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Cruz works swing shift for Dodgers in 8-5 win over Cards



This news story was published on September 15, 2012.
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By Dylan Hernandez, Los Angeles Times –

LOS ANGELES—The Los Angeles Dodgers can’t catch a break, can they?

They awakened from their offensive slumber on Friday night, as a three-run home run by Luis Cruz sent them on their way to an 8-5 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals that kept alive their postseason ambitions.

But there was also troubling news: Clayton Kershaw’s hip was hurting again and the Dodgers were uncertain whether the reigning Cy Young Award winner would make his scheduled start on Sunday.

Kershaw’s previous start, on Tuesday in Arizona, was delayed because of problems with his hip. He was originally scheduled to pitch in San Francisco two days earlier, but had to get a cortisone injection.

If Kershaw is unable to take his next turn in the rotation, he will probably be replaced by Stephen Fife, who has three career starts in the major leagues.

When Kershaw was scratched in San Francisco, the Dodgers still had a realistic chance of catching the first-place Giants in the National League West. They no longer do.

The team the Dodgers are now pursuing are the Cardinals, whom they trail by one game for the second of two wild card spots. The Dodgers’ remaining schedule is significantly more challenging than the Cardinals’, meaning winning the two remaining games of this four-game series is vital.

The Dodgers had to end a four-game losing streak on Friday night to have the opportunity to overtake the Cardinals this weekend. The early signs were discouraging.

Starter Chris Capuano served up solo home runs to Yadier Molina and Matt Carpenter in the second inning that put the Dodgers in a 2-0 hole.

They took a run back in the bottom half of the inning, when Adrian Gonzalez doubled and later scored on a groundout by Cruz.

The Dodgers and Cardinals again traded runs in the third inning, when Andre Ethier’s two-run home run offset a two-run blast by Matt Holliday. The Dodgers trailed, 4-3.

The stage was set for Cruz to play the role of hero in the sixth inning.

Ethier led off the inning with a single off reliever Trevor Rosenthal. Three batters later, Hanley Ramirez was hit by a pitch with two outs.

Up came Cruz.

The first pitch thrown to him by Edward Mujica was deposited into the field-box seats behind the short part of the wall in left field. Three runs scored. The Dodgers were up, 6-4.

The fans at Dodger Stadium saluted: “Cruuuuuuuz.”

They stood and applauded.

They forced him to take a curtain call.

“I want to thank all the fans,” Cruz later said.

The home run marked the latest memory in Cruz’s improbable journey.

The 28-year-old utilityman started the season earning $13,500 a month in the minor leagues. He will make about $300,000 this year — far less than what Gonzalez, Matt Kemp, and Andre Ethier each collect in a week.

“I’m very excited,” he said. “I’m just happy we got the win.”

Gonzalez, who entered the game batting .233 in 18 games with the Dodgers, doubled in two runs in the seventh inning to extend the margin to 8-4.

The Dodgers’ eight runs matched the number of runs they scored in their last six games combined. The last time they scored that many runs was on Aug. 29 in Colorado.

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