By Tony Jackson
CHICAGO — There was a big offensive outburst in the opener, a big mound performance by Brad Penny in the second game and a big home run by Andre Ethier in the finale. But in looking back at the Dodgers’ just-completed series here, when they took three of four to put themselves back in contention in the National League West and knock the Cubs back into a first-place tie with Milwaukee in the N.L. Central, it is impossible to overlook the contributions of the bullpen.
In the three games the Dodgers’ won, their relievers combined to allow just one run over seven innings. It came on Alfonso Soriano’s three-run blast off Jonathan Broxton in the sevnth inning on Thursday, after which Joe Beimel came on to record the next five outs and earn the victory after Ethier’s homer in the ninth.
Beimel faced six batters in the series, recording six outs. Takashi Saito faced six batters in the series, recording six outs and one save. Scott Proctor faced eight batters, recorded seven outs and didn’t allow a hit.
“They definitely came through,” Dodgers manager Grady Little said. “Broxton gave up his second home run in (over) a year, but that’s a tough lineup over there, especially when you have a guy hitting like Soriano. Our bullpen was outstanding.”
Saito shaved his ERA to a microscopic 1.29, the best in the majors among all pitchers with at least 40 innings. He has a 1.56 ERA since last year’s All-Star break, also the best over that span among big-league pitchers with at least 75 innings.
Martin fine: Catcher Russell Martin returned to the lineup, two days after injuring his left knee sliding into home and one day after being sent for a precautionary MRI that showed a mild sprain. Martin tested his knee with some basic activities such as running a few hours before the game, and it was determined that he was ready for action.
Martin went 2 for 4, including a leadoff single against Cubs closer Ryan Dempster in the ninth to start the Dodgers’ winning rally.
“He came in looking like he was anxious to play,” Dodgers manager Grady Little said. “We brought him out to the field and put him through a few little exercises, and he looked perfectly fine. He won’t need to take any precautions, and we always watch him closely.”
Martin has now started behind the plate for 126 of the Dodgers’ 140 games this season.
Rookie hazing: “I’m stepping on my dress,” Dodgers outfielder Delwyn Young said, as he lifted the hem of his Snow White costume off the clubhouse floor after the game.
Yes, it was time for that annual baseball tradition known as rookie hazing, and this time, because it wasn’t done last season, even the second-year guys had to do it. A few had it easy, because they got nothing worse than Disney character outfits to wear on the team charter to San Francisco. Others had it worse. Matt Kemp was given a fat suit resembling the torso of a large woman in a bra and panties and a few other details not fit for a family newspaper.
“It doesn’t bother me,” Kemp shouted to everyone in the room. “It’s San Francisco. I’m going to fit right in.”
Also: Juan Pierre stole second base in the ninth inning, his 56th steal of the season. That is the most by any Dodgers player since Steve Sax stole 56 in 1983, and it ties Pierre with Sax for the 10th highest single-season total in franchise history. … James Loney, who singled, doubled and homered in the game, is batting .417 (10 for 24) through the first seven games of this 10-game trip. … Kemp, who homered in the eighth to cut the Cubs’ lead to 4-3, has been one of the majors’ hottest hitters of late, batting .395 (30 for 76) with four homers and 13 RBI since Aug. 14.