Penny earned his 15th victory with seven steady innings, Matt Kemp had four hits and the Dodgers defense turned five double plays Tuesday night to beat Chicago 6-2 and spoil Steve Trachsel’s return to the Cubs.
“I wasn’t great tonight, really. I was a little erratic, you know,” Penny said. “I wasn’t locating like I know I can. I just competed and had some huge double plays for me and everything worked out.”
The Cubs’ lead in the NL Central was reduced to a half-game over Milwaukee and a game over St. Louis, both of whom won. The Dodgers, who won for the seventh time in nine games, were in third place in the NL West, three games behind San Diego and Arizona.
Rebounding from a rough outing in his previous start against the Nationals when he gave up eight hits and six runs in five innings (a no-decision), Penny (15-4) got his first win since Aug. 15. He allowed seven hits and two runs—one earned—in seven innings.
“When innings haven’t gone exactly right, he’s done a good job minimizing the damage. That’s been the key for him all year,” Dodgers manager Grady Little said.
Even though the Dodgers had two runners thrown out at the plate by Chicago’s Alfonso Soriano, had another picked off first and had yet another forced at second after a ball fell in the outfield for what should have been a single, Los Angeles still won.
“It’s the good time to get hot. We’re starting to do things the right way,” Little said.
“We’re still running ourselves into a few jams out there on the bases. The good thing is we’re getting on base a lot right now.”
Trachsel (0-1), acquired in a trade from Baltimore last Friday for the final month stretch run, made his first outing with the Cubs since 1999. He allowed three runs and seven hits in six innings.
“There is going to be a lot of excitement every single day and at this point in my career you can’t ask for much more, so it’s going to be a fun September,” Trachsel said.
Manager Lou Piniella said the Cubs may make some changes offensively because they aren’t hitting with men on base. They grounded into four double plays and lined into a fifth in the ninth.
“I will consider changing some things and putting more speed into the equation,” Piniella said.
“We need to start scoring more runs. It’s hard to win against the teams we’re playing when we’re putting two or three runs on the board or less.”
The Dodgers bunched four straight two-out hits in the fifth for a 3-1 lead that could have been larger if not for a great throw—the first of two on the night—from Soriano.
Penny started it with a double into the left fielder corner, just beating the throw with an awkward slide into the bag. Rafael Furcal singled him to third and Juan Pierre followed with an RBI single to right. After Pierre stole second, Kemp singled to left to score Furcal, but Soriano’s one-hop throw was in time and on line to get the speedy Pierre as Jason Kendall blocked the plate.
Chicago cut it to 3-2 in the sixth when Aramis Ramirez’s grounder went through Dodgers’ third baseman Andy LaRoche for an error. Daryle Ward doubled and Ramirez scored with a head-first slide, just avoiding a sweeping tag by Russell Martin. DeRosa followed with a single but Penny escaped by getting Jacque Jones on a double play grounder.
The Dodgers reached reliever Kerry Wood for two runs and a 5-2 lead in the seventh as James Loney led off with a single and LaRoche hit an RBI double. LaRoche got to third on a grounder and scored on Pierre’s bunt single to first.
Will Ohman, recalled from the minors on Saturday, left to boos and with the bases loaded and none out in the eighth after a single by Gonzalez, double by Martin and an intentional walk. Rookie Kevin Hart, in his major league debut, walked Ramon Martinez on four pitches to force in a run and make it 6-2. Soriano then saved another run by catching Furcal’s fly to left and throwing out Martin at the plate.
Trachsel is the 67th player to have two separate stints with the Cubs. His last start for the Cubs prior to Tuesday night came on Oct. 3, 1999 at St. Louis. … The Dodgers’ Nomar Garciaparra was available to pinch-hit after coming off the disabled list, but wasn’t needed. … Kemp’s four hits tied a career high.