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Pitching to Willingham was an open question

DODGERS REPORT

May 11, 2007|Kevin Baxter | Times Staff Writer

MIAMI — With first base open and the National League's 10th-leading run producer at the plate, Dodgers Manager Grady Little said that yes, he considered having Derek Lowe walk Josh Willingham in the ninth inning Thursday.

"The game dictated to do that," he said. "But with that pitcher on the mound, he makes a living preying on hitters' aggressiveness. That's what he was trying to do right there.

"He just misfired on one pitch. And that was it."

So instead of a walk, the Marlins got a walk-off win -- for the second time in three days. On Tuesday, Little elected to pitch to Miguel Cabrera with two on in the ninth inning of a tie game and Cabrera singled home the winning run.

"That was the first thought that went through my head," Willingham said of an intentional walk. "Then I saw Grady go to the mound and I said, 'They're going to try to pitch to me.' "

Adding intrigue to the situation: When Willingham came to the plate with first base open, the on-deck hitter was Aaron Boone -- the same Aaron Boone who, in Game 7 of the 2003 American League championship series, led off the bottom of the 11th inning with a home run that gave the New York Yankees a 6-5 victory over Boston. That turned out to be Little's last game as manager of the Red Sox, who did not renew his contract.

However, the decision to pitch to Willingham on Thursday was Lowe's call, the pitcher said afterward.

"What do you want me to say?" he asked reporters. "You saw the game. I threw it right down the middle and he hit it for a home run."

Lowe started the ninth by walking Hanley Ramirez before Dan Uggla reached base when Wilson Betemit booted his soft grounder. Cabrera then grounded out, advancing the runners and bringing Willingham to bat.

One pitch later the game was over.

And so was a frustrating trip for the Dodgers pitching staff, which has a 2.78 earned-run average in May -- fourth-best in baseball -- yet is 5-4 over that span.

Lowe, meanwhile, is 1-1 in his last two starts despite going more than 15 innings without giving up an earned run before Willingham's homer.

*

The Dodgers said they have no plans to cancel tonight's postgame fireworks show despite the wildfires that have blackened much of nearby Griffith Park.

This week's fires in Southern California have kept firefighters on high alert -- especially in dry hillside areas such as Echo Park and Chavez Ravine. But after receiving approval from the fire department, the team said it saw no reason not to go forward with tonight's show.

"Our fireworks displays are conducted by professionals and in concert with the top Los Angeles Fire Department officials, who are on-site during the displays," Howard Sunkin, the Dodgers' vice president for public affairs, said in a release.

The team said it will continue to consult with the LAFD throughout the day in case weather conditions change.

*

Jason Schmidt's rehabilitation from shoulder bursitis continued to progress with the right-hander throwing 20 pitches off a mound for the first time since going on the disabled list last month. ... Dodgers minor leaguer Marlon Arias, a 22-year-old left-hander from the Dominican Republic, pitched a no-hitter Wednesday for Class-A Inland Empire, walking two and striking out 10 in a 2-0 win over Bakersfield.

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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