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05/04/08 1:29 AM ET
Loney hits 'em a mile high
First baseman collects six RBIs as LA wins eighth straight
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
DENVER -- When did James Loney start thinking about making a run at his record-setting nine-RBI outburst at Coors Field? Was it when he doubled in three runs in the first inning Saturday night? Was it when he added a three-run homer in the fifth inning? Or when he came up with the bases loaded in the eighth inning? "When I got here in Colorado," said Loney, who settled for six RBIs as the Dodgers, after blowing a six-run lead, still extended their win streak to eight with a 12-7 victory over the Rockies. Loney grounded out in the third inning and struck out in that last at-bat, after being robbed of another RBI in the sixth inning by center fielder Willy Taveras' diving catch. Nonetheless, he triggered flashbacks to that amazing game on Sept. 28, 2006, when he homered twice and drove in nine to set a single-game National League rookie record for RBIs and tie Gil Hodges' franchise mark. Things have changed for Loney. Back then, he was a lineup substitute for the injured Nomar Garciaparra. Now he's the everyday first baseman. He also had been a slumping first baseman coming into this game, having gone only 1-for-14 on the trip. He even went 0-for-4 Friday night when the Dodgers scored 11 runs, but the way Loney has owned the Rockies, there's no way that could have continued. Six of his 22 career home runs and 29 of his 110 RBIs have come against Colorado. "Guys get on base for me, I guess," he said. In this game, that was a good thing, because the Dodgers were able to win a game in which their six-run lead and their starting pitcher, Esteban Loaiza, were gone before the third inning was over. The offense will get most of the attention, but the Dodgers couldn't have won this game if not for their bullpen, which has allowed three earned runs over the last 34 2/3 innings. Loaiza was charged with five runs in 2 1/3 innings. The Dodgers won't need a fifth starter again until May 17 and by that time, it could be Clayton Kershaw, for all the anticipation surrounding that 20-year-old. On this night, it was another touted left-hander who bailed out the Dodgers. Hong-Chih Kuo's first pitch was a hanging breaking ball that Brad Hawpe turned into a game-tying two-run homer, but Kuo stopped the damage after that, striking out five in 3 2/3 innings. "A huge three-plus," said manager Joe Torre. "He brought stability back. To hold it there was huge." Kuo said Loney made his job easier by putting the Dodgers back in front, 9-6, with his fifth-inning homer that chased Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa. The Dodgers added three runs in the sixth with some aggressive baserunning. Rafael Furcal, Juan Pierre and Matt Kemp were the table setters, combining for seven hits, seven runs and four stolen bases against the Rockies, the defending National League champions who have lost seven of their last eight and have fallen 10 games behind West-leading Arizona. Meanwhile, with Joe Beimel (four appearances in five days) off-limits, Torre nursed Scott Proctor, Jonathan Broxton and Takashi Saito through the final three innings to preserve the win. Broxton's performance was key and especially noteworthy considering he had been out the previous five days with a strained side muscle. He extinguished a two-out, two-on jam inherited from Proctor with a three-pitch strikeout of Jeff Baker (two fastballs at 96 mph), then went 1-2-3 in the eighth. "I wanted to put a stop to it and he did it in a hurry," said Torre. "If that was a test, he passed." On came Saito with a five-run lead, which doesn't qualify for a save situation by the statistic's technical definition, but it does if you're managing a game in Coors Field. Saito, whose inconsistency this year has been cause for alarm, made it exciting. Andruw Jones was unable to make a diving catch of Clint Barmes' double leading off the ninth and Matt Holliday, who homered off Loaiza, worked a walk. Todd Helton sent Pierre against the left-field fence for the first out that nearly popped out of Pierre's glove. Garrett Atkins sent Kemp against the right-field fence for the second out and Hawpe ended the game with a grounder to short. "It's never easy in this ballpark," said Torre, a thoroughbred owner whose club has won six of its last seven games played on Kentucky Derby Saturday.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.