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Furcal's hot bat paces Dodgers

Furcal's hot bat paces streaking Dodgers

MIAMI -- Management hasn't talked extension yet with Rafael Furcal, but the way he's playing, somebody's going to pay.

Furcal on Wednesday night completed the best April of his life with five more hits and three more runs as the Dodgers routed the first-place Marlins, 13-1, their five-game win streak matching last year's best and pulling the club above .500 for the first time since April 7.

There was a long list of Dodgers stars. Starting pitcher Chad Billingsley allowed three hits over seven innings for his first win of the year. Russell Martin homered, reached base all five times and scored three runs. Rookie Blake DeWitt drove in four runs, James Loney drove in three, each with a bases-loaded triple. Matt Kemp added three RBIs.

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They all had very good games, but Furcal has had a great month.

"You don't have a true appreciation for him if you only see him once in a while," said manager Joe Torre. "He's a real player."

Furcal is batting .381 with 26 runs scored in 27 games, 11 RBIs, seven steals (one in this game), a .462 on-base percentage (reaching in every game) and a .602 slugging percentage. That last figure means he's getting extra-base hits, in fact 17, to break Tim Wallach's Los Angeles record. Last year, neutralized by a sprained ankle that ruined his mechanics, he had only 33 for the entire season.

"Last year, the double tonight over the first baseman, that's a ground ball or I swing and miss because I'm afraid I can't turn on my left foot," Furcal said of a double during the four-run seventh inning.

Furcal is off to this kind of start in the final year of a three-year, $39 million contract that had other general managers criticizing Ned Colletti for overpaying. But Furcal was the team's best all-around player in 2006 and, healed from last year's sprained ankle, he's looking like it again. He would like an extension, but he's not making an issue of it. The Dodgers have Chin-lung Hu in the wings, but aren't sure if his offense will ever approach that of Furcal's.

"I let my agent think about the contracts," Furcal said. "I try to do my job on the field and my agent does the job off the field. I can't concentrate on two things. I want to win, that's my main thing. I want to stay here, but if nothing happens until after the season, no problem."

With Furcal accounting for one-third of their hits, the Dodgers had no problem in beating the Marlins again, scoring as many runs in this game as they scored combined in the five games on the last trip. Martin got the scoring started with a second-inning home run, and if Furcal has been the most consistent producer this year, Martin is the one whose production most seems to translate into team victories.

Hee bottomed out at .146 on April 13, and was hitting only .231 on April 22, when the club fell a season-worst seven games behind Arizona. Since then, the Dodgers are 6-1 and Martin is hitting .458 (11-for-24). He's walked 13 times in the last eight games (three times Wednesday), an indication opposing teams want no part of him.

"I'm just seeing the ball really well," said Martin, who played the final two innings at third base for the second time this year. "I'm picking it up out of the pitcher's hand and I feel like my timing's on. I'm still at the plate and not trying to do too much, just taking what they give me."

As one-sided as the final score, there actually was a turning point, and it came in the bottom of the fifth inning with the Dodgers leading, 4-1. With one out and one on, Billingsley walked opposing pitcher Scott Olsen and Florida leadoff hitter Hanley Ramirez to load the bases. But Dan Uggla popped out on the first pitch.

Even though Jeremy Hermida followed with an infield RBI single off DeWitt's glove, Billingsley was able to escape by striking out Jorge Cantu. Billingsley had eight strikeouts, his fourth consecutive start with at least that many.

"That was huge," he said of Uggla's popup. "It was a cutter up and in and it jammed him."

Martin said Billingsley's cutter was "outstanding."

"It seems like everything was coming together for him," said Martin. "He's trusting himself not to do too much, especially out of the stretch."

Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said Billingsley is mastering a mechanical adjustment designed to keep him in line with the plate, rather than rotating away from it.

"The two previous outings, he's starting to stay back and his arm is freer and everything is going out in front instead of rotational," said Honeycutt. "He throws like that, he's going to get some wins. The stuff's there."

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

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