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Luis Cruz Blasts the Dodgers to Victory

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Before the game the Dodgers got some good news for a change on Friday. The better news was that it seemed to carried into the game with Luis Cruz putting the game away with a three-run homer in the sixth inning to get the 8-5 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.

It was a familiar position the Dodgers were in, trailing 4-3 in the sixth inning. Andre Ethier led off the inning with a single off of reliever Trevor Rosenthal who got Matt Kemp to fly to center and Adrian Gonzalez to pop up to third base. Two outs and that should be the end of it, but Rosenthal hit Hanley Ramirez. Which set the stage for Luis Cruz.

Granted Luis Cruz has been arguably the most consistent Dodger hitter during the second half of the season, but his numbers with two outs and runners in scoring position has been pretty bad: .167 in his career in those situations.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny brought in Edward Mujica to face Cruz. Cruz saw four splitters from Mujica on Thursday and managed to get on base because of a fielding error on third baseman Matt Carpenter.

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"They've been pitching me fastballs in, but he threw me splitters down and in," Cruz said. Cruz had one mindset when he got up to the plate. "I told myself to relax and take a pitch. I was supposed to see a pitch."

But that's not the way it worked. He took the first pitch he saw from Mujica and scalded it to the left field box seats. "I just saw it hanging, and I hit it."

The Dodgers took their first lead in what seemed like an eternity, and the 40,167 cheered on CRUUUUUUUZ prompting him to give a curtain call.

"I didn't know what to do," Cruz recalled. "I was excited and everybody was hugging me in the dugout. It feels good. I saw it many times on television, and it feels good to do it one time."

The joy on Cruz's face was irrepressible. A player who toiled for parts of 12 seasons in the minor leagues and was pretty unremarkable through parts of three seasons in the Big Leagues, Cruz is batting .298 in 61 games this season and batting .355 since Aug. 12. He had a career-high four RBIs in Friday's game.

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"I'm very happy being here and playing almost every day," Cruz said. "It's a dream come true for me. I spent 12 years in the Minors, but now I just try to take advantage of the opportunity they've given me. We've just got to come every day, try to give 100 percent, have fun and try to be relaxed."

It seemed that sense of fun permeated throughout the team despite being down for over half of the game.

"Tonight showed that we were relaxed, we had fun, and we came up with big hits which we are capable of doing every game," Shane Victorino said. "Tonight was definitely a positive for us."

"I'm ready now. I'm ready to go out and battle again."

Despite the offensive burst that emanated from the Dodgers, that quote was not said by the Dodger bats. Try as I might holding my little voice recorder up to the bat rack, I got nothing out of them. Then again, neither could the Dodgers for the last several weeks.

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Instead the willing warrior was closer Kenley Jansen.

Jansen has been out since August 28 when he had a second episode of heart arrhythmia in Colorado. Like his first episode last season, he was placed on blood thinners where a hit to the head with a baseball could cause internal bleeding or worse.

Coming to the Stadium, reporters knew Jansen was going to doctor earlier Friday afternoon to see if he could be taken off of the blood thinners. That would give Jansen the required two days to get the blood thinners out of his system and in time to be ready for action on Tuesday in Washington.

Even before we had a chance to get our microphones and voice recorders in his face, our question was answered.

Jansen pitched a simulated game on the mound at Dodger Stadium before batting practice with batters at the plate just to track the ball. All of Jansen's prior workouts have been done in the bullpen, so that raised some eyebrows. And with Dee Gordon taking grounders at second base while this was going on, it seemed clear the precautions were dropped and that Jansen was cleared to go.

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Of course we needed actual confirmation. "I am off the blood thinners," Jansen said.

There it is.

Dodgers manager Mattingly does not want to use Jansen as a closer immediately. "I'd probably feel more comfortable if I get him into a game and get him out there without having to put the whole game on him," Mattingly said.

"I'm ready," Jansen kept repeating. "If they want to give me the ball in the ninth, I'm ready for it. I will do everything I can to help this team in either the seventh, eighth or ninth. It doesn't matter to me. Whatever they feel is the best, I'll do it."

Jansen did confirm that he will undergo a cardiac ablation in the offseason which involves using a catheter to correct structural problems in the heart and will be ready for spring training next season.

Add to that fact that according to Mark Saxon of ESPN LA, Mattingly will be back for the final year of his contract next season no matter the outcome of this season.

So not all the news was good. Ted Lilly will have shoulder surgery next Friday performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache to clean up some of the fraying in his labrum according to head trainer Sue Falsone. And Clayton Kershaw's hip is still bothering him putting his start on Sunday in jeopardy.

Despite the levity in the Dodger win, not everything was rosy. Chris Capuano lasted only 4 1/3 innings and getting shelled with four runs on three homers in that span. He left the game trailing 4-3, but leaving the game to a trusty bullpen didn't make Capuano feel any better.

"As a starting pitcher when you come out of the game in the fifth inning, you don't feel like you did your job," Capuano said. "You want to get your team into the seventh, eighth inning whenever you can. It's frustrating, but on the flipside the bullpen has been solid."

Also Matt Kemp went 0-for-4, and the grounds crew will need a week to rehab the trench dug out by Nick Punto sliding to first base.

But it is a win, and the Dodgers are now a game behind the Red Birds for the final wild card spot. I don't know if this will spark anything, but the Dodgers are still in it. I guess that accounts for something.