07/19/08 3:26 AM ET
Loney lifts Dodgers into first-place tie
Solo blast in 11th inning is one of four Los Angeles home runs
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
Happy 68th birthday, Joe Torre.
After two homers by Nomar Garciaparra and one from Matt Kemp keyed a comeback, a solo home run by James Loney leading off the 11th inning gave the Dodgers an 8-7 win over -- and into a tie for first place with -- the Arizona Diamondbacks in the opener of their showdown series.
"You never know what to expect with four days off, but we worked out early in the day and came out swinging the bats," said Torre, referring to the All-Star break and a Friday workout. "Winning a game like this was impressive after losing a couple at home in extra innings that took the wind out of our sails."
Broxton was the eighth pitcher used by Torre, picking up his first save of the season as the primary replacement for injured closer Takashi Saito.
If the Dodgers are willing to overlook the horrible two-inning start from Hiroki Kuroda, who couldn't protect a 3-0 first-inning lead, and a sickly performance by Andruw Jones, who struck out twice and committed an error before leaving with the flu, it was a pretty nice way to come out of the All-Star break.
"He looked like he was laboring," Torre said of Kuroda.
Kuroda pitched the way he did in San Diego, after which he said there was nothing physically wrong, after which he went on the disabled list. He was asked again Friday night if there was anything physically wrong. He again insisted he's not hurt.
"Physically, it's not a problem," he said. "I just didn't have command of my fastball and the rotation of my breaking balls."
The Dodgers presented Kuroda a 3-0 lead, but they soon trailed 6-3. Garciaparra's first multihomer game in six years brought them back into the game and Kemp's 10th homer tied it at 7. Meanwhile, they utilized their greatest weapon and what sets them apart from the Diamondbacks most -- a deep and talented bullpen -- winning a game they probably shouldn't have after getting only two innings from the starting pitcher.
"That means we have no weak link in our bullpen," catcher Russell Martin said. "Some teams have a couple guys and the rest just get by. All of our guys bring it. Our guys are overpowering, and not just the closer or setup guy."
The Dodgers' bullpen, on this night in a key game against the team being chased, was deep enough to withstand the loss of Saito. Deep enough to stop the damage once Kuroda was removed -- seven relievers allowing only one run over nine innings of relief.
There was Jason Johnson, forced into his first game with the Dodgers, allowing one run in three innings and insisting he'll have plenty of bullets to return in four days to make his first start in Denver. There was Brian Falkenborg, extinguishing a threat inherited from Joe Beimel by striking out Mark Reynolds with a fastball that has picked up 5 mph since his first stint with the Dodgers four years ago. There was Hong-Chih Kuo, overpowering while striking out four in two innings.
"He was throwing an invisible ball up there," Martin said of Kuo.
There was Chan Ho Park, having been shifted from the starting rotation to the bullpen because of games like this, contributing one scoreless inning before Cory Wade pitched the 10th and earned his first Major League win when Broxton closed it out with two strikeouts in a perfect 11th.
"We'll see how interchangeable they are, because everybody's role is going to change without Saito," pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said.
Broxton said he approached the 11th inning as if it was the eighth, the one he usually pitches. He said he's learned from talking to and watching Saito, as well as learned about himself as a pitcher. He came into this game with five career saves and 15 blown saves.
"I've got more innings under my belt than a year ago," he said, referring to a one-week stint as the sub for Saito. "I feel I'm the closer, but I'm going to need time off. I can pitch three days in a row, but I've never pitched a fourth. I'll need some days off."
As for Garciaparra, look who's taken over what had been a black hole at shortstop since Rafael Furcal went down 2 1/2 months ago. He slugged a 416-foot two-run homer near the pool on a 3-0 pitch in the third inning and pulled a line drive into the left-field bleachers in the sixth. He's 11-for-31 with three doubles, three homers and 10 RBIs in 11 games since returning from the disabled list July 4, showing the power he possessed in 2006 but that disappeared all of 2007.
"When he gets hot, he gets hot like nobody you've ever seen," Martin said. "Tonight, he looked effortless. He made it look easy."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.