Dodgers 7, Nationals 5
LOS ANGELES (AP)—Dodgers rookie Russell Martin has drawn praise this season for his work behind the plate. His offense has been a bonus.
Martin homered and drove in four runs to help Los Angeles beat the Washington Nationals 7-5 Saturday. He is batting .298 with five homers and 44 RBIs since May 5, when he was promoted from Triple-A to replace the injured Dioner Navarro.
“I’m happy with my consistency,” Russell said. “I just saw the ball well today and I put good swings on it. And good things happen when you do that. It’s a long season, and I’m aware of that. But I just care about winning.”
The Canadian-born catcher has performed so well that Navarro became expendable and was traded to Tampa Bay on June 27.
“He’s been tremendous all year long,” winning pitcher Derek Lowe said of Martin. “We have a lot of confidence in him and I know he’s got a lot of confidence in what he’s doing—catching and hitting. It’s like that with most catchers. Defense is always first and offense is second.”
Rafael Furcal also homered for the Dodgers, who have won two straight after losing 13 of their previous 14 games. Lowe (8-7) won for the first time since July 3 after going 0-3 in his previous four starts. The right-hander allowed four runs and seven hits in five innings and had a season-high eight strikeouts.
“Obviously you’d like to pitch a little deeper into a game and be more effective,” Lowe said. “Over the course of a season, you’re going to lose games you didn’t deserve to lose and probably win games you maybe didn’t deserve to win. And today was one of those games.”
Lowe, a two-time All-Star, has an 8.27 ERA over his last seven outings since his complete-game victory over Seattle on June 22.
“A lot of baseball is mental,” Martin said. “If you get a couple of tough breaks, sometimes it’s hard to keep that positive attitude and stay confident. It doesn’t matter who you are. Derek’s had some tough breaks lately and he had a couple more today, but he got the win. Hopefully that will carry over and he’ll have a few good starts in a row.”
Washington closed to 7-5 in the sixth when Joe Beimel walked Felipe Lopez with the bases loaded. Jonathan Broxton pitched a scoreless ninth for his first career save, one year to the day of his major league debut. Closer Takashi Saito was unavailable because he threw 37 pitches Wednesday while facing nine San Diego batters and, according to manager Grady Little, “overloaded his circuits a little bit.”
Rookie Mike O’Connor (3-7) was charged with a career-high seven runs over four-plus innings, along with six hits and five walks in his first career appearance against the Dodgers. The left-hander, who was the Nationals’ minor league pitcher of the year last season, is 0-4 with an 8.21 ERA over his last seven starts since beating Philadelphia on June 8 at RFK Stadium.
“It’s the same pattern. He was behind the batters and missing the spots. He was all over the place,” manager Frank Robinson said. “I don’t know if he has an idea if how to throw the ball where he needs to throw it.”
O’Connor walked his first two batters in the fifth and gave up a single by Andre Ethier that loaded the bases with none out. Travis Hughes, promoted Friday from Triple-A New Orleans after Mike Stanton was traded to San Francisco, came in and gave up a two-run double to Martin that put the Dodgers ahead 6-4.
The Dodgers shrugged off Nick Johnson’s two-run homer in the first inning and came back with four runs in the bottom half. Furcal ignited the rally with his 14th career leadoff homer, Ethier drove in Jason Repko with a sacrifice fly, and Martin hit a two-run drive for his fifth homer.
“It’s very deflating to give it right back—and we’ve been doing a lot of that over the year,” Robinson said. “The idea is that when you score runs, go out there and shut them down and give us a chance to get back in the dugout and ride that little wave of momentum.”
Church and Alfonso Soriano also had run-scoring singles for the Nationals, who have lost two straight after a six-game winning streak.
Reliever Luis Ayala, who has been rehabbing in Phoenix following reconstructive surgery on his right elbow March 30, stopped by Dodger Stadium to visit his Washington teammates and was examined by the training staff. The Nationals’ 28-year-old setup man said he hoped to be ready to start next season on time. … Johnson’s homer was his 15th, tying the career high he set in 2002 with the Yankees and equaled last season. … The Dodgers recalled 1B James Loney as roster insurance for a day because recently-acquired 3B Wilson Betemit hadn’t arrived from Atlanta.