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Furcal Powers Dodgers Past Cubs

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Although it was Andre Ethier action figure night, it was Rafael Furcal and his game winning two-run homer in the seventh inning who was the hero for the Dodgers in their 3-2 win over the Chicago Cubs.

Furcal went 3-for-3 and was hit by a pitch in the fifth inning and came up a triple short of the cycle and is batting .500 with 17 runs, four homers and 15 RBI since June 26.

“I say, ‘Thank you God,’” Furcal said about his performance. “I just try to help my team.”

“When he comes up in clutch situations it doesn’t bother him,” Dodgers’ manager Joe Torre commented. “He’s made such a big difference in our ball club. He gives us life.”

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Furcal got things started in the first inning with a lead-off double off of Cubs’ starter Randy Wells (4-6) that had the potential for a big inning for the Dodgers. After Matt Kemp worked a walk, Ethier took the first pitch he saw and grounded into a 3-6-1 double play (first baseman to shortstop to pitcher covering at first.)

Thankfully for the Dodgers the inning wouldn’t go completely to waste as James Loney singled home Furcal for the 1-0 lead.

But the big show for Furcal came in the seventh inning with the Dodgers trailing 2-1. With two outs and Russell Martin on second, Furcal hit a homer that just cleared the right field wall.

“I didn’t know if the ball was going to get out,” Furcal said. “I knew I hit the ball pretty good. My main thing was to try pushing the ball and getting it inside the line so maybe [Martin] could score from second base. I didn’t expect the ball to go out.”

However Alfonso Soriano answered back in the second inning with one swing of the bat with a homer to tie the game 1-1.

“He hit it,” Dodgers’ starter Clayton Kershaw (9-4) conceded. “Tip your cap. That’s all right. Solo home runs you can deal with.”

The Cubs ran themselves out of the third inning. After Randy Wells struck out, Ryan Theriot singled. During Marlon Byrd’s at-bat, Theriot was caught stealing for the second out. Byrd then singled to right field but got caught being greedy and was thrown out trying to get to second base.

However the Cubs didn’t make the same mistake in the fourth inning. Geovany Soto’s single brought home Aramis Ramirez who hit a one-out double to give the Cubs a 2-1 lead.

“The only frustration I had tonight was the hit to Soto,” Kershaw rued. “It was a pitch I wish I could have back.”

Kershaw said later he would have thrown a fastball.

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For the second time this season Kershaw pitched eight innings and had a season high 12 strikeouts, one shy of his career high 13 strikeouts against the San Francisco Giants on April 15, 2009.

“I had better command tonight,” Kershaw said comparing this start to his last start in Arizona. “In Arizona when I was getting ahead of hitters, I was trying to throw it through them instead of trying to spot up a little more. Today when I got ahead of hitters, I was able to put them away for the most part.”

Torre attributed Kershaw’s success tonight on his ability to throw his slider for a strike.

“A couple of years ago if he got behind in the count, all of a sudden it was a fastball,” Torre said. “Now he gets behind in the count, it’s a change-up, it’s a slider. He’s got a lot of weapons out there. And when you throw the ball in the middle-90s, it’s not easy as a hitter to sit on something.”

“They got some hits early, and they proved to me they could hit a fastball tonight,” Kershaw said. “So I just went to the off-speed pitches more with two strikes tonight and was able to get some swings and misses.”

Kershaw agreed that he’s much more comfortable throwing his slider at any time in the count.

“Two years ago I didn’t even have the slider,” Kershaw said. “The slider is not as much of a ‘feel’ pitch. You can just grip it and rip it and make adjustments off of that.”

But he’s still shaky on his changeup.

“I threw one, it was a ball,” Kershaw said.

Despite going 0-for-4 with a strikeout, it wasn’t all gloom and doom for Ethier.He showed off his glove tracking down and making a great catch on Derrek Lee’s fly ball in the sixth inning.

This game was the shortest game of the season for the Dodgers at two hours and 15 minutes. The Dodgers improved to 16-11 overall and 11-4 at home in one-run games.