05/31/08 12:13 AM ET
Great eighth carries Dodgers over Mets
Park shines in relief after Kershaw struggles in second start
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
Kershaw pitched like a 20-year-old rookie, not a phenom. It was the man sent to the bullpen by Kershaw's arrival, the veteran Chan Ho Park, who was the winning pitcher in a fitting turning of the tables.
Park cleaned up Kershaw's mess and kept the game close for 3 1/3 innings until the Dodgers' offense unleashed a rare five-run rally in the eighth inning for a 9-5 win after four straight losses. The Dodgers are 1-4 on this road trip but have picked up a game on Arizona and trail by only 2 1/2 games.
Russell Martin had three RBIs and four of the Dodgers' dozen hits, including his fourth homer, an RBI double and two singles. He had the fifth consecutive hit in the winning rally, which started with Juan Pierre's disputed infield single; a clutch, game-tying RBI double by Matt Kemp; and Jeff Kent's equally clutch tie-breaking single.
Six Dodgers drove in runs, and the club was a stunning 6-for-9 with runners in scoring position, tagging the loss on Mets reliever Aaron Heilman, who didn't retire any of the four batters he faced in the eighth.
Park was the stark contrast, not only to Heilman but to Kershaw. Once upon a time, Park was a 20-year-old phenom in the Major Leagues, too. He went on to become an All-Star and Opening Day starter for the Dodgers before signing a $65 million free agent contract with Texas, then he was plagued by injuries and nearly died from an intestinal disorder that required emergency surgery and robbed him of his strength for two years.
Park's only Major League appearance last year was for the Mets, not against them. He took the loss and was banished to the Minor Leagues, the victim of a youth movement, and eventually asked for and was granted his release, sending him on a circuitous route back to his original Dodgers.
He's resurrected his career as a long reliever, and adjusted to the new role by learning how to warm up quicker than he did as a starter. On Friday night he was quick enough to bail Kershaw out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth inning after Kershaw was unable to protect a 3-0 first-inning lead.
"I usually start an inning. I'm glad they trust me to put me in at the end of an inning," said Park.
"You don't mind him in key situations, he's had that experience," said manager Joe Torre, who really tempted fate in the Mets' seventh inning when, with the score tied after David Wright's one-out double, he had Park intentionally walk Carlos Beltran to face Fernando Tatis.
Chan Ho Park vs. Fernando Tatis. Remember that matchup? It was April 23, 1999, when Tatis did the unthinkable, slugging two grand slams off Park -- in the same inning.
"That's not going to happen again in my life," Park vowed on Friday night.
No, but Tatis did single to load the bases. Ramon Castro grounded out off Park's leg to score Wright, briefly giving the Mets a 5-4 lead, but Park struck out Nick Evans to keep the damage to a minimum.
Torre played professor to Kershaw, who looked as though he was making his second Major League start. He was wild enough to walk four, started 12 of 20 batters with a first-pitch ball and rarely threw a changeup, because he was seemingly always behind in counts. He was charged with four runs in 3 2/3 innings.
Kershaw insisted it was the location of his pitches -- not where he was pitching -- that was his problem.
"The crowd, the stadium, they didn't affect me," Kershaw said. "It doesn't matter where you throw. If you don't have the stuff, you won't be successful. I learned a lot today about what to do when you struggle. Instead of trying too hard, I have to back off a little."
Torre said that Kershaw clearly was overthrowing.
"Maybe because it was New York for the first time," Torre said. "He wasn't as smooth as the first time. He overthrew the fastball."
When Torre took Kershaw out of the game, he told him, "It's learning. You just spent another day in the classroom."
Torre was pleased with the results of another juggled lineup. He moved Kent up to third, put Loney in the cleanup spot and moved Kemp up to No. 2.
"Matt's been fighting it. That was a huge hit for us," said Torre. "He tied the game and put himself in scoring position. He's been frustrated, you can see it in him coming back to the dugout."
Kemp was 3-for-23 with nine strikeouts when he sliced the double to right-center that scored Pierre from first base. Pierre had led off the inning with a slow bouncer to shortstop Jose Reyes, whose throw to first was ruled late by umpire Tim Welke, although Pierre appeared out on the replay.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.