Hong-Chih Kuo did something Saturday night that Jonathan Broxton hasn't in awhile: pitch a clean, drama-less ninth for a save.
The Dodgers only scored two runs, but a great effort from Ted Lilly and Kuo turned it into a 2-1 victory over the Braves. Each team has a win so far in this four-game set, and both games have been nail-biters.
Scoring was few and far between, just like Friday night. It was the fourth when the Dodgers got on the board. James Loney and Casey Blake hit consecutive singles to open the inning. With Loney on third, Matt Kemp grounded into a double play. Loney scored, but there would be no RBI for Kemp.
I'm sure Kemp blamed not getting an RBI for that play on Larry Bowa and Bob Schaefer.
The Dodgers added another run in the seventh, which turned out to be huge in such a low scoring, close game. With one out, Scott Podsednik singled to center. Ryan Theriot followed with one of his own, putting runners at the corners. Andre Ethier had a good at-bat with a sac-fly RBI and a 2-0 lead.
Lilly was pinch-hit for in the seventh, so his night was over. Enter Kenley Jansen. He immediately walked Matt Diaz before striking out Brooks Conrad. However, Melky Cabrera doubled to put runners in scoring position.
Lefty Eric Hinske was due up, and with Kuo being saved to close because Broxton sucks, Joe Torre could only turn to good old George Sherrill. For such a lousy pitcher, he sure finds a way to get into about every single game possible. Anyway, he got David Ross to ground out, but a run scored to make it 2-1.
Octavio Dotel was then summoned to pitch to Omar Infante, and he struck out to end the inning. Dotel would go on to pitch a perfect eighth. That's why the Dodgers got him - to get big outs in innings 7-8 where needed. It worked on this night.
Now it was up to Kuo to get the save. Not Broxton, thankfully. Kuo did what he always does, which is blow hitters away. Brian McCann and Diaz struck out before Conrad flied to center to end it.
Kuo did great, but if Broxton came in and still blew the save, I'm sure there are those who would have blamed the following people instead: Torre, Ned Colletti, the McCourts, Fernando Valenzuela, the bat boy, Phil Jackson, some dog named Ralph, Norm from Cheers, and Stone Cold Steve Austin. It couldn't be Broxton's fault, of course!
Rant aside, this victory was all about the pitching. Lilly went six innings for three hits, no runs, two walks, and four strikeouts. Three starts with the Dodgers, three wins. Jansen didn't do so hot, but Sherrill got an out (see, I can compliment bad players when they do well), Dotel had four great outs, and Kuo was money.
If the Braves did end up coming back, the Dodgers would have easily blamed their poor hitting with runners on. They had 12 hits and took a walk, but only scored two. 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position is the reason why. I'm just glad it didn't matter.
I don't think the Dodgers stand a chance of making the playoffs, but they're not dead either. They're going to have to go on an incredible role to make it happen. It's not out of the question, and starts like Lilly's tonight make it possible. But a lot will have to go right. We shall see.
Next up is Vicente Padilla taking the mound on Sunday. He got the win during the 15 run game in Philly, but got hit around a bit. He'll look to get his seventh win.