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DODGERS 7, CHICAGO 2

Russell Martin's grand slam lifts Dodgers

Catcher makes Cubs pay for pitching to him.

August 21, 2009|DYLAN HERNANDEZ | ON THE DODGERS

The crowd remained standing. Russell Martin ran up the stairs of the dugout and raised his helmet.

In a season of countless lows, Martin had one of his few highs, belting a grand slam over the left-field wall that broke a sixth-inning stalemate and sent the Dodgers to a 7-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Thursday night at Dodger Stadium.

The home run, which came after an intentional walk to James Loney, was only the fourth for Martin and the curtain call his first.

The timing was perfect.

The victory let the Dodgers preserve their 3 1/2 -game lead in the National League West over the fast-charging Colorado Rockies.

"I haven't trotted around the bases too often this year," Martin said. "It was nice just to get a breather."

For the Cubs, Martin's four-run blow against reliever Angel Guzman prolonged their free fall out of contention.

The Cubs, who were tied for first place Aug. 6, dropped seven games back of the NL Central-leading St. Louis Cardinals. The loss was the Cubs' 10th in their last 14 games.

Martin gained a measure of redemption on this night, as his throwing error the previous night led to the deciding run of a 3-2 defeat to St. Louis.

Attempting to prevent Albert Pujols from stealing second base in the ninth inning, Martin threw the ball into center field. Pujols moved to third and scored on a sacrifice fly by Matt Holliday.

"Salvage," Martin said. "That's the only word that comes to mind."

Martin homered only one other time at Dodger Stadium, and that was in a loss to Florida on July 26.

"Russell needed that," Manager Joe Torre said. "It gave Russell a little something to build on, hopefully."

On Thursday, the two-time All-Star scored two runs, drew a walk and increased his modest season average by a point to .262.

Manny Ramirez, who was one for 10 in his previous three games, recovered with a three-for-four night that included a double and two runs. But what earned him a standing ovation was a sprinting catch he made in foul territory in the ninth inning.

Jeff Weaver, who replaced sidelined Hiroki Kuroda in the rotation, held the Cubs to two runs and five hits over 5 1/3 3 innings. Weaver gave up a solo home run to Kosuke Fukudome in the second inning and a run-scoring single to Aramis Ramirez in the third.

Ronald Belisario, Ramon Troncoso and Guillermo Mota combined to throw 3 2/3 innings of scoreless relief, the last two by Mota.

But until Martin broke open the game, the contest looked as if it were heading for another down-to-the-wire finish for the Dodgers, whose previous three losses were by one run each.

The Dodgers took a 1-0 lead in the first inning, which Rafael Furcal led off with a single to right. Furcal dashed to second base on a misfired pickoff attempt by Cubs starter Tom Gorzelanny, moved to third on a single by Matt Kemp and scored on a force out by Andre Ethier. The Dodgers reclaimed the lead at 2-1 in the bottom of the second, when Furcal's single to center drove in Martin.

Martin said he didn't know the ball he hit in the sixth inning would leave the yard when he hit it.

"I haven't been driving the ball too much, so I didn't know how to gauge it," he said.

As Martin spoke, a reminder of the kind of season he has had was taped next to the name plate of his locker: a letter from the league office informing him that he was being fined $1,000 for his part in a bench-clearing incident in San Francisco last week.

"It's nice," Martin said. "I like it."

--

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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