PHOENIX (AP)—Dodgers manager Grady Little gave ace Brad Penny an extra day off so he could face NL West leader Arizona in the opener of a four-game series.
Penny made his manager look smart. Extending his dominance of the Diamondbacks, Penny earned his 10th victory to help Los Angeles beat Arizona 8-1 on Monday night.
“I wasn’t feeling too good about it yesterday,” said Little, referring to Sunday’s 9-4 loss at Tampa Bay. “But it turned out good today. He was outstanding.”
Penny (10-1) has been outstanding against the Diamondbacks and the rest of the National League. He allowed one run and four hits in eight innings, lowering his NL-leading ERA to 2.04. His only loss this season came against the Los Angeles Angels on May 18.
Penny improved to 7-2 lifetime against the Diamondbacks, who drafted him in the fifth round in 1996, two years before they played their first game. Penny was named Arizona’s minor league pitcher of the year in 1998, but the next season the Diamondbacks traded Penny, still in the minors, to Florida.
Penny said he was “absolutely” motivated to beat the Diamondbacks.
“Any time you get traded from a team, you want to show them that they traded the wrong guy,” Penny said.
Penny said he approached pitching coach Rick Honeycutt last week about taking an extra day off so he could face the Diamondbacks.
“Any time you can pitch against your division, it counts as two games instead of one sometimes,” Penny said.
The extra rest made a difference. Penny said he felt strong all night, and he turned in his longest outing.
Arizona manager Bob Melvin said his hitters might have had trouble picking up Penny’s splitter.
“He was real good again today,” Melvin said. “He’s throwing more splits now than he has in the past, and it looks a lot like his fastball coming out of his hand. Just a tough guy to solve again.”
Conor Jackson singled twice off Penny and had three of Arizona’s five hits. Asked how he did it, Jackson said, “Pray to the baseball gods. I don’t know. I was just trying to put good wood on the ball.”
Penny helped himself in the sixth, leading off with a double against Micah Owings (5-2). The Dodgers had only two hits to that point, but Penny’s double sparked a four-run inning, which was helped along by shortstop Stephen Drew’s error.
“He’s a threat offensively,” Little said. “He started that inning off right there with that double in the corner. It kind of lit a fuse under everyone.”
Owings responded to the error by retiring the next two batters. Then Gonzalez singled sharply to right field, scoring Furcal to give the Dodgers a 2-1 lead.
Martin followed with a two-run triple to right-center to make it 4-1, and that was plenty of support for Penny.
Owings allowed four runs, one earned, and six hits in six innings. He walked one and struck out two.
Owings knew he had to pitch well to have a chance against Penny.
“Definitely one of the best in the league and one of the best in the game right now, but I did the best I could to put the team in a position to win,” Owings said.
Phoenix Mercury general manager Ann Meyers Drysdale threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Meyers Drysdale is the widow of the late Dodgers Hall of Famer, Don Drysdale. … The Dodgers are on the final leg of a three-city trip to Toronto, Tampa and Phoenix. By the time they return to Los Angeles after Thursday night’s game, the Dodgers will have logged 5,424 air miles. … Dodgers 2B Jeff Kent came out after fouling a ball off his left big toe in the sixth. X-rays were negative.