Dodgers handle Willis, then coast

Dodgers handle Willis, then coast

LOS ANGELES -- When the revitalized Dodgers offense finished blemishing Dontrelle Willis' unbeaten record and the Florida Marlins' league-leading ERA, Jeff Kent was there to remind the world what really matters in baseball.

"What we did better than them tonight was pitching," said Kent, who broke out of his personal 0-for-13 slump with four RBIs in a 14-5 blowout win. "That's going to be the key for us, how well we pitch. Any time the pitching staff allows the offense to stay in the game, it's so much easier to swing the bats. Lately, we haven't been scoring enough runs to overcome the pitching, but we'll be all right."

Derek Lowe, fighting off lingering allergies, hung around through 6 2/3 innings while outpitching Willis, who came into the game with a 7-0 mark and 1.08 ERA.

With a one-run game going into the bottom of the seventh inning, the Dodgers blew it open with 10 runs in their final two at-bats.

Cesar Izturis finished with five hits, Olmedo Saenz had a career-high five RBIs and Kent drove in four. Jason Repko, his roster spot in jeopardy with Antonio Perez returning from the disabled list Wednesday, had a pair of doubles and a single.

The Dodgers set season highs in runs and hits (19), snapping a three-game losing streak with the rubber match of the three-game series taking place Wednesday at 12:10 p.m. PT.

"You hope the momentum carries over to tomorrow afternoon," said Lowe (3-4). "We got 14 runs off the staff that has the best ERA in all of baseball. There's something to be said for that."

Lowe acknowledged that he got a little fired up to be facing Willis, stuffy sinuses and all.

"It's an individual challenge to be facing the guy who's pitched better than anybody in the game," he said. "Coming to the park, you're excited for the challenge."

Every game for the Dodgers lately has been a challenge. They scored a total of five runs in the most recent three losses, while the pitching staff allowed an average of six runs over the past 14 games, nine of them losses. After a 12-2 start that built a 4 1/2-game lead, the Dodgers have tumbled to third place.

"It's been a frustrating stretch," said Milton Bradley. "We watched our lead slip away, but we just kept battling. It's a good feeling to have a laugher and give the fans something to cheer about."

Izturis racking up the hits
Marlins at Dodgers, May 17
Cesar Izturis recorded his first five-hit game of the season, tying a career high, and finished the night with 57, just one shy of Colorado's Clint Barmes, who leads the National League. Izturis is batting .339 (.316 with runners in scoring position) through May 17. His plate appearances:
1st0-2, 0 OutSingle
2nd3-1, 1 OutSingle
4th2-1, 0 OutDouble
7th0-1, 0 OutSingle
7th1-0, 2 OutFlyout
8th0-1, 2 OutTwo-run double
Izturis has appeared in all 39 contests in 2005 and now has 20 multihit games -- on pace for 83 on the season. He racked up three hits in four of his other 19 multihit games this season. After 39 contests in 2004 (38 appearances), Izturis had just 10 multihit games and finished the season with 58. Izturis' other five-hit performance came during a 10-3 win in Arizona on Sept. 8, 2003. His last four-hit game was a 10-2 win over the Mets at Shea Stadium on Aug 28, 2004.

The Dodgers batted around twice against the Marlins' bullpen and Saenz delivered the crushing blow, a three-run homer in the six-run eighth inning against Jim Crowell. This was Saenz's 14th start in the field this season -- matching his total for all of 2004 -- as he's become the platoon first baseman against left-handed pitching.

And a pretty good one. With the 2005 season reaching the first-quarter mark, Saenz is batting .355 with three home runs and 18 RBIs in 62 at-bats. Last year, he drove in 22 runs in 111 at-bats, 46 of them coming as a pinch-hitter.

Izturis raised his average to .339 after his 5-for-6 performance. He leads the National League with 20 multihit games, and with 57 hits is on pace for 236. The Los Angeles Dodgers record is 230 by Tommy Davis in 1962.

The Dodgers bullpen had mixed results. Kelly Wunsch came on to strike out Juan Pierre in the seventh inning with a runner on third base for the second consecutive night. It was Wunsch's 23rd appearance, putting him on pace for 96.

Yhency Brazoban allowed three doubles and two runs in the eighth, but Eric Gagne was overpowering in a 1-2-3 ninth inning, his second appearance of the season after spending five weeks on the disabled list recovering from a sprained elbow and knee.

Gagne's fastball hit 93 mph, but he only needed to throw three of them in the 10-pitch inning. In his season debut Saturday, he allowed home runs to the first two batters he faced before striking out the side with a fastball at 90-92 mph.

"The first time I was too anxious," he said. "I wasn't jumping this time. I was calm and under control out there."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.