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Dodgers getting hang of winning

After a frustrating day, Kemp's three-run homer is the big blow in a 7-3 victory over the Cubs.

June 08, 2008|Dylan Hernandez | Times Staff Writer

That the Dodgers could win a four-game series over the team with the best record in the National League with a victory today at Dodger Stadium has catcher Russell Martin convinced that they're doing something right, that lessons are being learned, that a corner is about to be turned.

"We're making progress," Martin said. "It seems like we're getting better a little every day."

Saturday, the Dodgers claimed the kind of 7-3 victory that has become increasingly rare for the offense-starved team, beating the Chicago Cubs for the second day in a row by making up two deficits and scoring five runs in a seventh inning that was capped by a three-run home run by Matt Kemp.

"I think we're starting to get a little fire under us," Kemp said.

But Manager Joe Torre wasn't ready to declare that the fight that his players showed on this day or in the series opener Thursday, when they erased a four-run deficit only to fall 5-4, was something that had become permanently etched in their baseball DNA.

"I've seen some good signs," was about as far out as he would venture.

What Torre did say was that the message that he and his coaches started pounding into the players' skulls in Vero Beach was being absorbed, however slowly.

"We talked from spring training on about the grinder mentality and what we need to do if we expect to go out there and be in contention in September," Torre said. "There are going to be some games that you're not going to be able to explain, there are going to be some things you do wrong, but you can't let that keep you from competing.

"Winning is not easy. Wanting it isn't enough. We're going to have to pay the price."

Torre cited Kemp as an example of someone who put this into practice. Kemp was two for 16 in his previous four games and struck out against Cubs ace Carlos Zambrano in his first two at-bats Saturday. He pounded the outfield grass in frustration when he failed to catch a blooper by Derrek Lee on a diving play in shallow right-center in the sixth but took Zambrano deep over the center-field wall an inning later.

"I don't dwell on things like I have in the past," Kemp said. "I don't take it into my next at-bat."

Said Torre: "He just dug in today, basically, and realized that being frustrated doesn't get you anywhere. What he came back from, that's certainly a growing-up situation."

Of course, none of this would've happened if Derek Lowe hadn't kept the Dodgers in the game. Lowe (4-5) limited the NL's highest-scoring team to three runs and six hits over seven innings.

A solo home run by Alfonso Soriano in the sixth put the Dodgers in a 2-0 hole, but Martin responded in the bottom of the inning with a two-run blast that tied the score.

The Cubs broke the stalemate on a seventh-inning single by Zambrano that drove in Mike Fontenot, but, again, the Dodgers had a response in the same inning.

An infield single by Andre Ethier tied it, as the throw to first by third baseman Aramis Ramirez missed its intended target and allowed Juan Pierre to score from second. Ethier scored on a two-out single by Martin to give the Dodgers their first lead of the game, , James Loney singled and Kemp homered.

"What helped us coming into this series was that we played three tough games against them in Chicago," Torre said, referring to the Cubs' recent three-game sweep of the Dodgers. "Even though we didn't win any of those games and it was very frustrating for us, the fact of the matter is that we could've won those games. I think coming into this series, we felt we could play with them."

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dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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