04/25/09 2:50 AM ET
Resourceful Dodgers scratch out win
Pair of late rallies leads to victory in wild affair with Rox
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
They stranded 11 runners. They let two leads get away, got only five innings from their starting pitcher and issued eight walks to opposing batters.
That they were 6-5 winners Friday night anyway shows that this Dodgers team is more versatile, and possibly more determined, than other recent versions.
It also shows they are back in the friendly confines of the NL West, against which they've won 11 of 14, after losing two of three in Houston, and where the Rockies have lost six of their last seven and all four against the Dodgers.
The game was in doubt until the last pitch by closer Jonathan Broxton who, despite making 30 pitches in a five-out save Thursday night in Houston, was able to overcome an Orlando Hudson error in the ninth inning for a 22-pitch save, his sixth. Former closer Takashi Saito didn't get his sixth save last year until May 14.
Broxton struck out the last two batters, Seth Smith and Chris Iannetta, with the tying and winning runs on base, clocking triple digits for the second consecutive night.
"He's like a video game," said pitching coach Rick Honeycutt.
The Dodgers also have a bench that includes professionals Brad Ausmus and Mark Loretta. Ausmus started behind the plate for Russell Martin, doubled and scored a tie-breaking run on Loretta's RBI single in the eighth, then in the ninth singled home James Loney, who had doubled off Manny Corpas, with the game-winner.
The Dodgers have starter Eric Stults, who kept the Rockies in the park and his team in the game. In his three starts since he took over for the injured Hiroki Kuroda, the Dodgers haven't lost. Manager Joe Torre described Stults' start as "gritty," which equally summed up the win and his club in general.
"Right now," said Torre, "we're a good team. And we're not whole yet in the pitching staff. As far as battling for it, we're there right now. We need to hold onto it. A lot of teams would be frustrated not scoring with the bases loaded and no outs. We just kept coming and that makes a difference."
The Dodgers led 2-0 and 5-3 and trailed 3-2. Four of their first five batters reached base at least three times each.
Possibly the most important performance of the game for the Dodgers was that of reliever Ronald Belisario. Having never pitched higher than Double-A until this year, Belisario suddenly is being asked to take over important innings for the injured Cory Wade.
Belisario rebounded from back-to-back ineffective outings in Houston with two scoreless innings and was in position for the win after the Dodgers took the lead in the eighth, only for Clint Barmes to slug a two-run pinch-homer off Hong-Chih Kuo in the bottom of the eighth to tie the game again at 5.
From the box score, Kuo's first appearance in five days looks like a red flag -- one inning, a two-run homer, a hit batter and wild pitch. Kuo has been off for nearly a week with either a stiff neck, poor mechanics or that worrisome left elbow.
Nonetheless, his fastballs were clocked at 95 mph and he received endorsements from all the pertinent observers.
"He threw the ball really well," said Torre, who has been so reluctant to use Kuo that he's called on Broxton for multiple-inning saves twice in the past week. "That's as good as he's been this year. I know the result wasn't good, but that was his best fastball."
Said Ausmus: "Kuo had great stuff, he really did. It kind of befuddles you, their scoring two runs. If he pitches like that all year, we'll be in great shape in the eighth inning."
Trying to stay away from Broxton, with the game tied Torre planned on having Kuo also pitch the ninth inning until Ausmus' two-out single put the Dodgers back in front, with Ausmus out trying for second base.
The Dodgers went into stall mode as Broxton quickly loosened in the bullpen. Kuo took his eight warm-up tosses, then Torre brought in Broxton, who twice hit 100 mph in the final at-bat to Iannetta, who fouled off seven pitches.
"You can't throw 100 past somebody?" teased reliever Will Ohman.
Ultimately, Broxton ended the game with Iannetta waving at a slider in the dirt.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.