The Los Angeles Dodgers are back in first place thanks to an amazing comeback.
They’ll try to maintain their slim lead in the NL West on Tuesday when they begin a three-game set Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Dodger Stadium.
Los Angeles (79-71) regained the division lead with a dramatic 11-10 victory over San Diego on Monday on Nomar Garciaparra’s two-run homer in the bottom of the 10th inning. The homer capped an incredible game in which the Dodgers rallied twice from four-run deficits, including four straight solo homers to start the bottom of the ninth inning to forge a 9-9 tie.
“I wanted to play. I was telling (manager) Grady (Little): `Let me play, let me play,”’ said Garciaparra, who had missed the previous two games with a strained left quadriceps. “I’m glad I was in the lineup. But you know what won that game? It was that ninth inning. No one was giving up.”
The Dodgers moved one-half game ahead of the Padres as they salvaged a split of the four-game series with their NL West rivals.
The Padres led 9-5 heading into the bottom of the ninth but Jeff Kent and J.D. Drew hit consecutive homers off Jon Adkins before closer Trevor Hoffman came in and allowed homers to Russell Martin and Marlon Anderson.
It was the fourth time in major league history a team hit four consecutive homers in an inning. Minnesota was the last team to do it, on May 2, 1964, in the 11th inning against Kansas City.
“I can’t explain it. It’s absolutely the most wonderful night of my career, for sure,” Anderson said. “And to be able to do it on this stage—in a pennant race—it was awesome. The guys pulled together and stuck together. That was absolutely the most wonderful game I’ve ever seen in my life at any level.”
Los Angeles will turn to Hong-Chih Kuo (1-4, 4.25 ERA), who is making his third career start after 32 relief appearance—23 this season—and first against the Pirates.
The left-hander is 1-0 with two runs allowed in 12 innings in his first two starts.
Kuo was in line for a second straight win when the bullpen blew a 5-2 lead in Thursday’s loss to the Chicago Cubs. The left-hander surrendered two runs and seven hits over six innings.
Pittsburgh (63-87) is trying to knock off another first-place club after sweeping three games from the NL East champion New York Mets over the weekend. Left fielder Jason Bay led the way by going 5-for-11 with five RBIs in the series.
“I think it’s safe to say that this might be the best all-around series that we’ve played,” leadoff hitter Chris Duffy said. “Every facet of the game, from pitching to defense and hitting. This is something we’ve been looking for a while so it feels great.”
Pittsburgh is 33-27 since the All-Star break—the fourth-best record in the NL. Los Angeles is 33-29 in the season’s second half.
NL batting leader Freddy Sanchez is hitting just .294 on the road compared to his .388 average in Pittsburgh. Sanchez is bidding to become the first Pirate to win a batting title since Bill Madlock in 1983.
Former Los Angeles manager Jim Tracy’s club is relishing the role of spoiler heading into Dodger Stadium, where it has lost 11 of its last 12 games.
“These are big games for them,” Pirates shortstop Jack Wilson said. “And they’re big games for us, because we know they are big games for them. Obviously, we want to go out and do the best we can to win, because these are meaningful games for five or six other teams, as well.”
Pirates starter Ian Snell (13-10, 4.78) looks to increase his victory total, the largest by a Pirate since Todd Ritchie won 15 games in 1999. He is 0-1 with a 10.50 ERA in three career starts against Los Angeles.
The right-hander gave up two runs over seven innings and tied a career high with 10 strikeouts in a 6-3 victory over Milwaukee on Wednesday. The effort ended a string of four straight starts in which Snell had given up at least four earned runs.