Tonight's game in Denver was a Coors Field special. Three hours and 45 minutes of sometimes thrilling, sometimes maddening baseball, which ended mercifully with the Dodgers somehow on top 6-5.
Rafael Furcal and Orlando Hudson each reached base -- via single and walk, respectively -- to begin the game, for the fifth straight game. In fact, the Dodgers' first batter of the game has reached base safely for nine straight games (Furcal for eight games, Hudson for one). Manny Ramirez and Andre Ethier each followed with RBI singles to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead. A walk to Loney meant the first five batters reached base against the struggling Aaron Cook, and it looked like another Dodger rout was beginning. However, two comebackers by Matt Kemp and Casey Blake ended the inning without further damage, and setting the stage for a game of missed opportunities.
The Dodgers again loaded the bases with nobody out in the fifth inning, but Kemp and Blake both struckout and Brad Ausmus ended the inning by grounding into a fielder's choice. After seven innings, both clubs had a lot of baserunners -- at that point the Rockies walked 7 times compared to 6 free passes for the Dodgers -- but each only had three runs to show for it.
With two outs in the eighth, Brad Ausmus began his heroics with a double, and later scored on Mark Loretta's pinch-hit single. Dodger pinch hitters are hitting .400/.455/.450 in 22 PA in the early going this season. A wild pitch plated another run, and the Dodgers turned to the struggling Hong-Chih Kuo with a 5-3 lead in the bottom of the inning.
After I commented how good I thought Kuo looked -- he was hitting 94-95 on his fastball and his one slider was a sharp one at 87 MPH -- Kuo gave up a two-run homer to Clint Barmes to tie the game up. As Tony Jackson reports, both Joe Torre and Brad Ausmus were impressed with Kuo as well, calling Kuo's stuff "electric."
However, opportunity came knocking again for the Dodgers in the ninth. After a leadoff double for Mr. Coors Field, James Loney, two outs passed before Brad Ausmus -- getting a spot start for Russell Martin tonight -- singled him home to reclaim the lead for the Dodgers.
Jonathan Broxton, fresh off a 30-pitch super save the night before in Houston, came in to close it out. Broxton was a little shaky, allowing a walk and a HBP (this one legitimate!), but it's all relative. Two baserunners and no runs counts as a shaky outing for Broxton this season. Still, with 22 more pitches tonight, I have to imagine Big Bad John won't be called upon for Saturday at least.
James McDonald faces off with Ubaldo Jimenez -- aka "the 14-2 combo" -- on Saturday night, a 5:05 game that is unfortunately scheduled at the same time as Game 4 of the Lakers-Jazz NBA playoff series.
Jim Peltz of the LA Times tells us Hiroki Kuroda was "a little sore" after his bullpen session, so his return timetable is unclear. Also, Juan Castro will likely start for a resting Rafael Furcal on Sunday.
Thanks to everyone here tonight, as we had nearly 1,100 comments in our game threads, which is nearly double our previous high. Your input has helped this site and community grow, and we all appreciate your support.