Nomar's walk-off blast caps late rally
Dodgers storm back from five-run deficit, forge NL West tie
LOS ANGELES -- It's great for the Dodgers to rally from five runs down, for Jeff Kent's fourth hit of the game to tie it in the eighth inning and Nomar Garciaparra's walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth to win it, great for the Dodgers to beat the Phillies, 7-6, on Wednesday and pull back into a tie for first place.
Of course, it's not so great to fall behind by five runs after two innings, for Brad Penny to last only three innings in his second start off the disabled list and allow three home runs, then to still be around long after the game while the general manager and the team doctor were too busy to be celebrating.
Yet, there was so much to celebrate. Three Dodgers home runs -- a fifth in 12 games by Manny Ramirez and a solo shot by Tuesday night's hero, Andre Ethier, in addition to the game-winner by Garciaparra that pulled the Dodgers two games above .500 for the first time since May 26.
In only his second game off the disabled list, Garciaparra lived up to his clutch reputation, pulling an outside 2-1 pitch by Clay Condrey into the Dodgers' bullpen. When Garciaparra reached the welcoming party at the plate, Russell Martin power-lifted him out of the mob and high into the air.
"He's not that heavy," said Martin. "I do a lot of leg squats."
While the 40-year-old Kent had four hits, most notably the two-run tying double, Martin snapped out of his month-long slump with three hits, including a single that triggered the tying rally.
"With our offense now, we know we can put runs up on the board," said Martin. "We're not panicking when we get down a few runs. We've got a good lineup now. It's tough for any pitcher to shut us down. Ever since we added Manny, everybody's confident. He brings that to the middle of the order. Every time he comes up he can do some damage and everybody feeds off that."
Of course, it's all about Manny. He's hitting .467 with five homers, 16 RBIs and 10 runs scored. But more to the point, he's made the offense as a whole better. The Dodgers were shut out eight times in 108 games before he arrived, but not yet with him. They averaged 4.17 runs without him, but 4.92 runs with him.
The Dodgers are 7-5 since Ramirez arrived and they've done it with a patchwork pitching staff. They've had two shaky starts from Penny since he returned and have had to improvise without closer Takashi Saito, blowing a pair of games late that they should have won in San Francisco while keeping their fingers crossed that unsung workhorse rookie reliever Cory Wade's shoulder would bounce back from soreness.
It hasn't. While four relievers were needed to pitch the final six innings of this game -- allowing only one hit with eight strikeouts -- Wade wasn't one of them. The Dodgers won anyway with Jason Johnson stepping up with 2 2/3 innings, Chan Ho Park extinguishing a mess he inherited from Joe Beimel to go another 2 1/3 innings and Jonathan Broxton striking out two in a perfect ninth to earn the win.
"Between Park and Johnson, those people put a tourniquet on this thing and gave our offense an opportunity to catch up and win the game," said manager Joe Torre, who met with general manager Ned Colletti after the game to figure out how to replenish the staff. Among the veteran options in the Minor Leagues are Tanyon Sturtze, Eric Stults and Jerome Williams.
As for Penny, unlike Friday night in San Francisco, when he lacked velocity but was able to finesse a second-division offense, he amped up to 96 miles an hour Wednesday night, but lacked command and the potent Phillies punished him with two-run homers by Ryan Howard, Greg Dobbs and former Dodger Jayson Werth.
"He couldn't locate. His velocity was fine -- he spotted a couple at 96 -- but didn't look able to locate," said Torre. "He didn't feel great, but didn't complain of anything we'd call out of the ordinary."
Torre was asked if he still expected Penny to make his next start and his answer left enough wiggle room to be unconvincing.
"We'll see how he feels," Torre said. "At this point in time, he's our guy in five days. We'll see how he feels."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.