Tony Gwynn: Cubs’ hot start could continue
LOS ANGELES (AP)—Kenny Lofton believes speed is overlooked in baseball— no surprise considering that’s what his game has always been about.
At age 38, he shows no sign of slowing down.
Lofton drew a two-out walk off Will Ohman (1-1) in the ninth inning, stole second, and scored the winning run on J.D. Drew’s single Tuesday night in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 2-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs.
“Speed is always a key to the game, and people overlook it a lot. I think a speed guy is just as important as a power hitter,” Lofton said after getting his first stolen base of this season and the 568th of his career, ranking him 22nd on baseball’s career list.
Lofton said he has the green light to steal, and he beat catcher Michael Barrett’s throw to second with no problem after Ohman made several throws to first to try and keep him close. Drew then lined a pitch down the right-field line and Lofton scored easily.
Ohman’s first two pitches to Lofton were strikes, but the veteran center fielder worked the Cubs’ left-hander for a walk.
“Just trying to get on,” Lofton said.
“That was a fantastic at-bat,” said teammate Jeff Kent, who was in the on-deck circle when the game ended. “That’s what you try to do—I’ve seen him do that before.”
Kent, back in the lineup two days after being beaned by Giants pitcher Brad Hennessey, went 1-for-4.
“I handled it all right,” Kent said. “I’m tired of talking about it. I’m OK.”
Ohman said Drew hit a slider that was low and away for the game-winning hit.
“He leaned out over the plate and yanked it over first base,” Ohman said. “It’s an OK pitch selection, an OK pitch location, and I had no reservations about throwing it. I pitched to the scouting report and pitched to my strength. But what beat us was the walk, not the hit.”
Drew’s two-out, opposite-field double in the fifth off Carlos Zambrano drove in Rafael Furcal with the game’s first run. Neifi Perez drove in the tying run in the seventh off Derek Lowe with a fielder’s choice grounder after Jacque Jones and Matt Murton opened the inning with singles.
“It seems like whenever you walk a guy late like that, especially a speed guy, he ends up scoring,” Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. “We had some opportunities early, but Drew drove in both runs with two two-out hits to beat us, and that’s the name of the game.”
The Dodgers had only six hits, matching their total for the previous two games combined. They’ve scored only seven runs in their last five games after scoring 69 in their first 10, but they’ve won two of the five thanks to effective pitching.
They got another good performance in this game.
Takashi Saito (1-0), a 36-year-old rookie who pitched for the Yokohama Baystars of the Japanese Central League the past 14 seasons, worked two perfect innings with four strikeouts to earn his first big league victory.
Lowe worked the first seven innings, allowing five hits and one run while walking one and striking out six.
“It was a big win,” Lowe said. “Zambrano, in my opinion, is one of the top five pitchers in all of baseball. Facing Zambrano, you know he’s not going to give up much.”
Zambrano was lifted for a pinch-hitter after allowing four hits and one run in six innings. He walked five, hit a batter and struck out three.
“I go out there every time and I want to give my team a chance to win the ballgame, and that was what I did tonight,” Zambrano said. “That’s the price when you’re a No. 1 starter. You want to face their No. 1. Our offense is good, but we just didn’t hit the ball tonight.”
Dodgers RHP Yhency Brazoban underwent what the Dodgers called successful surgery on his pitching elbow Tuesday at the Kerlan-Jobe Clinic. Brazoban is expected to sidelined at least one year. … The Cubs had their five-game winning streak at Dodger Stadium snapped. … Dodgers INF Nomar Garciaparra, sidelined with a strained muscle on his right side, took batting practice and infield. Manager Grady Little said Garciaparra might be sent on a minor league rehab assignment before being activated. “Before we think about activating a guy with the injury he’s had, we’ve got to make sure he can play nine innings,” Dodgers manager Grady Little said. … Jones, who entered with two hits in 23 at-bats this season, went 2-for-3 before coming out for a pinch-runner in the seventh. … Dodgers rookie James Loney hit a broken-bat single in the fourth to snap an 0-for-14 drought. … Dodgers 3B Bill Mueller walked all four times he came to the plate to equal a career high.