LOS ANGELES -- For the second time in three games, the Florida Marlins took the lead in the 11th inning and Kevin Gregg got the save. The big right-hander is halfway to 40 saves after recording 32 last year in his first season as a full-time closer.
"I enjoy pitching late in ballgames," Gregg said Saturday night after the Marlins used Dan Uggla's RBI double and Cody Ross' sacrifice fly in the 11th to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-3. "I never thought of closing because I spent most of my career as a starter in the minor leagues and didn't really get a shot as a reliever until I came up to the big leagues. But the more and time I spent as a reliever, the more I loved it."
Gregg, 6-4 with a 2.60 ERA in 46 appearances, credits a good portion of his success to the lessons he learned from Tampa Bay Rays closer Troy Percival when they were teammates with the Angels.
"I can't say enough about Troy and what he did for that whole bullpen in Anaheim," Gregg said. "A lot of it was just leading by example and giving us tidbits about pitching while we were there. His thing is that he never gives in. He attacks, attacks, attacks -- any count, any batter. You just gained knowledge from it. I still picked his brain when we saw him in Tampa."
Jorge Cantu homered for the Marlins, who lost shortstop Hanley Ramirez in the second inning after he grounded out. Ramirez, scheduled to start in Tuesday's All-Star game, said he hurt himself making a throw to first on Nomar Garciaparra's leadoff single in the first. Ramirez told reporters he would play Sunday.
"It was a strong tightness that I felt on the first pitch to the third batter," Saito said through a translator. "I threw a few more pitches and it got worse and worse, so it was a good idea to quit. This is the first time I've had this stiffness."
Saito is 3-3 with 17 saves, a 2.18 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 41 1/3 innings over his 39 appearances. He is scheduled to have an MRI exam on Monday.
"It's very disappointing because I've been pitching pretty well," he said. "Whatever the result is, I'd like to find out as soon as possible."
Josh Willingham led off the 11th with a double against Ramon Troncoso (0-1), and scored when Uggla pulled a 1-0 pitch inside third base for his first RBI in three games after missing the previous 11 with a left ankle strain. Uggla came home on Ross' flyball after Robert Andino sacrificed him to third.
Doug Waechter (1-2) pitched a perfect 10th inning for the victory.
Ross led off the Florida seventh with a double that extended his career-best hitting streak to 15 games, the longest by a Marlins player since a 17-game run by Alex Gonzalez in June 2005. Alfredo Amezaga, who replaced Ramirez, drove in Ross with a bloop single to center field that chased starter Hiroki Kuroda and put the Marlins ahead 3-2.
Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco allowed two runs and five hits in six innings and struck out six. The right-hander, who has won nine of his previous 10 decisions, was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the seventh when Florida took the lead. But Andre Ethier greeted left-hander Renyel Pinto with a leadoff homer to center field in the eighth.
The Marlins, who have the only rotation in the majors with five starters all under the age of 26, have taken the first three games of this four-game set. In the opener, Josh Johnson made his first start in more than a year after Tommy John surgery, and Chris Volstad came within one out of a shutout in his first big league start on Friday night.
"It's something special," Nolasco said. "We're young but we're talented and we're able to do the job. If we can just keep it up, that's all that's going to be important. Hopefully we'll be able to have something here for a long time."
Kuroda gave up three runs and seven hits over 6 2/3 innings in his third start since coming off the disabled list. In his previous outing, the right-hander pitched a one-hit, 3-0 victory against Atlanta at Dodger Stadium.
Matt Kemp, who batted leadoff the previous 11 games in place of injured outfielder Juan Pierre, was bumped to the seventh spot in the order. Garciaparra was 1-for-5 in the one hole, becoming the fifth player manager Joe Torre has used in the leadoff slot this season.
It was the first time Garciaparra hit leadoff since July 16, 2002 with the Boston Red Sox, when he went 1-for-6 and came up empty with the bases loaded in back-to-back innings at Detroit. The six-time All-Star set a major league record in 1997 with 98 RBI in the leadoff role, a major league record that stood until Darin Erstad knocked in 100 runs for the Angels in 2000.
Kemp hit a leadoff homer in the second inning. His drive to right-center on a 1-0 pitch gave Los Angeles a 2-1 lead. But Cantu tied it in the sixth with a first-pitch drive into the lower seats in the left field corner. Cantu's 18th homer and second in two games extended the Marlins' club-record home run streak to 14 games. They lead the majors with 135.
- Andruw Jones struck out his last four times up.
- The Dodgers have allowed first-inning runs in each of the first three games in this series, after holding the Atlanta Braves hitless over the first four innings in every game of their three-game set.