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Dodgers win battle of the ages

Martin's homer off Johnson gets L.A. off to a good start in a 9-5 victory over Arizona. Kemp and Loney also contribute as team moves into a tie for first.

June 29, 2007|Ben Bolch | Times Staff Writer

PHOENIX — The kids are all right.

The Dodgers' youngsters sparkled on a day that 43-year-old Randy Johnson sputtered, providing plenty of promise for a team that finds itself tied with San Diego atop the National League West heading into a series with the Padres beginning tonight at Dodger Stadium.

Russell Martin, Matt Kemp and James Loney led the charge during the Dodgers' 9-5 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday at Chase Field.

Martin hit a mammoth homer off Johnson and finished a triple short of hitting for the cycle. Kemp had two hits and is hitting .421. And Loney went one for four with a run-scoring single to actually lower his average to .476.

"Offensively and defensively, we're awfully proud of them and hope they can just keep it up," Dodgers Manager Grady Little said. "This is a long, grinding season and they've got to learn that part of it too."

Rookie third baseman Tony Abreu also chipped in with a single, a run batted in and a dazzling defensive play for the Dodgers, who won three of four games against Arizona.

Martin got things rolling for the Dodgers in the first inning when, on an 0-and-2 pitch, he crushed a 434-foot homer to center off Johnson (4-3), who lasted only three middling innings in his first start since returning from a herniated disk.

"I was getting kind of worried falling back 0-2," Martin said. "I was just trying to see a couple of pitches at first and he threw two strikes in a row and I had no choice but to swing the bat.

"It was a fastball up a little bit in the zone, and I just took a good swing at it."

Martin added a double in the fourth inning and a single in the sixth for the Dodgers, who piled up 16 hits and opened a 9-1 lead in the seventh before the Diamondbacks rallied to force Takashi Saito into the game in the ninth. The closer escaped a two-on, one out jam to record his 22nd save.

Randy Wolf (9-6) pitched six solid innings, giving up four hits and three runs, but struggled with his command. He issued a season-high six walks and was replaced by Brett Tomko in the seventh after walking consecutive batters to load the bases.

"Obviously, six walks is not ideal, but it was getting more toward where I need to be," Wolf said. "I still have times where I have little lapses, but it's something I just need to keep working on and keep on making adjustments. It's going in a better direction."

Things also keep progressing for Martin, who was virtually assured of his first All-Star appearance in fan voting that ended Thursday. Martin led the New York Mets' Paul Lo Duca by more than 200,000 votes, though the final tally won't be released until Sunday.

"Hopefully it will stay that way and I'm not going to have like 400,000 people vote for Lo Duca in one night," Martin said.

Little said there's no doubt that Martin, hitting .299 with nine homers and 51 runs batted in, has solidified himself as an elite catcher in only his second major league season.

"I just feel bad for people who don't get a chance to watch him as much as we do," Little said.

Loney has put up eye-popping numbers since his promotion from triple-A Las Vegas this month.

"It's really amazing what Loney has done since he's come up," Wolf said. "I think he's been a really big spark to our offense because when he's up there, it almost feels like he's going to have a good at-bat every time, at least hit the ball on the barrel. To have a guy like that, it does kind of impact the lineup."

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ben.bolch@latimes.com

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