James Loney has been one of baseball’s most consistent hitters so far in 2008. The Los Angeles Dodgers are hoping that one swing may help one of their most consistent hitters from a year ago turn things around.
A day after he hit his first home run of the season, Russell Martin and the Dodgers will look to continue their hot hitting on Wednesday when they conclude a three-game series with the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates.
Martin hit .293 with 19 home runs last season, and led Los Angeles (6-8) with 87 RBIs in a breakout year at the plate for the Dodgers’ young catcher, who appeared on his way to become one of the NL’s best behind the plate.
But when the Pirates (7-7) came to Dodger Stadium on Monday, Martin was hitting just .146 and without a homer. He had two hits in the series’ first game, a 6-4 Pittsburgh victory, then connected for his first homer on Tuesday, helping Los Angeles to an 11-2 win, just its second victory in its last eight games.
“I’m not really trying to swing for the fences. I’m just trying to hit the ball as hard as I can and stay with my game plan,” Martin said. “My game is hitting the ball gap to gap and hitting it where it’s pitched. The last couple of games I feel like I’ve been having better at-bats.”
While Martin has struggled to hit the ball hard consistently, Loney, who shined since taking over as the Dodgers’ regular first baseman in June, has continued his hot hitting this season.
Loney extended his hitting streak to 14 games to start 2008 with a fourth-inning RBI single, and has hit safely in 22 of 23 games dating to last season.
Los Angeles will send ace Brad Penny (1-2, 3.86 ERA) to the mound on Wednesday. Penny has gone at least six innings in each of his three starts, but has allowed four runs in losing each of his last two.
He was outpitched by NL Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy in both games, as the Dodgers provided only four runs of support. Penny, who is 2-0 with a 3.60 ERA in four starts against Pittsburgh with Los Angeles, wasn’t pleased with his recent efforts.
“I just think I didn’t do a good job,” Penny told the Dodgers’ official Web site.
Nate McLouth, who hit a go-ahead, three-run homer in the ninth inning Monday, also has a 14-game hitting streak after going 2-for-4 on Tuesday.
McLouth, however, has just one hit in six career at-bats against Penny. But left fielder Jason Bay is 6-for-15 (.400) with a homer lifetime against Penny.
Pittsburgh will send left-hander Paul Maholm (0-1, 4.35) to the mound in the series finale. Maholm pitched 5 1-3 shutout innings on Friday against Cincinnati, but after a lengthy rain delay, didn’t come back into the game, eventually won by the Pirates 1-0.
“I felt strong. I felt good,” said Maholm, who has 11 strikeouts and only three walks so far in 2008, after that start. “I felt like I could throw any pitch at any time.”
Maholm is 0-2 with a 6.50 ERA in three career starts against Los Angeles.