LOS ANGELES (AP)—The Los Angeles Dodgers were playing great while Nomar Garciaparra was on the disabled list. So putting together another impressive winning streak during his recent dry spell wasn’t much of a stretch.
Garciaparra was the offensive spark Saturday night in the Dodgers’ 14-5 rout of the Colorado Rockies. His three-run homer and a three-run double helped Brad Penny become the National League’s first 15-game winner and kept the NL West leaders four games ahead of second-place San Diego.
“All good hitters go through periods where they’re just not coming up with opportunities, or making good on the ones they get,” second baseman Jeff Kent said. “But what’s good about this team is that everybody is pulling some weight, and we don’t have to rely on one guy. So when a guy is going through something like that, you just pat him on the back and say `Good luck,’ because you know that good things will eventually happen.”
Garciaparra’s six RBIs were his most since he had eight for the Red Sox on July 23, 2002, with Boston.
“I’ve been getting on top of the ball a little bit and working hard at driving the ball,” said Garciaparra, who was 2-for-18 on the homestand before the home run. “My swing has been there, but sometimes the ball just wasn’t finding holes. So you tell yourself you’re having good at-bats and you keep working hard.”
J.D. Drew and rookie James Loney also homered for Dodgers, who have won seven straight and are 26-7 since a 1-13 stretch immediately following the All-Star break. They are a season-high 11 games over .500.
If the Dodgers do beat out San Diego for the division title, the Rockies will have had a lot to with it. Colorado is 3-12 against Los Angeles—and 10-6 against the Padres.
“That’s great, because we haven’t helped ourselves out much with the Padres,” Kent said. “That’s what’s great about this game. Everywhere you look, there’s something that’s unpredictable and things happen that you just can’t explain.”
Penny (15-7) eclipsed his previous career high for wins after being staked to a 7-0 lead. The right-hander allowed five runs and nine hits in 5 1-3 innings. He struck out two and did not walk a batter, after giving up nine walks over his previous two outings.
Penny was 5-0 against the Rockies this season with a 1.93 ERA—becoming the first pitcher ever to beat them five times in one year. The last Dodgers pitcher to beat any team five times in a season was Orel Hershiser, who was 5-0 against Atlanta during his 1988 Cy Young campaign.
Colorado was blanked on four hits over the first five innings, but rallied with five in the sixth to slice the Dodgers’ lead to 7-5. But the Dodgers responded with six in the bottom half to increase the margin to 13-5. The big blow was Garciaparra’s bases-clearing double against Ramon Ramirez, but five of the runs were charged to Jeremy Affeldt.
Aaron Cook (9-13) allowed seven runs and six hits over five innings. One of the hits was Garciaparra’s 15th homer, which ended the right-hander’s streak of 78 2-3 innings this season without allowing a home run on the road.
Cook has made 28 starts, which is a major accomplishment in itself considering that his career nearly ended in 2004 when he underwent two surgeries to remove blood clots from his lungs.
“He’s never experienced a full major league season before. A lot of people have lost sight of that,” Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. “Grace period? Yes, but not because of his health. It’s because it’s the first time he’s working his way through a major league season from start to finish. His health is fine and he’s strong. He feels better than he’s ever felt, and definitely better that when he went into the hospital.”
Colorado is a season-worst 11 games off the pace in the NL West following its ninth straight road loss, and in danger of consecutive last-place finishes for the first time in the team’s 14-year history. The Rockies were tied for first on July 5 with a 44-40 record, but are only 18-33 since then. They have finished no better than fourth place since 1997—the year before the Arizona Diamondbacks came into existence.
Only three pitchers since 1957 went an entire season without giving up a homer on the road—and pitched more than 78 2-3 innings—Steve Rogers in 1982 (130 1-3), Reggie Cleveland in 1976 (86.0) and Bruce Berenyi in 1984 (81 1-3). … Loney’s homer in the eighth was the first of his career.