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04/28/07 4:04 AM ET
Nomar leads Dodgers past Padres
First baseman's fourth hit fuels ninth-inning comeback
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
SAN DIEGO -- Missing were the stunning four consecutive home runs to tie and a Nomar Garciaparra walk-off bomb in overtime, but Friday night's dramatic 6-5 Dodgers win over the Padres triggered flashbacks to last Sept. 18 anyway. This time, Garciaparra tied it with his fourth hit of the game, a two-run double in the ninth that was followed one out later by Russell Martin's decisive two-run double. The four-run rally came on Trevor Hoffman Night at the expense of the Padres' celebrated closer, who was being saluted as the game's all-time saves leader. "We kind of ruined his day a little bit," said Martin, given the chance to be a hero when Hoffman walked Luis Gonzalez intentionally. "I took that a little personally. You get psyched up." The inning began with a pinch-hit single from Marlon Anderson, who hit home run No. 4 (and second off Hoffman) in that miraculous sequence last year. Rafael Furcal, bunting hard in hopes of a hit, capitalized on the indecision of first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who looked at second base but didn't throw, and outran Gonzalez to the bag, with Hoffman setting an unintentional screen on Gonzalez and the Dodgers were in business. Juan Pierre bunted them over, Garciaparra doubled to left-center for the tie, Jeff Kent popped up, Gonzalez was walked and Martin surprised center fielder Mike Cameron with a drive that carried over his head and off the tip of his glove. It was Hoffman's second consecutive blown save, the first time that's happened since 2000. That stopped the Dodgers' losing streak at four and made a winner of reliever Rudy Seanez, which was a fitting end for him, because as a Padres pitcher last year he served up Garciaparra's 10th-inning walk-off shot and keeps getting reminded of it with every replay. Garciaparra's 4-for-4 night raised his average to .326, he has 19 RBIs in 23 games and is 9-for-13 with runners in scoring position. "Don't just focus on the ninth inning," Garciaparra said. "There were plays all through the game by everybody." Indeed, as Garciaparra pointed out, you can start with right fielder Andre Ethier, who made two diving catches, the second off the bat of Kevin Kouzmanoff with two out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth inning. "That catch was the ballgame," said manager Grady Little. "I got a good jump and anticipated the play," said Ethier, who injured his shoulder last year making a similar diving catch. "I said in the spring I wouldn't dive for one, but when the season starts, the killer instinct takes over and you let loose a little more. Sometimes you've just got to make the play." The game started as a pitcher's duel with Mark Hendrickson again delivering a clutch effort subbing for Jason Schmidt. Dueling on even terms with Clay Hensley, Hendrickson allowed only one run on two hits but running his pitch count up to force his removal after five innings and 85 pitches. "I understood coming out," said Hendrickson. "My arm felt good and my legs are getting in shape. I felt a lot stronger than the game in Colorado." Chad Billingsley was next, and he struggled again, charged with three runs in his first inning but striking out four of the last five batters he faced in a Jekyll-and-Hyde performance. Billingsley, not making a smooth transition from starter to long reliever, has been scored upon in five of his eight appearances, including his last three. "He was a little rusty," Little said, referring to Billingsley's four days off. "It was a different man the second inning, the guy we're looking to see." Seanez wobbled in the eighth, rescued by Ethier's catch, and Takashi Saito nearly duplicated Hoffman's blown save when he allowed a solo home run to former Dodgers outfielder Jose Cruz Jr. with two out in the ninth then hit Brian Giles in the knee with a breaking ball, putting the tying run on base. But he got Gonzalez to fly to center for his seventh save of April, two shy of Eric Gagne's club record. Along with snapping the losing streak, Garciaparra was impressed by whom the Dodgers beat and how they beat him. "It would have been easy for us to put our head down," he said. "Here we've got a losing streak and we see him coming in and we lost another. Instead, we fought back and that's what makes me most proud of what we did, not just because we did it against the greatest."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.