SAN FRANCISCO — Left, right, left.
With no marching orders from Manager Jim Tracy, switch-hitting Dodger third baseman Jose Valentin batted from the left side against one left-handed pitcher and from the right side against another left-hander Wednesday night.
Whatever works. Valentin singled batting left-handed against starter Kirk Rueter, then turned around and hit a three-run home run against Jason Christiansen in the sixth inning, keying a 10-4 victory over the San Francisco Giants in front of 42,433 at SBC Park.
Valentin went back to the left side in the seventh against right-hander Matt Herges and tripled, driving in another run.
"Christiansen throws harder than Rueter, so I went up there right-handed," Valentin said. "It all depends on what a guy throws."
Up. Down. Up.
Valentin had blamed himself for the Dodgers' loss a day earlier when he made an error that gave the Giants the go-ahead run. Tracy again penciled him in the lineup, even though Rueter was pitching and Valentin is considered a much better hitter against right-handers.
"The good thing about this game is you get a new chance every day," Valentin said. "It was a new day."
Tracy said he did not know which batter's box Valentin intended to step into even though the pregame notes handed out by the Dodger publicity director indicated he would bat left-handed against Rueter.
There were no thoughts of playing someone else at third base.
"[Rueter] is a left-hander who won't overwhelm you with his fastball," Tracy said.
There were other surprises. The Dodger defense, so shaky on opening day, was strong when it mattered -- early in the game before the offense broke it open.
Valentin made another error, but the Dodgers held a nine-run lead at the time. More important was a nifty backhand play he made with a runner on second base and two out in the third inning when the lead was only 2-0.
In the second inning, right fielder J.D. Drew handled a carom off the wall and threw out J.T. Snow trying to stretch the hit into a double. And second baseman Jeff Kent smothered Michael Tucker's sharp grounder with a runner on second to end the fifth.
Benefiting from the stellar glove work was starter Odalis Perez, who made it through five innings despite exceeding the 75-pitch limit imposed by Tracy. Perez, who made 86 pitches, was sidelined for several weeks during spring training because of biceps tendinitis caused by weightlifting.
"I wasn't counting my pitches," Perez said. "I was just trying to locate the ball. The big thing was the plays made behind me. Everybody says our defense isn't good but you saw different tonight."
Catcher Jason Phillips gave the Dodgers a two-run lead in the second inning, driving in Kent and Olmedo Saenz with a double. Rueter gave way to Tyler Walker in the sixth and the Dodgers pounded him for four hits in a row.
Christiansen replaced Walker with two runners aboard, and the first batter he faced was Valentin, who homered.
"The middle innings just kind of got out of hand," Giant catcher Mike Matheny said.
The Dodgers added three runs in the seventh for a 10-1 lead, and they came in handy when the Giants rallied for three runs in the ninth against Yhency Brazoban, who is serving as closer until Eric Gagne comes off the disabled list.
Brazoban surrendered a two-run home run to Matheny before being lifted with one out. Buddy Carlyle, in his Dodger debut, retired Michael Tucker and Edgardo Alfonzo.