More than the two home runs the Dodgers hit Friday night, more than the six shutout innings tossed by Chan Ho Park and more than the 2 1/2 games that separate them from first-place Arizona in the National League West, Russell Martin wanted to talk about a couple of fifth-inning at-bats in a 6-0 victory over the Angels.
The first was a sacrifice fly by Jeff Kent that drove in Matt Kemp, the second a single by James Loney that drove in Martin.
"We were better with our situational hitting," Martin said. "If we start playing like we did tonight, we'll be all right."
As the Dodgers moved closer to first place, the Angels moved closer to second, as they had their lead in the American League West cut to 3 1/2 games on a night when Joe Saunders failed to become the first 12-game winner in the majors. Responsible was something as uncharacteristic by the Angels as the Dodgers hitting with men on base.
The Angels struck out 14 times, seven of them recorded by Park, who held them to four hits. Jonathan Broxton and Takashi Saito combined to strike out the last six Angels hitters.
"That doesn't happen very often," Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said.
For the Dodgers, the victory was only the third in their last 12 games against the Angels, a team that Dodgers Manager Joe Torre said was a blueprint for what he wanted his team to be.
"They don't rely on the home run, even though they have a couple guys that can hit home runs," Torre said. "They rely on contact, moving runners, putting pressure on the defense. We haven't threatened enough to put pressure on the opposition like that."
The Angels began the game tied for 27th place in the majors with 201 extra-base hits and 22nd with 67 home runs. The Dodgers were last in extra-base hits with 194 and tied for last with 51 home runs.
Unlike the Dodgers, the Angels have found ways to overcome. Including Friday, the Angels have been held to five runs or fewer in 28 of their last 35 games, but are 17-11 in those 28 games.
Strength, not speed, got the Dodgers a 1-0 lead in the first inning, when Martin drove a ball into his team's bullpen for his eighth home run.
Then the Dodgers started to use their legs.
The managers from both sides came out of their respective dugouts in the bottom of the third, Scioscia doing so first to argue that Juan Pierre was out at third on a double steal that landed Martin at second. Loney drew a walk to load the bases with two outs, but Andy LaRoche ran into a ball he bunted on a suicide squeeze to end a threat. Torre protested.
Two innings later, the Dodgers exploited a throwing error by shortstop Erick Aybar to add two runs and extend their lead to 3-0. The runs were scored on the at-bats by Kent and Loney that Martin described.
The inning was the last pitched by Saunders (11-4), who ran his pitch count to 92. He was charged with three runs (two earned) and four walks.
Park (3-2) went an inning longer and lowered his earned-run average to 2.52.
He said he hadn't pitched this well in five or six years, crediting "better mechanics, better mentality, better family support, better city, I don't know."
Andre Ethier, who started the game on the bench for the fourth time in six games because of his inability to hit left-handers, went in as a defensive replacement in the seventh and crushed a three-run home run in the bottom of the inning that blew open the game.
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Dodgers vs. Angels
American League rules
Interleague records each season:
*--* Year League W-L 1997 National 117-97 1998 American 114-110 1999 National 135-116 2000 American 136-115 2001 American 132-120 2002 National 129-123 2003 National 137-115 2004 American 126-125 2005 American 136-116 2006 American 154-98 2007 American 137-115 2008 American 135-88 Totals AL, 1,522-1,405 (.524) *--*
Five best and five worst interleague records since Interleague began:
*--* Team W-L (PCT.) 1. N.Y. Yankees 122-85 (.589) 2. Oakland 123-87 (.586) 3. Minnesota 119-89 (.572) 4. Boston 116-93 (.555) 5. Florida 110-91 (.547) 8. Angels 113-97 (.538) 22. Dodgers 89-100 (.471) 26. Cincinnati 75-95 (.441) 27. Tampa Bay 85-109 (.438) 28. San Diego 83-109 (.433) 29. Baltimore 89-120 (.426) 30. Pittsburgh 61-102 (.374) *--*
Interleague games played
at Angel Stadium: Angels:
Times Staff Writer