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Dodger Stadium Turns Into a Sands Lot

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The Dodgers beat the Atlanta Braves 4-2, but that’s not the story of the game. No, the Dodgers might have finally found something to fill the void left by Mannywood: the Sand Box.

Making his Major League debut, left fielder Jerry Sands dazzled not only the announced crowd of 28,292 that didn’t pass over Dodger Stadium but a worldwide audience on Twitter.

In the first inning he laced an opposite-field double down the right field line and a star was born. “Jer-ry! Jer-ry! Jer-ry!” the crowd chanted reminiscent of a certain left fielder who shall not be named.

“It was fun,” Sands remarked. “I was a fan favorite right off the bat. Hopefully it’ll stay along with me for those tough days.”

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Just to curry some more favors Sands hit an RBI sacrifice fly to right field in the third inning. And to prove that he is not just a one-trick pony he made a dazzling catch on a dying line drive by Brian McCann in the fourth inning that really got the crowd amped up.

“It was a little bit of everything,” Sands said about the play. “New stadium. The ball not carrying. A little bit of a bad read. I didn’t want to get burned so I fell over and caught it.

“I guess it looked good because everyone cheered.”

In the sixth inning, Braves’ starter Tim Hudson’s (L, 2-2) first pitch to Sands buzzed Sands’ head provoking fans at the Stadium. But Sands being the wunderkind wasn’t fazed.

“Nothing,” Sands said when asked what went through his head. “It’s happened before. He sent a ball over. I appreciate that - it’s a classy move. Just said that it got away from him. There’s no reason to throw over my head.”

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Sands went on to strike out, but the fans’ love affair with him stayed intact: they sent him to the dugout with a roaring ovation to his surprise.

“I didn’t know how to react to that. There’s still supporting me after a strikeout, so obviously they liked me a little bit.”

Dodgers’ starter Ted Lilly avenged his teammate by throwing behind Nate McLouth in the top of the seventh to the satisfaction of the crowd. Home plate umpire Laz Diaz warned both benches and McLouth stroked a double down the right field line.

“I was disappointed with the pitch that Hudson threw,” Lilly said about protecting Sands. “All of you guys know he’s about as good as it gets in keeping the ball down.”

The Dodgers gave Lilly a nice cushion in the first inning when Matt Kemp stampeded like a bison on a Catalina Island hiking trail in his torrid hitting knocking in a run on a single. James Loney added two runs on his single for the 3-0 advantage.

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In the third inning Sands hit a sacrifice fly after Juan Uribe and Loney hit back-to-back singles - the first time that’s happened this season.

“Hopefully it’s a start in the right direction,” manager Don Mattingly said of the two. Both Uribe and Loney had two singles each.

Another step in the right direction was the seven shutout innings by Lilly (W, 1-2).

“He was changing speeds and what he always does really,” Mattingly remarked.

“I was locating my fastball, and that backdoor slider was a little bit better than it’s been,” Lilly said. “I was able to make it a factor.”

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And that 3-0 lead after the first inning didn’t hurt things.

“That’s always nice,” Lilly said. “There’s a little margin for error. But I certainly enjoy pitching those tight games too.”

Also of note was Andre Ethier’s single in the seventh inning to extend his hitting streak to 15 games.

There was a little drama in the ninth inning when Jonathan Broxton came in for a non-save situation. He allowed two runs to score and had the tying run at the plate with pinch hitter Eric Hinske, but managed to strike him out.

But that did nothing to put the damper on Sands’ evening. As Mattingly said, “He’s coming, and it’s going to be fun.”

W: Ted Lilly 1-2, 4.09 ERA - 7 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 6 K.
L: Tim Hudson 2-2, 4.05 ERA - 6 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 1 WP.

Texas Rangers defeat LA Angels 7-1.
W: C.J. Wilson 2-0, 3.08 ERA - 7 IP, 9 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 9 K.
L: Ervin Santana 0-2, 5.26 ERA - 4+ IP, 10 H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 1 HR.

TONIGHT’S ACTION

San Jose Sharks at LA Kings. Game 3 of first round of Stanley Cup Playoffs. Series tied 1-1. 7:30 p.m. FS Prime Ticket, AM 570 KLAC.

Atlanta Braves at LA Dodgers. 7:10 p.m. KCAL9, AM 790 KABC.

LA Angels at Texas Rangers. 5:05 p.m. FSWest, AM 830 KLAA.