So while the Dodgers took satisfaction in a gutsy 8-7 victory in 13 innings over the Rockies, there was the disappointing reality of yet another serious injury to Nomar Garciaparra.
Only nine days after returning from a broken hand, he pulled the same left calf muscle that put him on the disabled list last year and it will put him there again, as Blake DeWitt will be recalled for Saturday's game after a one-day trip to Las Vegas.
Center fielder Andruw Jones also came out of this game with an injured left calf after fouling a pitch off of it, but he is day-to-day. Matt Kemp took over for Jones and eventually scored the winning run.
There was no DeWitt to take over for Garciaparra when he pulled up lame one step after trying to flag down Scott Podsednik's ninth-inning double down the line. Chin-lung Hu was already in the game as a defensive replacement for second baseman Jeff Kent, Delwyn Young was spent earlier as a pinch-hitter.
All-Star catcher Russell Martin saw the look on manager Joe Torre's face when it became clear that Garciaparra could not continue.
"I knew I was going somewhere," said Martin. "He asked where. I said third. I should have said shortstop, just to mess with Furkey [Rafael Furcal], but he would have laughed and said, no way."
Making his Major League debut at his former Minor League position was only a footnote to a remarkable game for the Dodgers' remarkable Martin, who capped a night of four hits and two walks with the game-winning sacrifice fly.
The rest of the game was just as wild. It included the second blown save of the year by closer Takashi Saito, which occurred when backup catcher Gary Bennett simply missed Saito's first pitch for a game-tying passed ball after Bennett replaced Martin behind the plate.
"I just missed it," said Bennett. "It was a good pitch, down and in, and I just missed it."
But Bennett enjoyed redemption with a key single off loser Taylor Buchholz to fuel the winning rally. Kemp opened the inning with a sharp grounder that shortstop Clint Barmes couldn't backhand for an error. With Kemp stealing second, Bennett singled to right-center and Kemp continued to third.
"It wasn't exactly scalded," said Bennett, "but you just want to make contact there and I did."tu
Reliever Chan Ho Park batted for himself and grounded out, moving Bennett to second. James Loney was walked intentionally to load the bases which brought up Martin, who lined deep enough to right fielder Brad Hawpe that Kemp could score easily.
"We've been losing a lot of tough games. A win like this one can propel you," said Martin, 9-for-15 in the last five games to raise his average to .276. "I was just looking for something up in the zone to drive and I got a fastball belt-high, out over the plate, and that's exactly what I was looking for."
Aside from Saito, who paid for the cardinal sin of walking the first batter he faced on four pitches, the Dodgers bullpen did what starter Hiroki Kuroda couldn't -- contain the Colorado offense. Kuroda, lacking command of the splitter that made him nasty in his debut against the Padres, allowed five runs in six innings and eventually abandoned his windup.
Rookie Cory Wade and Jonathan Broxton pitched single innings prior to Saito, but the real pitching hero was Park. He threw three scoreless innings of relief to secure his first Dodgers win since 2001 and first Major League win since 2006.
"I am very excited tonight," said Park. "I haven't won a game since before my [stomach] surgery. It's been almost two years and with the kind of year I had last year [released twice], it's hard to believe I'd win another Major League game. I just kept dreaming, and never gave up, and I came back to the Major Leagues and it makes me so happy, for me, and my family, and the fans back in Korea."
Along with Martin's perfect night, the Dodgers had a season-high 16 hits. The game lasted four hours and 38 minutes.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less