LOS ANGELES (AP)—In a span of about 24 hours, Blake DeWitt hit his first two home runs in the big leagues. He had to hustle a lot more to get the second one.
DeWitt hit a drive in the fifth inning that right fielder Ryan Church just missed catching at the top of the right field fence. The ball stayed in play, and the two-run inside-the-park homer gave the Los Angeles Dodgers a lead they would not relinquish in a 5-4 victory over the New York Mets on Tuesday night.
“I never would have dreamed I would have gotten an inside-the-park home run,” DeWitt said. “I mean, it’s hard enough for me to get a triple. So that was fun. I have to say I was pretty shocked that Larry was waving me around. It took everything I had to get from third to home.”
The rookie third baseman also had a two-run single among his three hits, helping the Dodgers win for the 10th time in 11 games. His inside-the-park homer was the first by the Dodgers since Aug. 9, 2003, when Dave Roberts led off the first inning with one against Matt Clement in a 6-1 win over the Chicago Cubs at Chavez Ravine.
“I thought it was out,” Church said. “Once I hit the wall and came down, I was already on my back and I forgot where I was at. I couldn’t really tell by the crowd or anything like that. The next thing I know, I look up and saw guys running and the umpire coming out there saying it was still in play.”
Third base coach Larry Bowa never hesitated—and neither did DeWitt.
“The guy’s a good outfielder, and I thought he was going to catch it,” Bowa said. “But when I saw the ball hit the top of the fence and I saw (Church) lose his balance and go down, the ball didn’t kick towards center field and the center fielder was nowhere near it. So I just said, `Go!”’
“Blake didn’t even slow down. A lot of guys will slow down as they come to third because they can’t believe it’s an inside-the-park home run. But he just kept coming.”
Kong-Chih Kuo (2-1) got the victory with 3 2-3 innings of hitless relief. The Taiwanese-born left-hander struck out eight of the 13 batters he faced after relieving starter Hiroki Kuroda in the fourth with one out, two on and the Dodgers trailing 4-3.
Three of Kuo’s first four big league victories have come at the Mets’ expense. On Sept. 8, 2006, he beat them 5-0 at Shea Stadium for his first career win. Last June 12 at Dodger Stadium, he beat them 4-1 and hit a 412-foot homer off John Maine—flipping his bat away as he left the batter’s box with the Dodgers’ third home run on three consecutive pitches.
Kuroda retired only nine of the 22 batters he faced, one on a double play and four others on forceouts. The right-hander was charged with four runs and eight hits over 3 1-3 innings, including a solo homer by Church. He walked three.
“When he’s had problems, it’s all been about location,” Torre said. “His stuff is quality. I mean, his velocity is good. It’s just that he hadn’t had the command that we saw in the first game he pitched.”
Nelson Figueroa (2-2) allowed five runs and eight hits in five innings, walking four and striking out three. No Mets pitcher has lasted more than seven innings this season, and they’ve already played 31 games.
“I’d like us to get a little more length from our starters. That’s what any manager wants,” manager Willie Randolph said.
Both teams were missing key regulars from their starting lineup. Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran was a late scratch because of flulike symptons, but pinch-hit in the eighth. Los Angeles shortstop and leadoff man Rafael Furcal couldn’t play because of lower back stiffness. Furcal, second in the majors with a .369 average, was the only player to start each of the Dodgers’ first 31 games.
Figueroa escaped a bases-loaded jam in the first when Russell Martin flied out. The right-hander wasn’t as fortunate in the third, as DeWitt came up with three men on and singled past first baseman Carlos Delgado to slice New York’s lead to 4-3.
Torre has had amazing timing when it comes to managing in milestone games at certain ballparks. Not only was he in the dugout for the 4,000th game at Dodger Stadium on Monday night, he also managed in the 1,000th game at the Astrodome (1977), the 1,000th at Coors Field (2007), the 2,000th at Busch Stadium (1991), the 3,000th at Angel Stadium (2003) and the 6,000th at Yankee Stadium (2001). … Tuesday was the 25th anniversary of Darryl Strawberry’s Shea Stadium debut.