Seo helps Dodgers climb toward first

Seo helps Dodgers climb toward first

LOS ANGELES -- In much of the world, the Dodger Stadium pitching matchup Monday night pitted a couple of guys with short last names.

In Korea, though, it was something historic.

Jae Seo outdueled countryman and former high school teammate Byung-Hyun Kim in the first Major League game started by two Korean pitchers, the streaking Dodgers doing plenty right in a 6-1 win over the Colorado Rockies.

Seo allowed one unearned run in seven innings, his longest outing of the year. Given an extra two days of rest, he said the torn fingernail on his index finger was not an issue. To be part of history was.

"In Korea, this was a big issue," said Seo (2-2). "There were twice as many Korean fans here as usual. To the Korean fans, it didn't matter who won the game. They were just proud that two Koreans were pitching in a Major League game."

Fair enough, but everywhere else in a Los Angeles clubhouse with representatives from 10 countries, all that mattered was the outcome. The win was the fifth straight and 13th in the last 16 games for the Dodgers, who pulled into a tie for second with Colorado and within one-half game of the division's new leaders, the Arizona Diamondbacks.

"We're playing very good baseball," manager Grady Little said about five times.

Other than starting the game with an error that led to an unearned run, the Dodgers came up big defensively in the first three innings, when Seo overcame a lack of command and escaped jams.

Two Rockies were thrown out at the plate: Cory Sullivan in the second inning, trying to score on a double to left by Danny Ardoin; and Luis Gonzalez in the third, trying to score from second base on a single by Garret Atkins with no outs in the third inning.

To get Sullivan, the Dodgers needed a perfect relay from rookie left fielder Andre Ethier to shortstop Rafael Furcal to rookie catcher Russell Martin, who barely tagged the runner before he snuck his fingertips onto the plate.

"Raffy threw a bullet," said Martin. "Without that, we'd never get that guy."

To erase Gonzalez, the Dodgers got the strongest throw of the season from the surgically repaired right arm of right fielder J.D. Drew.

"I tried to manage it early and continued to play long toss and built up the strength," said Drew. "Tonight worked out well. I got on top of the ball. Hopefully, I've turned the corner."

Despite Drew's throw, Seo proceeded to load the bases by walking Todd Helton and hitting Matt Holliday with a pitch, but Furcal made a tricky play to start the first of three Dodgers double plays.

It was a different Seo over the final four innings, when he allowed just one more hit. It was his first win in three weeks and his ERA dropped from 5.31 to 4.50.

"Martin blocking the plate really gave me a lift," said Seo.

The third inning was particularly frustrating for the Rockies, who had a double, single, walk and a hit batter -- but came away empty.

Little compared it to a game in Colorado last week against Kim, when the Dodgers opened with three walks, two wild pitches, a single and a stolen base. They scored only one run that first inning, and coincidentally, had a runner thrown out at the plate. Given new life, Kim didn't allow another runner to reach third that night.

"You see it happen so many times," said Little. "We had Kim on the ropes in Colorado, and got the guy thrown out at the plate and it comes back to haunt you, and the same thing happened to them tonight."

Indeed, the momentum swung. Although Colorado scored once in the first, after being turned away in the second and third, they watched the Dodgers take the lead in the bottom of the third on an error by Helton, a double by Jose Cruz Jr., an RBI single by Olmedo Saenz and a run-scoring forceout from Drew, who had another one in the eighth.

The Dodgers extended their lead when Jeff Kent doubled in Drew in the sixth inning, scored one run on five walks (they had eight in the game) against the Rockies' bullpen in the seventh inning, and added a pair in the eighth. The Dodgers scored six runs without a multiple-hit game and stranded 11 runners.

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