|L.A. Dodgers «||2||0||0||0||1||0||0||2||x||5||6||1|
Saenz hit a two-run homer, Marlon Anderson drove in a run with a suicide squeeze bunt, and Los Angeles beat the Pirates 5-2 Thursday night -- avoiding what would have been a crushing three-game sweep with nine games left in the regular season.
"It's not a coincidence when you look over the course of this guy's career that the teams he's played for have found themselves in situations like the Dodgers are in -- with a chance to play in the postseason," Tracy said of Saenz.
The victory gave the Dodgers a half-game lead over idle Philadelphia in the wild-card race and kept them a half-game back of NL West-leading San Diego, which beat Arizona 3-1. The Pirates next three games are at San Diego, while the Dodgers host the Diamondbacks.
"At this stage of the season, it looks big," Saenz said of his 11th home run. "But every RBI and every win that we get means a lot. There's no room right now for a loss. You've got to come out and play your best because it's do or die. Nobody's going to give you anything. You've got to earn it."
With Nomar Garciaparra out of the starting lineup for precautionary reasons to rest his sore left quad, Saenz started at first base and gave the Dodgers a 2-0 lead in the first. He drove an 0-1 pitch deep into the pavilion seats in left-center after a leadoff single by Rafael Furcal.
Saenz is 22-for-47 lifetime against the Pirates with six home runs. He was 8-for-14 with two homers and seven RBI during the Dodgers' four-game series at Pittsburgh in mid-April.
"He's a professional player, he's a professional person, and he's a winner," Tracy said. "He's at his best in a lesser role, when you don't have to overuse him. He's a damaging player on your bench against left-handed pitching, and his numbers will bear that out."
Rookie Chad Billingsley (6-4) allowed two runs and six hits over five innings. In his previous start last Saturday, he lasted only one inning and gave up three runs in an 11-2 loss to the Padres.
"He had confidence in his stuff, and you could tell," catcher Russell Martin said. "He was really aggressive and he just pounded the strike zone. He had a sharp breaking ball tonight and had better command of his fastball and his cutter."
Pirates left-hander Shane Youman (0-2) was charged with three runs, three hits and four walks over 4 1/3 innings in his second major league start. Youman filled in for Paul Maholm, who had soreness in his rotator cuff.
"He did a fine job," Tracy said. "But he obviously left a pitch up and out over the plate to Olmedo Saenz. And when you're a left-handed pitcher and you do that to Olmedo Saenz, it's going to be a real loud noise."
Youman departed with runners at the corners and one out in the fifth. Josh Sharpless struck out Saenz on a nasty breaking ball that tailed way out of the strike zone, but walked Jeff Kent on a 3-2 count and walked J.D. Drew on four pitches to force home Furcal and put the Dodgers ahead 3-2.
The Dodgers got a pair of insurance runs in the eighth on Martin's RBI single, followed by a suicide squeeze bunt by Anderson that scored Drew.
"I'm glad I got it," Anderson said of the squeeze sign. "We talked about it before I left the dugout. If the opportunity came, just be aware. That extra run was a big run late in the game like that. It doesn't have to be pretty. But as long as the job gets done, we're OK."
Takashi Saito got three outs for his 20th save in 22 chances.
The Pirates tied it at 2 on RBI singles by Freddy Sanchez in the third inning and Youman in the fifth, the rookie's second hit of the game and first RBI in the majors.
Sanchez was 2-for-4, increasing his NL-leading average to .347 -- nine points ahead of Florida's Miguel Cabrera, who has missed the Marlins' last two games because of a strained left shoulder. If Sanchez maintains his lead, he'll become the first Pittsburgh player to win a batting crown since Bill Madlock in 1983.
"They don't have a big payroll, but they've got a lot of guys who know how to play baseball and they bust their tail every night," Anderson said. "Every time I face them, it's the same thing."
