It was Newcomers Night at Dodger Stadium Thursday, as Jon Garland pitched seven innings against the team that traded him away this week and Ronnie Belliard drove in three runs for the Dodgers in a 4-2 win over the D-backs, restoring their National League West lead to 5 1/2 games over Colorado.
Jim Thome did his job too, waiting in the dugout to give a hug to his former Cleveland teammate when Manny Ramirez returned from a home run trot. Thome was acquired to be an occasional pinch-hitter and a full-time team leader.
The four runs were plenty for Garland, who shook off early-inning jitters and the two runs he allowed to give the Dodgers a high-quality start, retiring the last 14 batters he faced and trying unsuccessfully to stay in the game, as George Sherrill followed and Jonathan Broxton closed for his 31st save.
Acquired Monday night for a player to be named -- which might or might not be infielder Tony Abreu -- Garland and fellow arrival Vicente Padilla give the Dodgers six starters (Randy Wolf, Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw and Hiroki Kuroda the others, with Kuroda returning Sunday from a concussion).
Manager Joe Torre indicated he might not stick with an actual rotation the rest of the way, as he's likely to keep Wolf and Billingsley on five-day cycles, give Kershaw's 21-year-old arm an occasional extra day of rest and mix and match the others depending on the opposition and days off.
Garland is the Dodgers' 12th starter this year, one shy of the Los Angeles record set in 1964. Funny how, in a matter of weeks, the Dodgers have gone from not enough starting pitchers to too many, if there is such a thing.
"Give that up to management for making things happen," catcher Russell Martin said.
For Garland, a native of the San Fernando Valley, his debut as a Dodger fulfilled a lifelong dream.
"Growing up and coming to games here, a chance to pitch for them is definitely a dream come true," he said. "I always envisioned pitching for the Dodgers. It was just an awkward way for it to happen, being with them the first game of the series and coming over after that game."
Garland struck out six and allowed five hits, four of them in the first three innings. He allowed three baserunners and a run in the first and a solo home run to Stephen Drew leading off the third but was bailed out by double-play grounders in the first and second innings. He'll face the D-backs again in Arizona on Tuesday or Wednesday night.
"The first couple innings, I had extra adrenaline, and I don't know if it was because I was pitching for the Dodgers or that I wanted to do well with them on the other side," Garland said. "But I calmed down and got my feet under me and got more ground balls. Me and Russ got on a good page and we rattled off a good little roll. The first few innings, everything was coming up. I had a little extra on the ball."
Garland said he didn't believe he had an advantage facing hitters he knew. During the game-plan meeting, Martin and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said Garland was just as interested in what he was told as what he had to say.
Despite growing up in Granada Hills, about 25 miles from Dodger Stadium, Garland said he didn't leave many passes.
"I cut the phone off," he said. "I told people that if they wanted to come, they could pay for it and support the team."
The D-backs weren't surprised at the effectiveness of Garland, who was coming off seven scoreless innings against Houston five days earlier.
"One thing that you know about Garland is he's never going to change the way that he pitches, the style that he pitches," Arizona manager A.J. Hinch said. "He's going to attack the strike zone, he's going to mix his pitches enough and he's going to try and get you to chase when he's ahead and he did. He won this battle. We'll see him again in five days and hopefully we can repay him."
The Dodgers overcame their first deficit with Belliard's two-out, broken-bat RBI single that scored James Loney in the second. Ramirez homered leading off the forth to negate Drew's home run and the Dodgers took the lead later that inning when Casey Blake doubled (one of three hits), tagged to third on Loney's flyout and was singled home by Belliard, who drove in the final run with a bases-loaded, fielder's-choice grounder as Loney slid hard into second base breaking up the double play.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.