05/29/09 12:35 AM ET
LA escapes with fourth straight win
Troncoso notches save with 'pen depleted; Wolf dominant
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
Thursday night, there were three.
Unavailable were closer Jonathan Broxton, setup man Ronald Belisario and forgotten man Will Ohman.
But they did have Randy Wolf, Ramon Troncoso, airtight defense and just enough offense to edge the Cubs, 2-1, in their first meeting since the Dodgers' playoff series sweep of Chicago last year. The Dodgers are a season-high 19 games above .500, and their nine-game division lead at this point in the season is their largest since 1977.
Wolf took a shutout into the bottom of the eighth inning, and when Bobby Scales ruined it with a pinch-homer on a 3-2 pitch leading off the frame, Troncoso came on knowing that the final six outs were up to him.
The day before, Broxton had tossed 38 pitches, Belisario had pitched two innings and Ohman had again been ineffective, a pattern that somehow landed him on the disabled list after Thursday night's game. Cory Wade was technically available, but a 5.74 ERA has bumped him from these situations.
Troncoso then delivered one of the weirder two-inning saves you'll see, allowing five baserunners, but also striking out three. The Dodgers' fourth double play bailed him out of a jam in the eighth, and he fanned Scales and Jake Fox with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth for his third career save. He's allowed only one run in 17 innings on the road this year.
"Troncoso was amazing," said Torre. "That high-wire act -- and he wiggled himself off. It was terrific. He's proven to me. I'm not worried about him anymore. That was really huge. I didn't want to use him in that situation but had to send him in in the eighth. I didn't have anybody to pitch."
Troncoso, who lowered his ERA to 1.95, came on after the only sour pitch of the 109 that Wolf threw. Until Scales' homer, Wolf had a masterpiece going. He struck out seven and walked only one, scattering six hits but allowing only one runner as far as second base.
"As far as location and my stuff, this was probably my best this year," said Wolf, who had the tough luck of getting no-decisions in seven of his previous eight starts.
Three of the double plays came behind Wolf.
"Our defense has been terrific," said Torre. "That's been the big difference this year."
Wolf didn't have many runs to work with, as the Dodgers went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. But what he had came early off Cubs starter Randy Wells and were the result of speed at the top of a revamped batting order that saw Casey Blake batting fifth, followed by Andre Ethier, Russell Martin and Matt Kemp.
Rafael Furcal, who had missed the previous four games with a strain in his left buttock, returned to the lineup batting second, and he contributed to both runs.
In the first inning, Juan Pierre singled, stole second, then scored from second on Furcal's slap bunt that rolled into left field and couldn't have been better placed if he had thrown it there.
"It was a squeeze bunt from second," Furcal said with a laugh.
The post-Manny Pierre numbers just keep growing. The Dodgers are 13-7 since Manny Ramirez was suspended, and Pierre has scored 20 runs while hitting .425.
Furcal led off the third inning with a walk, took advantage of the thick Wrigley Field grass by racing to third on James Loney's soft single through the hole at shortstop and scored on Blake's groundout.
"That was the inning," said Torre. "Otherwise, the ground ball is a double play. It turned out to be a run for us, the winning run. Something we preached in Spring Training and worked on, the baserunning."
Torre told Furcal he would not play Friday's day game following the Thursday night game, but it was preventative. Furcal said he wanted to play. That also pleased Torre, because it verified his health.
"He looked a lot more calm at the plate," Torre said of Furcal. "His body has been really moving around. Tonight he was a lot softer. A lot of pitches he'd been swinging at he took for the walk today."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.