Furcal gives Dodgers MLB-best 50th win
Infielder rips game-winning, pinch-hit single to douse Rox
LOS ANGELES -- For a second consecutive game, the Dodgers weren't burning up the basepaths, yet this time they managed a run against the Colorado Rockies.
It may have been just one run, but it was enough for the win. Rafael Furcal did the damage with a pinch-hit single in the eighth inning to lead the Dodgers to a 1-0 victory Wednesday afternoon at Dodger Stadium.
The Dodgers are the first club in 2009 to reach 50 wins, and the one-run win marks the team's 17th such victory of the season.
"We've been talking about it all year because we've done a lot of this," manager Joe Torre said. "The thing that's good -- I mean, it's not good for my health -- is that when you win close games especially ... when we've really been scuffling to score runs, it shows me that we may bend but we don't break."
After seven scoreless innings, it seemed the Dodgers were destined for another disappointing offensive showing. But in the bottom of the eighth, their luck changed.
Catcher Brad Ausmus -- starting in place of Russell Martin -- began the inning with a single to right field, and he advanced to second when Juan Castro's bunt attempt dropped just in front of a diving Jason Hammel.
Martin replaced Ausmus at second base as a pinch-runner, and Furcal -- batting for reliever Ramon Troncoso -- rifled a single to right field to easily score Martin and give the Dodgers a 1-0 lead.
"It was a good pitch, it's not an easy pitch [to hit]," Furcal said. "I put it in a good spot."
Los Angeles went hitless through the first four innings with Juan Pierre as the lone Dodgers player to reach base via an error during that span.
The offense showed some signs of life in the fifth, however, when James Loney hit a one-out double and advanced to third base on an Ausmus single.
The Dodgers were not able to capitalize on the scoring opportunity, though, as Juan Castro and Casey Blake -- who was pinch-hitting for starter Clayton Kershaw -- struck out to end the inning.
While the Dodgers were struggling to put together rallies, the same offensive drought plagued the Rockies against Kershaw and a slew of relievers.
"The guys that came out of that bullpen have been doing a remarkable job for us," Torre said. "[Ronald] Belisario with two, and [Ramon] Troncoso and [Jonathan] Broxton, when he's had the opportunities has done a good job."
Kershaw breezed through first two innings, but then his reccurring control issues appeared in the third.
With one out, Kershaw walked Hammel and center fielder Dexter Fowler, prompting a mound visit from Ausmus and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt.
The short break seemed to settle Kershaw down. He retired Clint Barmes on one pitch and then got Brad Hawpe to ground out to short.
Though Kershaw escaped the inning unscathed, the Rockies did manage to force Kershaw to throw a lot of pitches. The 21-year-old left-hander threw 26 pitches in the third, and he was up to 97 when he left after five innings.
"It was a lot of effort involved to get through five innings today," Kershaw said. "There wasn't an easy out for me. Just had to battle all the way through, and sometimes when you're not able to throw strikes consistently, it's going to be like that."
Kershaw issued five walks on the day, but Torre conceded that Kershaw might have been a "genius" for walking Hammel twice. In his only at-bat where he put the ball in play, Hammel hit a towering drive to right field in the seventh that Andre Ethier chased down for run-saving catch.
"'Genius.' That's a very, very nice thing to say," Kershaw said. "I think sometimes when pitchers come up you know all you have to do is throw strikes to get him out. And sometimes your mindset is just to throw a strike. That's hard to do instead of going right after him, being competitive."
High pitch counts and walks have been a common theme to Kershaw's starts this season, and his inefficiency on the mound has led to a number of early exits despite not giving up many runs.
On six occasions this season, Kershaw has been unable to last at least six innings while allowing no more than two runs in any of those starts.
Somewhat overshadowing the Dodgers' win was the fact that the game marked the end of Manny Ramirez's 50-game suspension for violating MLB's Drug Policy.
Before and after the game, media members flooded Torre and Dodgers' players with questions on Ramirez's return to the lineup Friday, when the club begins a three-game series at San Diego.
"We're in first place, we have played well," Torre said. "We are aware of the crowd that Manny draws. We are prepared for it. Again, it is a distraction, and we cannot ignore the fact it is going to be there. We are ready for him to come back."
David Ely is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.