Youth serves in Dodgers’ win


first_imgCatcher Russell Martin, who could challenge for a Gold Glove in what is expected to be his first full season in the majors, coaxed Brad Penny through seven stressful innings. But Martin also gunned down two would-be basestealers and made an acrobatic play at the plate to siphon off what looked like an inevitable Giants run in the bottom of the fifth. Meanwhile, Luis Gonzalez, who will turn 40 in September, continued to raise questions about his reliability in left field. Gonzalez’s weak throwing arm allowed Ray Durham to turn a routine single into a double in the fourth inning. And in the eighth, with the Dodgers nursing a one-run lead, Gonzalez allowed what should have been an easy, inning-ending popup by Barry Bonds to tick off his glove for a two-base error. “I think he can only get better,” Dodgers manager Grady Little said. “He is working hard, and he will get better.” SAN FRANCISCO – Throughout spring training, the Dodgers’ deep stable of young talent seemed to collectively prove that its time had come, even if its allotment of roster spots hadn’t. Blocking those players’ paths were several proven veterans who were being counted on to carry this team through the six-month pressure cooker of high expectations. But on Friday night, in a 2-1 victory over the San Francisco Giants in front of the largest regular-season crowd (43,146) in AT&T Park history, the Dodgers’ youth continued to make a loud statement. And their respected veterans – one of them, anyway – continued to make a statement of a different kind. Highly touted outfield prospect Matt Kemp, who might not even be in the majors if Rafael Furcal hadn’t sprained his left ankle, went 2 for 4 to raise his average to .333 and almost singlehandedly created the first run of the game with a fifth-inning trip around the bases that was built on pure guile and hustle. Maybe, but not before fans and the media begin to question whether Kemp and Andre Ethier – another promising young outfielder who has ridden the bench in two of the Dodgers’ first four games so Kemp could play against a left-handed starting pitcher – should be in the lineup together. And whether Gonzalez, at this twilight stage of what has been a stellar, 17-year career in the majors, wouldn’t be a nice, left-handed hitting weapon to have on the bench. That’s a question that might not be answered for a while. But there is no question that Kemp and Martin are ready for prime time. In the top of the fifth, a point to which Giants lefty Noah Lowry had stuffed the Dodgers on four hits, Kemp led off with a tapper to the third-base side of the mound. Lowry made a hurried throw that went wild, allowing Kemp to take second. Kemp then went to third on a wild pitch. Finally, with the Giants infield back, Wilson Betemit hit a grounder so sharply to third baseman Pedro Feliz that Feliz appeared to have a play on Kemp at the plate. But as Feliz planted for the throw, Kemp wisely stopped in his tracks and looked back at him. Sensing Kemp had nowhere to go, Feliz took two steps toward him. At that point, Kemp broke for the plate again, forcing Feliz to now make an off-balance throw that catcher Bengie Molina had to reach for slightly. That gave Kemp just enough time to slide around Molina and touch the plate with his hand, giving the Dodgers a 1-0 lead. “Bengie kind of reached around to his right side,” Kemp said. “I went around him, and I was safe. It worked, and we got on the board.” In the bottom of that same inning, that lead looked shortlived. Randy Winn followed Feliz’s leadoff single with a double up the left-field line. Gonzalez ran it down and hit shortstop Ramon Martinez, who whirled and fired fairly perfectly to Martin. Martin waited until the last possible second, then collapsed his left leg across the plate just as Feliz bore in on him. “That’s just the way I do it,” Martin said. “By sticking my leg out, it makes the guy have to go around me. That makes it take a fraction of a second longer (for the runner to score). This time, that was just long enough to get him.” Penny scattered 10 hits over seven-plus innings, but repeatedly pitched out of trouble. [email protected] (818) 713-3675160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

Have any Question or Comment?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *