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07/05/08 1:21 AM ET
Ethier leads Dodgers to 'lucky' win
Los Angeles wins fourth straight with five-run sixth inning
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants blew a three-run lead Friday. The Giants allowed the Dodgers to score five unearned runs in the sixth inning. The Giants lost, 10-7. So why was manager Joe Torre, his Dodgers having just won their fourth straight and about to pull within one-half game of first place, scolding the team in a postgame meeting for the way it played? "Because he knows, and he wants us to know, that with the team we have, we have to play a certain way to win," said Andre Ethier, who homered for the third consecutive game and drove in three runs. "We have to execute offensively, which we did, and we have to make the routine plays, which we didn't always do today." The Dodgers made at least three physical errors and a couple of mental ones. But they also implemented a patient offensive approach at the plate, running up the pitch count on San Francisco starter Jonathan Sanchez, resulting in 20 at-bats with runners in scoring position and six different offensive players driving in runs. Nomar Garciaparra was one of them, checking in with a pair of doubles and two RBIs in his first game after two months on the disabled list. Andruw Jones returned from knee surgery with far different results, going 0-for-5 with four strikeouts. So it was that kind of day, good and bad and ultimately victorious. "It was a sloppy game and we were lucky to win," said Torre. "We made too many mistakes. We were lucky to win, but I'll take it." Torre was particularly annoyed when, in the bottom of the eighth inning and protecting a 9-5 lead, nobody was covering second base to take catcher Russell Martin's perfect throw trying to nail Randy Winn as he stole. Torre had just inserted Angel Berroa for Garciaparra at shortstop and Luis Maza at second base for Jeff Kent, which he plans to do with a late lead to protect their aging bodies. Torre said Maza should have been covering. The miscommunication cost the Dodgers a run. Still, they did more right than wrong. Ethier also had a two-run double, a single and scored twice. He leads the club with 10 homers. "I remember sitting in Spring Training with all four of us [Ethier, Jones, Pierre and Matt Kemp] when we thought we had too many outfielders and now look where we're at," he said. Ethier has four homers in his last eight games, 15 RBIs in his last 18 games and a team-leading .464 slugging percentage. Like Garciaparra, Martin had a pair of doubles. He was second-guessing himself for throwing through on what turned into a delayed double-steal of home by Fred Lewis in the third inning, but was particularly pleased with the 10-run windfall. "We picked up the pitching and that feels good," he said. "They deserve it." Winning starter Derek Lowe (6-8) certainly was deserving of the runs, if not the win. The Dodgers had scored only seven runs in his eight losses, but this time they turned a potential loss into a victory. His first-inning throwing error set up San Francisco's first two runs and he was lifted for a pinch-hitter during the sixth-inning rally. "I wouldn't say it was one of the prettiest wins, but you get into the second half and any win will do," said Lowe, who allowed eight hits in five innings. "They did a good job pretty much diving across the plate expecting every pitch away and I didn't make an adjustment. I'll look into it seriously and pitch differently next time." Hong-Chih Kuo took over for Lowe and was the only pitcher for either team to retire six consecutive batters, three with strikeouts. He has a 1.86 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 48 1/3 innings. "The guy for us who changed the momentum was Kuo," said Torre. "He just shut them down." Jonathan Broxton allowed two runs (one earned) in the eighth, but Rich Aurilia killed what could have been a game-changing rally with a double-play grounder and Andy LaRoche got one run back with a solo homer in the top of the ninth. Takashi Saito pitched the bottom of the ninth for his 15th save.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.