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08/04/10 2:30 AM ET
Victorious Lilly retires 20 straight in debut
By Evan Drellich / MLB.com
LOS ANGELES -- It was crushing to Ted Lilly when the Dodgers traded him 12 years ago, when he was a 22-year-old from Torrance, Calif., and had dreamt daily of pitching at Dodger Stadium. When manager Joe Torre took Lilly out after seven innings and 20 straight batters retired on Tuesday night in his Dodgers debut, that was a easier to handle, even though the game was far from decided. Hong-Chih Kuo worked around a two-out walk in the eighth, Jonathan Broxton worked around a little more trouble in the ninth, and the gamble paid off with a 2-1 win over the Padres, snapping the club's six-game losing streak. A seventh straight loss would've been a season high and would have also put the Dodgers 10 games back in the National League West. They enter the third game of the four-game set on Wednesday down eight. "Obviously, we got a lot of work to do to come back and catch San Diego," Lilly said. "Hopefully we'll get on a little streak here." In the first inning, Lilly didn't even look like the best recent pickup on the field. The second batter he faced was Miguel Tejada, a San Diego Trade Deadline acquisition, and Tejada drilled a homer to left for his eighth of the season and a 1-0 lead. The next batter, Adrian Gonzalez, singled. The following 20 Padres hitters all made outs, straight through the seventh. Lilly allowed two hits, struck out five and walked none. "This is a special night for me, no question about it," Lilly said. "Coming up through the Minor Leagues, this was the goal every day. ... Naturally, I was a little anxious and maybe a little nervous, too. You have to just kind of deal with those feelings and try to settle down, which was challenging. I think I got away with maybe a couple of pitches. I started to get in a little bit of a groove where I was locating my fastball and changeup." Lilly had always pitched pretty well against the Padres in eight previous starts, though he had yet to face them this season. Something looked different to the San Diego bench. "In the past, he relied on that big, loopy curveball and a lot of changeups," said Padres left fielder Scott Hairston, who went 0-for-3. "But today, I hadn't seen that before from him. This is the best I've seen him throw." The Dodgers' offense didn't exactly pull itself up by its bootstraps, but it did catch a break against the pitcher holding opposing offenses to a .195 average, the leader in the National League at the start of the night: Mat Latos. Russell Martin's one-out double into right-center made it past the dive of center fielder Chris Denorfia, plating Matt Kemp and Casey Blake, who had both walked. "Absolutely [it was nice to see it fall in]," Martin said. "It was nice to see it dive and go by him, too. Finally got a break." Martin moved to third on a wild pitch, but the inning ended with a double play and a scary moment. Jamey Carroll flew out to center and Denorfia threw to the plate in time to catch Martin, who did not slide. There was no collision, but Martin took an awkward step off the dirt into the grass and injured his right hip. He remained in the game until the top of the eighth, when Brad Ausmus entered. Martin is to have an MRI on Tuesday. "It was after I touched the plate," Martin said. "It was right where the grass meets the dirt. I kind of, I took a stride, I almost peeked back to look at what the call was, and that's when I hyperextended it." Latos went six innings, allowed four hits, two walks and struck out six. He threw 100 pitches. He was on the ropes in his last inning, with two on and one out for Kemp and James Loney. Latos struck both out. Tuesday was Martin's first multi-RBI game since he hit a three-run homer against the Cubs on July 9. The pitcher he went yard off? Lilly. Martin finished Tuesday 1-for-3. Torre made the decision to pinch-hit for Lilly with two outs and a runner on first in the seventh, not the most probable of scoring opportunities. First Garret Anderson went out to face a right-hander, then was pulled back for Ronnie Belliard when the Padres turned to southpaw Joe Thatcher. The end result was a strikeout swinging, no runs, and the game in the bullpen's hands. And Torre was OK with that, despite a low count of 87 pitches by Lilly. "[If] I don't have Kuo to go to, you may have to rethink it," Torre said. "But Kuo has been pretty much lights-out, so I took a chance on getting another hit, maybe another run." Lilly was OK with the decision as well. He's seen Torre in action before. "I felt good, and I'll tell you guys right now, just to get this out of the way, I'm not going to ever question Joe," Lilly said. "He's been pretty successful." Kuo was spot on besides the walk. Broxton, though, let up a leadoff single after blowing his last save opportunity. A fielder's choice came on a James Loney bobble, followed by an intentional walk, and then a game-ending double play. Showing some jubilance in his third game with Los Angeles, Ryan Theriot had a fist pump and a high-five for shortstop Carroll. He hadn't seen much winning in Chicago this season, and hadn't seen any in Los Angeles. Lilly, though, he'd seen. "He never really got much run support," Theriot said. "But Teddy, shoot, I remember there were three or four games where he was bringing no-hitters into the late, late innings. He's a gamer."
Evan Drellich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.