Dodgers find offense, down Reds
Backed by 15-hit attack, Penny tosses six frames for third win
CINCINNATI -- Brad Penny's racehorse went wire to wire to win last week, and the Dodgers copied the strategy Monday night. Rafael Furcal led off the game with a home run and they never looked back in a 9-3 win over the Reds.
Another revamped Dodgers lineup scored three times as many runs as it had the entire lost weekend in Atlanta, and manager Joe Torre, who hasn't used a batting order twice all year, said he intends to break that streak on Tuesday.
"Right now, I'm not going to change anything for tomorrow. I'm not that smart," said Torre, whose surprising lineup produced even more surprising results.
Nomar Garciaparra, who didn't even play on Sunday after going 1-for-10 in his return from a broken hand, slugged his first home run after being moved up to third in the order. Russell Martin, batting second, had a perfect night with three hits, a walk and was grazed by a pitch. Matt Kemp had a pair of doubles and Andre Ethier had three hits.
To reverse the momentum after the sweep in Atlanta, the Dodgers took early batting practice, Torre told the team in a pregame meeting to turn the page and start fresh and he posted a lineup that had Andruw Jones dropped from cleanup on Sunday to eighth.
For those into fairy tales, Martin posted in the dugout a printout of a gnome, a reasonable facsimile of the plaster good-luck mascot that stands guard in the bullpen.
Skeptics would suggest that the biggest factor might have been Matt Belisle, who came off the disabled list to start for the Reds and was lit up for seven runs -- five earned -- and 12 hits in five innings.
Nonetheless, after going 1-for-23 with runners in scoring position in Atlanta, the Dodgers converted 5-for-12 against the Reds. Torre, leaving gnome analysis to others, explained there was a method to his lineup madness.
"The fact that Nomar was hitting in front of [Jeff] Kent, knowing that he'd get good pitches to hit, if there was a key, that was it," said Torre. "[Garciaparra] knows from experience that, if he's patient, he'll get a pitch to hit."
Garciaparra said his favorite at-bat wasn't the two-run homer in the sixth inning but his lineout to second base in the first inning after Martin followed Furcal's homer with a double.
"I stayed on the ball, squared it up and went the other way," said Garciaparra, who's getting his timing back after missing more than a month with a broken hand. "That one set the tone for me."
Martin said he felt more comfortable after his first two hits than he had at any point this season and concedes that Torre is right when he said the All-Star catcher has been pressing.
"Yeah, that's what it feels like," Martin said. "I haven't been helping. I put a lot of pressure on myself to do good. I feel I should do good every day, and when I'm not it's hard to be happy about it.
"Today I got my timing down after the first two hits. I felt like I was doing it right. It's been a while. I've been searching for that. It feels good."
Furcal insists he doesn't try to hit home runs, but he swung like he knew what to expect off Belisle. The home run was his second in three at-bats off the right-hander, and Furcal is now 4-for-5 against him. More pertinent, Furcal already has 12 extra-base hits in 74 at-bats (about one for every six at-bats). Last year, playing on a wounded ankle, he had 33 extra-base hits in 581 at-bats (1-for-17 pace).
"I knew he was good, but leaving Spring Training, it doesn't take long to appreciate what he brings to the table," said Torre. "Not only his ability, but he loves to play the game, he loves to win, he has fun and there aren't too many guys who go out and enjoy playing the game like him. That's catchy. He loves pressure. He knows at the plate to take liberties, like he did tonight. A lot of that is not by mistake."
Penny did his part at the plate with a single and sacrifice, but it was the quality start (one run in six innings) the club was looking for. He said he had no apprehension based on the offensive struggles.
"We've got a good team," said Penny (3-2). "Every team goes through this at some point in the year. Nobody expects us to score one run every game. [Great American Ball Park] is not a hard park to score runs in. The good thing is everybody didn't try to hit the ball out of the park -- a lot of clubs do that here. Hopefully, tonight we turned it around."
Penny continued his dominance of the Reds in general -- he's 7-2 against them -- and in particular at Great American Ball Park, where he's 5-0.
"I was locating my curveball better and had a decent split," he said. "I wasn't afraid to throw any pitch in any count."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.