Defensive Dodgers top Giants
LA stops run at plate; Penny gets win in season debut
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Dodgers overcame their bitter rivals, a hostile record crowd and their own slapstick outfield play Friday night and held on for a 2-1 win over the Giants, their sixth consecutive victory at AT&T Park.Brad Penny, back in first-half mode, took a shutout into the eighth inning and lost it only after Rich Aurilia's catchable ball fell beside center fielder Juan Pierre. Before that inning was over, left fielder Luis Gonzalez dropped what looked like a third out off the bat of Barry Bonds after a long run, but Joe Beimel struck out Ryan Klesko to escape that mess and closer Takashi Saito pitched into and out of another one in the ninth for the save. Having recapped what went wrong defensively for the Dodgers, it's not just a footnote that they won this game because of their defense as well as in spite of it, particularly the play of catcher Russell Martin and substitute shortstop Ramon Martinez, a former Giant. It was no secret what advance scouts told the Giants to do against the Dodgers -- run, and don't stop. But Martin gunned down potential stealers Omar Vizquel in the second inning and Ray Durham in the third, putting the brakes to that phase of the running game. The Giants also were eager to turn every base hit into a track meet, and the daring strategy, as sound as it might seem this first week of the season, probably cost them the game in the fifth inning when Pedro Feliz singled and tried to score with none out on Randy Winn's double to the left-field corner. Gonzalez (who had two hits) ran down the ball and with his 39-year-old arm hit relay man Martinez on the outfield grass. By the time Martinez had the ball, Feliz was halfway between third base and home, but Martinez made an instantaneous transfer from catch to throw, a one-hopper to Martin. The second-year catcher, acting like there would be no play, waited for Feliz to commit to a head-first slide, then stuck his left leg in front of the plate and Feliz's hand went right into it, giving Martin the time to catch the ball and apply the tag. "Russell made that play happen," said Martinez, who has stepped up with flawless shortstop play during Rafael Furcal's absence. "He [decoyed] Feliz and the throw was right on the money." Martin said the key to the play was waiting "until the last second" to make the block "so the runner is committed to the slide." "At first, I didn't think we had a chance," he said. "Ramon just got rid of it so quickly, a one-hopper at my chest. I pretended the ball wasn't coming and at the last second I stuck it out. The runner got there before the throw, but his hand hit my foot." Martinez had three more balls hit to him before the inning was over. Pitcher Noah Lowry's grounder was routine, but then he had to dive onto the outfield grass to smother Dave Roberts' grounder and keep Winn at third base. Vizquel was next and he grounded another into the hole. Martinez backhanded on the run and threw across his body to Jeff Kent at second base to barely force out Roberts and end the inning. "They made some great plays behind me," said Penny, who effectively mixed in breaking balls and efficiently used only 85 pitches. "I kept the pitch count down." Grady Little said Penny's combination of pitches was the best he's seen since he became manager last year. "The results showed," he said. "He was strong throughout. You couldn't ask for anything more." Penny was staked to a lead with an unearned run in the fifth inning created by Lowry's throwing error, then a deserved run in the sixth when Nomar Garciaparra doubled and was singled in by Kent. Penny said he tightened up in the typically Bay Area conditions, with a chilly wind swirling around AT&T Park and fog everywhere. His fastball was in the low-90s, but the shoulder that forced him to miss a spring start was pain-free. The Dodgers turned three double-plays behind Penny, who scattered 10 hits and left after Pierre couldn't track down Aurilia's pinch-double leading off the eighth inning. The run scored after a sacrifice bunt and groundout, which brought up Bonds, and it looked like Beimel got him to end the inning. But with the outfield playing Bonds to pull, he sliced a fly toward the left-field foul line. Gonzalez, after a long run, backhanded the ball, but it dropped out of his glove and he cruised into second. Beimel walked Durham intentionally, then fanned Klesko. "I thought the ball was going to be right at [Gonzalez], but I forgot we were shifted over," said Beimel. "It's just the way things go. I'm glad I could pick him up in that situation."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.