Schmidt earns a victory in LA debut
Right-hander allows three hits, one run in beating Brewers
MILWAUKEE -- This veteran Dodgers team is confident, if nothing else.
Having just barely escaped a season-opening sweep Wednesday night by hanging on for a 5-4 win over the Brewers, the mood in the Dodgers clubhouse was decidedly more upbeat than their 1-2 record.
"We needed to get the first win out of the way," said Olmedo Saenz, whose two-run pinch-double off former teammate Elmer Dessens keyed a three-run eighth inning that proved decisive. "Now we can go play baseball."
This one, statistically, was a little misleading.
Jason Schmidt was credited with a victory in his first start as a Dodger, charged with allowing only one run. But he also lasted only five innings and hastened his exit by walking the bases loaded -- beginning with opposing pitcher Jeff Suppan -- with two out in the fifth.
"You're with a new team and you want to get off on a positive note, and after losing the first two games, you want to get that first win," said Schmidt. "I would have liked to have gone seven or eight innings. You know how strong our bullpen is, and they proved it today. We stretched them thin."
Schmidt praised Brewers hitters for going the opposite way and being patient, something that couldn't be said of Dodgers hitters who were retired in the fifth inning on three Suppan pitches.
Closer Takashi Saito, who converted 24 of 26 saves last year, was credited with his first save of the year, despite allowing three extra-base hits and three runs to score while he was on the mound.
On four days' rest, he was more hittable than last year's Saito, allowing two of three runners he inherited from Rudy Seanez to score in the eighth inning. He served up a home run to J.J. Hardy leading off the ninth inning (he allowed only three homers in 78 1/3 innings last year) and Prince Fielder followed with a double representing the tying run, but Saito stranded him at second.
"Comparing the first game I pitched in this year to last year, I'm sure I'll be in much tougher situations this year," said Saito, who opened last season at Triple-A and pitched middle relief until a May promotion to closer. "This year the stakes will be a lot higher than last year."
Asked if he was happy about that, he said in English: "Yeah, of course. Happy. Good question."
At game time, the temperature outside Miller Park was 30 degrees with light snow showers, while under the roof it was somewhat chillier than the officially announced 60-degree temperature.
The Dodgers led, 2-1, going into the eighth on Nomar Garciaparra's sacrifice fly and Jeff Kent's RBI double in the third inning. The third began with Juan Pierre's bunt single. Russell Martin's hit-and-run line single missed drilling Pierre in the chest by inches. Just before Garciaparra hit his sacrifice fly, he nailed Pierre with a line drive on the left arm, but Pierre was in foul territory so he wasn't out.
"I was playing dodgeball there," said Pierre.
In the eighth, Dessens, dealt last week to the Brewers for outfielder Brady Clark, inherited the bases loaded with no outs from Carlos Villanueva and tried to get a 1-1 backdoor slider past Saenz, who drilled it off the left-field fence. One out later, Matt Kemp's sacrifice fly brought home the decisive run.
"You have a pretty good idea what (Dessens) throws," said Saenz, who has been with the Dodgers longer than any teammate, since 2004. "That's going to help you a little bit in that situation. You've still got to put a good swing on it and not try to do too much. I take my job very seriously."
Saenz is no household name, but teammates who know how hard it is to sit around for eight innings, then deliver with the game on the line, are appropriately impressed.
"You're in the dugout and hearing guys rant and rave about him in the late innings because they can't wait for him to come up and get a hit with men on base," said Schmidt.
"He's been doing it a long time. And a lot of pinch-hitters, they're just trying to slap the ball. Not him. He's got an idea up there, and he's a professional and he's looking to drive it and drive it a long way. There aren't a lot of people around that can do that."
"He's invaluable," said manager Grady Little. "He's always ready, as ready as any player to do his job. He gives you a good, quality at-bat every single time."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.