LOS ANGELES (AP)—Rafael Furcal was determined to avoid offseason surgery on a sprained left ankle that hampered him throughout last year. Now that he’s healthy again, he’s doing all the things the Los Angeles Dodgers expect from their versatile leadoff hitter.
“Last year I was hurt in spring training and I never could get fine because I played every day on my bad ankle,” Furcal said after his 16th career four-hit game. “I almost played on one foot, so I couldn’t stay on the pitches at home plate so good and I couldn’t run like I used to. But when you’re 100 percent healthy, you can do anything on the field. The month I played in the Dominican Republic helped me out a lot.”
Brad Penny (2-2) allowed an unearned run and five hits over 5 2-3 innings, striking out four and walking none. The right-hander, who gave up four runs in an inning in each of his previous two starts—both losses—breezed to the win after his teammates scored four runs in the first inning and two more in the second.
Paul Maholm (0-2) gave up six runs—four earned—and 11 hits over five innings after pitching 5 1-3 scoreless innings last Friday at San Diego. The left-hander is 0-3 against the Dodgers, allowing 17 earned runs over 23 innings in four career starts against them.
Loney, the only player other that Pittsburgh’s Nate McLouth to hit safely in his team’s first 15 games, had a pair of sacrifice flies before singling in the seventh off former Dodger Franquelis Osoria to extend his streak.
“The advantage we have with James is the fact that he does use the whole field,” manager Joe Torre said. “It’s a lot tougher to pitch to those people when they don’t really give you any part of the plate.
“I mean, look at his last at-bat. Were up by seven, two outs in the eighth, certainly the at-bat wasn’t important—but it was to him. And if we can just keep that intensity, I think we’re going to have some run.”
McLouth singled in the sixth to keep his streak going. It’s the longest by a Pirates player from the start of a season since Al Oliver’s 18-game spree in 1972.
Dodgers third baseman Nomar Garciaparra was activated from the disabled list after batting practice. He went 1-for-2 with a pair of walks in his season debut and was charged with an error on Brian Bixler’s seventh-inning grounder.
Garciaparra was injured in an exhibition game against St. Louis on March 8, when he was hit on the right wrist by a pitch. It was the second time in his three seasons with the Dodgers that he started out on the DL.
“I was glad I was able to get in there and get one under my belt,” Garciaparra said. “I didn’t really feel any pain out there, which is good. But sometimes it comes down to how it reacts after that.”
Each of the Dodgers’ first four batters in the opening inning singled and scored. Matt Kemp and cleanup hitter Jeff Kent had run-scoring hits, Loney hit a sacrifice fly and Juan Pierre beat out a bunt for a hit that drove in Kent.
During the rally, Kemp took a wide turn rounding second on Kent’s hit and was caught in a rundown after falling down. But third baseman Jose Bautista whiffed on the tag after getting the relay toss from shortstop Bixler, and Kemp scrambled to the bag safely.
“It was a weird inning. Everything went right for them and we couldn’t get over the hump,” Pirates manager John Russell said. “They put two perfect bunts down on the first base side, then we almost had an out on the rundown, but Jose missed the tag and it ended up costing us another run.”
Bautista was charged with an error, extending the Pirates’ streak to 14 consecutive games with at least one defensive miscue. It’s the longest such streak by the franchise since a 15-game stretch June 2-16, 1946. Last season, the Pirates set club records for fewest errors (83), consecutive errorless games (11) and most games in a season without an error (99).
The Pirates also made a monumental gaffe on the basepaths. Xavier Nady foolishly tried to score from second base on Ronny Paulino’s two-out single to right in the second inning with his team four runs down, and got thrown out by Kemp on the fly after ignoring third base coach Tony Beasley’s stop sign.
It didn’t end there for the Bad News Bucs. One inning later, Pittsburgh first baseman Adam LaRoche began charging in anticipation of a possible sacrifice bunt by Penny before catching a pickoff toss from Maholm, who was called for a balk by umpire Tim Timmons as Garciaparra trotted to second.
None of Pittsburgh’s major league-leading 21 errors have been committed by outfielders. … RHP Ramon Troncoso was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas to make room for Garciaparra.