Loney, who was tagging from third. Earlier in the inning, Navarro laid down a sacrifice bunt, wrongly thinking he had seen the bunt signal.

"I saw bunt, and I bunted," an apologetic Navarro said. "We talked about it afterward and there's gotta be a little bit more attention to the signs. It was my fault, and I take full blame."

An inning later, Navarro chased a sinker out of the zone for strike three -- the first of two times he'd leave the bases loaded.

He had the chance to redeem himself, and for a split second the Dodger Stadium crowd thought he had.

It was up to Jackson to stifle the short-lived roar, and he did just that.

"I got a pretty good jump on it, a good read on it," Jackson said. "I kept my eye on it the whole time and I felt the warning track, so I knew how much room I had and I was able to make a play on it." Comments