Dodgers 9, Padres 1 .. .and hello first place

This is my fourth year on the Dodgers beat, and the THIRD time in those four years that the club has won at least seven of its first 10 games (they started 9-3 in 2004 and 12-2 in 2005), Ironically, the only exception came last year, when the Dodgers were only 5-5 through 10, and that was easily the most talented team of those first three seasons. Tonight’s euphoria might be shortlived — the Dodgers have to deal with Jake Peavy tomorrow night and Chris Young the night after. But there was a noticeably different vibe from this club tonight simply because Rafael Furcal was on the field. This guy is EASILY this club’s most indispensible player, even though they went 6-3 without him. He just brings a whole new energy to the team, and tonight was a perfect example of just how valuable he is. He made several nice plays, including that diving stop to rob David Wells, and he doubled in back-to-back innings off Mike Thompson. Interestingly, Furcal’s return was expected to take pressure off Juan Pierre. Well, Pierre finally was starting to get untracked with a five-game hitting streak, during which he was 6 for 22. But in his first game hitting between Furcal and Nomar, Pierre went 0 for 5.

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