05/07/09 2:54 AM ET
Dodgers set modern record for home start
Seven-run outburst in sixth leads way to 13-0 mark in LA
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
Yet the most notable piece of clothing after the Dodgers beat the last-place Nationals, 10-3, was the cap of manager Joe Torre, now en route to Cooperstown as a memento of a 13th home win to open a season.
Never mind that the actual Major League record for such achievements is 21, set in 1880 by the Chicago White Stockings. It had been so widely reported that the Dodgers were tied with the 1911 Detroit Tigers for the modern-day record that a celebration apparently was anticipated, with the ordered postgame meal being sizzling prime steaks catered by Ruth's Chris, served on white tablecloths in the clubhouse food room.
"I'm glad we got it, only because it becomes a distraction and you get to the point where it's all you're shooting for," Torre said. "Then maybe you have a letdown even if you don't realize it. Hopefully, this is a stepping-stone on the way to something more important."
The Dodgers ran their overall win streak to seven, have won eight of the past nine and are 19-5 since a 2-3 start. They lead the National League West by 6 1/2 games, their largest lead since 2004. This one was the kind of victory the Dodgers have been grinding out this year, a 2-1 game blown open with a seven-run sixth inning with contributions up and down the lineup.
"We just kept coming at them all night," Torre said. "It was a little touch-and-go for a while."
Starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw made so many pitches (99) he was gone after five innings, just long enough to qualify for his first victory of the year. James McDonald made his first relief appearance since losing his starting job to Jeff Weaver and pitched a perfect inning, looking as he did last October. Left-hander Brent Leach made his Major League debut with a scoreless ninth inning and received a shaving-cream pie in the face from fellow lefty Will Ohman.
Offensively, Rafael Furcal finally looked like the leadoff hitter he was before back surgery, with three hits and three runs scored. Russell Martin, who came into the game hitting .222, also had three hits. The first six hitters in the lineup had RBIs and the game became a blowout with a seven-run sixth inning that included a two-run double by self-proclaimed "double maniac" Manny Ramirez and a two-run single by James Loney.
"It's the consistency of our offense, pitching and defense," Martin said. "We haven't made many mistakes. We're not helping the other team out at all. We're bringing the game to the other team."
Torre, who has tried to deflect the importance of the streak, said he was just glad the Dodgers didn't take the Nationals for granted.
"The only thing you're uneasy about was everybody's assuming they're a pushover because they haven't got a good record [7-18], but last year on the road trip, they swept us in Washington," Torre said. "They're offensive-minded with guys who can hit home runs. In order for us to win, we have to pitch. It wasn't pretty, I'm just glad Kershaw got outs when he did."
Kershaw's night started with a 31-pitch first inning that included loading the bases and striking out the side. He had five strikeouts by the second inning, none after. He's allowed just two runs in 19 innings at home (0.95 ERA), compared to 16 runs in 14 innings on the road (10.29).
"We're not going 81-0 at home," predicted Kershaw. "Sooner or later, it's going to happen. I don't think anybody really cares about the streak. We just want to build as big a lead as possible, especially with the other teams in our division scuffling."
Torre was able to use the hefty lead to get work for McDonald and Leach, the former trying to bounce back, the latter looking to make his debut.
"I made a slight adjustment and went back to the way I used to be," said McDonald, who lost his starting job because of an 8.16 ERA. "I just can't be so nitpicky. I have to be aggressive with the hitters and remember not to be afraid of contact, don't nibble. I just need that mindframe, the attack the hitters. I got that aggressiveness back to challenge guys. Before, I would catch myself thinking negatively before I was even on the mound. I have to go out and feel confident."
Leach finally got in a game after sitting since Saturday.
"Just count your blessings that you're here," he said. "Remember it's the same 60 feet, six inches you've been pitching all along."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.