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Blake saves his best for last

Blake, Dodgers walk off winners

LOS ANGELES -- Casey Blake was having a rough night.

His first four trips to the plate had been uneventful to the tune of two strikeouts, a walk and a groundout. And now with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning of a tie game, he quickly fell behind Marlins reliever Luis Ayala 0-2.

Blake was frustrated and stepped outside the batter's box to compose himself for just a moment.

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Three pitches later, Blake lunged at a 2-2 slider and sent the ball looping toward shallow right field.

The ball fell safely to the outfield grass, and the Dodgers defeated the Marlins, 4-3, on Saturday night at Dodger Stadium for their 10th victory of the season via a walk-off hit.

"We'll take a win anyway we can get them," Blake said. "You don't want to know what I was saying" as the ball hung in the air.

Said Ayala: "That's the game. Sometimes you make a good pitch, and they make a blooper, and that's the game. I think it was like a pop fly to second base. Anyway, that's baseball."

Thanks to Blake's heroics, the Dodgers are a Major League-best 20-9 in one-run games.

"It seems like it just happens to certain teams each year. They just got it going," Blake said.

"They just kind of have some magic. It seems like two or three teams have that going. We're one of those teams and like I said, we'll take any win anyway we can get it."

Before the game got into the ninth inning, the Dodgers faced a familiar scene against the Marlins.

There they were, tied at 3 after scoring two runs in the bottom of the sixth.

A strange setting because it was exactly the same as the one the Dodgers faced the previous night.

On Friday the Dodgers also entered the seventh against Florida tied at 3, putting a deuce on the scoreboard to tie the game in the bottom of the sixth.

And just like that night, the Dodgers turned the game over to their bullpen for the final three innings, this time after a solid six-inning start from right-hander Hiroki Kuroda.

This time around, the Dodgers' bullpen held strong for the final three innings.

Guillermo Mota pitched the seventh and eighth innings, and Jonathan Broxton breezed through the ninth.

Marked improvement compared to the night before, when the Dodgers sent four relievers to the mound, combining to give up three runs in a 6-3 loss.

"Last night was such a carbon copy of tonight's game, except the fact that we did the job out of the bullpen," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said.

"Bottom of the sixth, we tie the game just like last night with a couple of runs and then Mota was the difference as far as getting us to Broxton."

Before the theatrics of the later innings, fans observed Kuroda continue his search for rhythm on the mound.

Ever since he returned to the club from injury on June 1, it's been a work in progress for Kuroda to rediscover the form that made him such a vital member of the Dodgers' pitching staff in 2008.

On Saturday, Kuroda got off to a turbulent start. He gave up a one-out single to Emilio Bonifacio. After Kuroda fanned Hanley Ramirez for the second out, Jorge Cantu blasted a two-out RBI double to give the Marlins a 1-0 first-inning lead.

Kuroda escaped the first without enduring further damage and proceeded to settle down for the rest of his outing.

Yes, he gave up a run in both the fourth and sixth innings, but Kuroda didn't seem to have to battle as hard to get batters out as he's had to in the past.

Just look to his nine strikeouts as evidence that he was in more command. The nine K's tied his season high. An 8 2/3-inning start against the Chicago White Sox on June 23 was the other time Kuroda fanned nine batters.

"He was so much better," Torre said. "I thought he just seemed so much smoother. It didn't seem like he was muscling the ball like he's been in a few starts.

"We wish we could have gotten him a win, but it worked out great for us."

David Ely is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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