Old face looks bad to Reds

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 22, 2008

CINCINNATI — All the slumping Los Angeles Dodgers needed was a familiar face in a familiar place.

Nomar Garciaparra celebrated his return to the third spot in the batting order with his first home run since Sept. 14 and three runs batted in, helping Brad Penny stay perfect at Great American Ball Park in the Dodgers’ 9-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Monday night.

Rafael Furcal also homered, and James Loney added three RBI for the Dodgers, who equaled their season high with 15 hits after scoring one run in each of their three losses at Atlanta last weekend. Chan Ho Park pitched three innings for his first save in 330 career pitching appearances.

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‘‘We have a nice team,’’ Penny said. ‘‘Every team goes through this and everybody makes a big deal about it when they’re going through it.’’

Andruw Jones was dropped to eighth in the starting batting order for the first time since Aug. 22, 1998. He went 0-for-4, lowering the five-time All-Star’s average to .159.

Manager Joe Torre, who led a brief team meeting before batting practice, elevated Garciaparra to the No. 3 hole — where he made a team-high 65 appearances last season — after batting him sixth, seventh and eighth in three starts since coming off the disabled list on April 16.

‘‘Hitting in front of (Jeff) Kent, you knew he was going to get some pitches to hit and know what to do with them,’’ Torre said. ‘‘It takes experience. A lot of guys don’t think of that when they’re younger.’’

Penny (3-2) allowed a run and six hits while improving to 5-0 in five career starts at Great American. He is 7-2 with a 3.00 ERA in 11 career starts against the Reds.

‘‘It was nice to get some runs,’’ Penny said.

‘‘We jumped out and got an early lead. That allowed me to throw more fastballs.’’

The Dodgers needed two innings to match their runs output for the previous three games. Furcal hit the second pitch of the game into the right-field seats for his third hit and second homer in three career at-bats against Cincinnati starter Matt Belisle (0-1).

‘‘Everybody was struggling,’’ said Furcal, who singled in the second and now is 4-for-5 against Belisle. ‘‘You have to forget yesterday. We have a young team, but we know how to play.’’

‘‘Furcal’s like Johnny Damon,’’ said Torre, referring to his center fielder for his last two seasons managing the New York Yankees. ‘‘He lays in the weeds.’’

Belisle blamed himself for Furcal’s homer.

‘‘The guy’s hot, and I put it in a spot where everybody knows not to pitch him,’’ Belisle said.

The Dodgers capitalized on rookie first baseman Joey Votto’s error on Loney’s sharp grounder leading off the second to score two unearned runs.

They made it 5-0 in the third on Loney’s two-run single, and Matt Kemp’s RBI double knocked Belisle out of the game with nobody out in the fifth.

‘‘It was like a merry-go-round for a while,’’ Reds manager Dusty Baker said. ‘‘They jumped out early and whacked us pretty good.’’

‘‘Everyone was aggressive,’’ Torre said. ‘‘That’s what you like to see. We were due to break out.’’

Belisle (0-1), in his first start after opening the season on the disabled list due to a sore right forearm, gave up 12 hits and seven runs in four innings.

‘‘Obviously, it’s a pretty tough disappointment to come out like that and have those results,’’ Belisle said. ‘‘I felt, early on, like they hit a lot of good pitches. I just got beat up pretty badly.’’

Garciaparra, who opened the season on the disabled list with a hand injury, hit a two-run homer off reliever Josh Fogg in the sixth.

Edwin Encarnacion and Paul Bako broke up Penny’s shutout with back-to-back doubles leading off the fifth inning. Encarnacion led off the seventh with his fifth homer of the season and third in two games, and Votto homered to lead off the ninth.

Notes: The Reds promoted infielder-outfielder Jerry Hairston Jr. and designated infielder Juan Castro for assignment before the game. … Los Angeles RHP Jason Schmidt, on the disabled list following shoulder surgery, threw 50 pitches in the bullpen Monday afternoon. ‘‘His curveball was good (in his last session), but it stunk today, but his slider was good,’’ Torre said. … Furcal’s leadoff home run was the 22nd leadoff homer of his career and 10th in three seasons with the Dodgers … Encarnacion’s hit extended his hitting streak to 11 games, one more than his previous career high.