Nomar Garciaparra celebrates with Takashi Saito, who picks up his 20th save of the season. (AP)
|Players of the Game|
|Chris Duffy, CF||4||0||1||0||1||3||1||.247|
|Jack Wilson, SS||5||1||0||0||0||1||3||.273|
|Freddy Sanchez, 2B-3B||4||0||2||1||0||0||1||.347|
|Jason Bay, LF||2||0||1||0||2||0||1||.286|
|Xavier Nady, RF||4||0||2||0||0||0||4||.282|
|Ryan Doumit, 1B||3||0||0||0||0||2||4||.208|
|Joe Randa, 1B||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.259|
|Ronny Paulino, C||4||0||0||0||0||1||3||.315|
|Jose Bautista, 3B||2||1||1||0||1||1||2||.243|
|Damaso Marte, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Brian Rogers, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|John Grabow, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|a- Rajai Davis, PH||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||.167|
|Shane Youman, P||2||0||2||1||0||0||0||.600|
|Josh Sharpless, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|b- Jose Castillo, PH-2B||2||0||0||0||0||1||0||.256|
|a-struck out for Grabow in the 9th|
|b-announced for Sharpless in the 6th|
|2B - Xavier Nady (28, Billingsley), Jose Bautista (20, Billingsley)|
|RBI - Freddy Sanchez (83), Shane Youman (1)|
|2-OUT RBI - Freddy Sanchez (35)|
|PK - Jose Bautista (3, Beimel)|
|Team LOB - 9|
|Outfield Assists - Xavier Nady 1|
|Shane Youman (L,0-2)||4.1||3||3||3||4||2||1||4.97|
|WP - Josh Sharpless (1)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Shane Youman 85-51, Josh Sharpless 20-7, Brian Rogers 4-3, John Grabow 10-8|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Shane Youman 7-4, John Grabow 1-0|
|Batters Faced - Shane Youman 20, Josh Sharpless 4, Damaso Marte 5, Brian Rogers 2, John Grabow 4|
|Los Angeles Dodgers|
|Rafael Furcal, SS||3||1||1||0||1||0||0||.299|
|Kenny Lofton, CF||4||1||1||0||0||1||1||.298|
|Olmedo Saenz, 1B||2||1||1||2||1||1||2||.288|
|Joe Beimel, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|a- Nomar Garciaparra, PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||.299|
|Jonathan Broxton, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Wilson Betemit, 3B||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.265|
|Jeff Kent, 2B||3||0||1||0||1||0||1||.289|
|Jason Repko, PR-LF||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||.248|
|J.D. Drew, RF||2||1||1||1||2||0||0||.278|
|Russell Martin, C||4||0||1||1||0||1||4||.284|
|Marlon Anderson, LF||2||0||0||1||1||1||0||.291|
|Takashi Saito, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Julio Lugo, 3B-2B||4||0||0||0||0||1||1||.280|
|Chad Billingsley, P||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||.087|
|b- Matt Kemp, PH||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||.259|
|James Loney, 1B||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||.258|
|a-flied out for Beimel in the 7th|
|b-struck out for Billingsley in the 5th|
|HR - Olmedo Saenz (11, Youman)|
|SH - Marlon Anderson (4)|
|RBI - Olmedo Saenz 2 (47), J.D. Drew (91), Russell Martin (60), Marlon Anderson (34)|
|2-OUT RBI - J.D. Drew (33)|
|Team LOB - 6|
|Outfield Assists - Kenny Lofton 1|
|DP - Kent-Furcal-Saenz|
|E - Marlon Anderson (9, )|
|Los Angeles Dodgers|
|Chad Billingsley (W,6-4)||5||6||2||2||3||4||0||3.34|
|Joe Beimel (H,9)||2||0||0||0||1||2||0||2.97|
|Jonathan Broxton (H,10)||1||2||0||0||0||1||0||2.75|
|Takashi Saito (S,20)||1||1||0||0||0||3||0||2.22|
|IBB - Bay by Chad Billingsley|
|HBP - Doumit (by Chad Billingsley)|
|WP - Chad Billingsley (4)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Chad Billingsley 96-60, Jonathan Broxton 13-10, Takashi Saito 7-4|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Chad Billingsley 7-2, Joe Beimel 2-1|
|Batters Faced - Chad Billingsley 23, Joe Beimel 6, Jonathan Broxton 5, Takashi Saito 4|
|Attendance - 48567|
|Game Time - 2:48|
|Temperature - 65|
|Umpires - Home - Greg Gibson, First Base - Rob Drake, Second Base - Paul Nauert, Third Base - Larry Vanover|