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Juan Uribe is the star in Dodgers' 7-2 victory over Braves

The third baseman, who batted only .204 during an injury-plagued season last year, has four hits to raise his average to .286. The Dodgers improve to 7-0 at home.

April 23, 2012|By Dylan Hernandez

Maybe Juan Uribe isn't finished.

He certainly looked that way last year, when he hit .204 in his injury-shortened first season with the Dodgers. He didn't change many minds in spring training, when Manager Don Mattingly talked about the possibility of replacing the top-heavy 33-year-old as the starting third baseman.

But 17 games into the 2012 season, Uribe is batting .286.

Uribe had his best game as a Dodger on Monday night, collecting four hits, driving in three runs and scoring two in a series-opening 7-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves at Dodger Stadium.

"I always had faith," Uribe said. "I knew inside I could do this. I always had that faith inside of me. Playing baseball is what I love to do. Playing baseball is what I want to do."

For the Dodgers, this was the rare game in which Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier weren't the heroes. That designation belonged to the players at the bottom of the lineup: Uribe, James Loney andA.J. Ellis.

Loney was two for three with a double, a walk and two runs scored.

Ellis was two for four with two runs batted in.

The trio's combined production resulted in something rare for Uribe: He was cheered by the fans at Dodger Stadium. Loudly.

What remained of the crowd of 26,376 fans was on its feet when Uribe came to the plate for his final at-bat in the eighth inning. With the bases loaded, Uribe flicked a ball into right field and drove in the Dodgers' final two runs.

"I heard them," Uribe said of the fans. "They've treated me well. They've made it easier for me to come out here and do my work."

The game was Uribe's fourth multi-hit game of the season. The last time he had a four-hit game was a lifetime ago, on Sept. 8, 2007. He was playing for the Chicago White Sox at the time.

"What was important to me wasn't that I got four hits," Uribe said. "What was important to me is that we won. I'm glad because we won. I'm glad because I was able to help the team."

He wasn't able to do that last year, which was his first year of a three-year, $21-million contract.

He was hurt for most of the season. When he wasn't hurt, he didn't hit.

"It's nice because he's a good teammate," Mattingly said. "The guys love him. He always has a smile on his face. He continues to play great defense for us."

Of course, Kemp and Ethier still got their hits.

Kemp was two for three with a run and walk. His average climbed to .460.

Ethier was three for four with a run to raise his average to .308. He also drove in the Dodgers' first run.

Veteran newcomer Chris Capuano had his best start with the Dodgers. He avoided his customary mid-game fade and held the Braves to a run and six hits over seven innings.

Of the Dodgers opponents to date, Atlanta is the only one that has a winning record today. The Dodgers, who remained unbeaten at home (7-0), seemed to welcome the challenge.

"We feel like we're a good club and we'll find out," Mattingly said.

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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