Hu's timely hit gives Dodgers the win

Hu's timely hit gives Dodgers the win

SAN DIEGO -- Manager Joe Torre was saying how great it was to win a tough game on the road like Sunday's.

If only he knew how tough winning in San Diego really is for the Dodgers.

Starting pitcher Derek Lowe, who is now winless in seven starts at PETCO Park, knows. He didn't need a history lesson to appreciate the significance of Sunday's 3-2 win over the Padres, the rubber match of the three-game series.

"It's early, but it's important to get as many wins in this stadium as you can," said Lowe, knowing that the Dodgers have had losing records in San Diego in five of the last six years. "We've really struggled here. It seems we've lost games in all fashions here, and it's important for our peace of mind."

Perhaps it's better not knowing the house of horrors that San Diego can be. The Dodgers started half an infield of rookies, and those rookies helped win the game.

Chin-lung Hu singled home Russell Martin with the winning run off future Hall of Fame closer Trevor Hoffman to break a 2-2 tie in the ninth inning after saving a run with a heads-up defensive play in the third.

After Brian Giles hit a one-out double, second baseman Hu dived up the middle to knock down Tadahito Iguchi's single, then was alert enough to catch Giles rounding too far off third base, and he nailed him.

"I had no chance at first base, but I looked and he was way too far off third, so I tried to throw that way," said Hu, a natural shortstop, who was giving 40-year-old second baseman Jeff Kent a day off.

Hu's throw to third was caught by fellow rookie Blake DeWitt, who was playing with a swollen triceps after being drilled by a Jake Peavy fastball on Saturday.

An inning earlier, DeWitt had made a web gem with a scrambling, backhanded stop, spinning clockwise and throwing out Scott Hairston.

"He's playing the position like he's been around for a while," Torre said of DeWitt, who has gone 0-for-10 at the plate after three consecutive hits on Wednesday night.

DeWitt also erased Giles at the plate on a first-inning fielder's-choice grounder that helped Lowe escape early trouble.

"When you face Peavy and Young, you know runs are hard to come by, and you know you have to bear down," said Lowe. "The first inning is so important to not have them score. For me that was the turning point, even though it was early."

Rafael Furcal made his own game-saving play in the bottom of the eighth, timing his leap just right to snag Hairston's two-out line drive, which was headed into left field with runners on the corners.

One week into this season, the Dodgers are exactly where they were last year -- 4-2, with an imposing pitching staff (1.70 ERA) and a sputtering offense (.229 average).

Takashi Saito picked up his first save of the year with a perfect ninth inning. Scott Proctor, Joe Beimel and Jonathan Broxton also pitched on Sunday. Combined, the four have pitched 10 2/3 innings without allowing a run.

After being throttled by Peavy and whatever he had on his pitching hand, the Dodgers had nearly as much trouble on Sunday with San Diego starter Chris Young, except for Andre Ethier, whose second-inning homer (the club's second this year) was his third off Young in 16 career at-bats.

Ethier also scored the second run to tie the game in the seventh inning, singling off Young, stealing second, then scoring on Martin's double, his first extra-base hit of the year.

"We've struggled here the two years I've been here, and before I got here, I remember hearing about the big blowup in April, when they blew a five-run lead in the ninth inning," said Ethier, referring to a legendary defeat on April 30, 2006. "It's good to set the tone early like this."

A more patient Martin led off the ninth, drawing his second walk of the game, and took second on DeWitt's groundout before Hu laced his single to left.

"My first couple of at-bats, I tried to do too much," said Hu, who struck out twice preceding his game-winner. "He threw me a changeup, that's his best pitch, and I was looking for that."

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