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ATL@LAD: Sands picks up first hit and RBI in debut

LOS ANGELES -- They haven't unfurled a "Jerrywood" banner in front of the left-field box seats yet, but the Dodgers seem to have another rock-star left fielder in their lineup.

He lacks the dreadlocks and personal quirks of the guy that started last season in left, but Jerry Sands' Major League debut Monday night had the crowd chanting his name, even if that meant overlooking the significant contributions of winning starter Ted Lilly and slumping infielders James Loney and Juan Uribe in the Dodgers' 4-2 victory over Atlanta.

In the bottom of the fourth, Sands broke late on Brian McCann's sinking liner, but recovered in time to make a stabbing, lunging catch. The Dodger Stadium crowd began chanting "Jer-ry, Jer-ry."

"I had it happen before in the Minor Leagues with a couple of thousand, but at Dodger Stadium it's completely different," Sands said. "Most of the time they take a Jerry Springer kind of chant and blow it into something decent."

Manager Don Mattingly said he thought of the Springer show, too, as the crowd chanted.

"Maybe they'll be throwing around Jerry beads," Mattingly said, referring to the Mardi Gras beads awarded to Jerry Springer show guests that flash the audience.

Sands, called up earlier in the day from Triple-A, doubled in his first at-bat, got his first RBI with a sacrifice fly in his second at-bat and got a complete introduction to the big leagues in his third at-bat.

Braves pitcher Tim Hudson's first pitch of that sixth-inning at-bat was a 91 mph fastball that sailed behind Sands' head. Sands worked the count to 3-2, struck out on a slider down and away, and still got a cheer.

"It's happened before," Sands said. "He [Hudson] sent a ball over, signed it, said congratulations on the debut and that it just got away from him. No reason for him to throw over my head. A classy move. We had a battle. It's nothing at all."

Lilly reciprocated with an 87 mph fastball thrown behind Nate McLouth with two outs in the top of the seventh, earning both teams a warning from plate umpire Laz Diaz. It was Lilly who hit the Giants' Buster Posey with pitches twice last week in apparent retaliation for Tim Lincecum drilling Uribe twice.

Lilly spun the answer back on the pitch thrown by Hudson, his former teammate in Oakland, when asked if he was protecting Sands.

"More than that, I guess, I was disappointed with the pitch Huddy threw," Lilly said. "All of you guys know he's as good as it gets keeping the ball down."

Meanwhile, Lilly rebounded for his first victory of the season with seven scoreless innings, allowing only four hits with six strikeouts.

"I was locating my fastball and back-door slider a little better than it's been," Lilly said. "Mechanically, I was more sound. I was able to repeat [pitches] a little better. I got away with quite a few mistakes, too. With that said, I'm getting better instead of worse."

The only blemish on the night was another shaky inning by closer Jonathan Broxton, charged with two runs on three hits.

Loney and Uribe each had two hits, Loney adding two RBIs, and maybe just in time. He came into the game with a .150 average and club officials suggesting that Sands could play first base when he's not playing left field.

"I've been trying to get back to the hitter I was in 2007 and I think you can see the difference, even from earlier in this season," Loney said. "I felt I had gotten away from that, trying to be too perfect. Even with the slow start, I hope in the long run it makes me a better player overall."

The Dodgers gave Lilly a comfortable 3-0 first-inning lead. Matt Kemp, who slugged a walk-off home run Sunday, turned around the first pitch he saw from Hudson in this game for an RBI single, one out after a leadoff single by Aaron Miles and a walk to Casey Blake.

Of greater satisfaction for the Dodgers was Loney's two-out single up the middle that scored Blake and Kemp. Sands, who admitted he was nervous, followed by doubling Loney to third, fisting a liner down the right-field line. But after an intentional walk to Rod Barajas, Lilly struck out to end the inning.

"If I take that [Loney] at-bat away, then it is a 2-2 ballgame. It was a tough at-bat for me and us," Hudson said. "They pushed three across in the first inning, which is tough for our club to try and rebound from that early. We were just fighting an uphill battle from the start."

Sands drove in the fourth Dodgers run -- and first of his career -- in the third inning. Uribe singled, Loney sent a well-executed single into left field as Uribe took third and he scored on Sands' sacrifice fly to right.

Loney made a more difficult catch than Sands, robbing McLouth of extra bases with a leaping backhanded grab of his two-out liner with runners on first and second in the fourth.

It was a good night for the Dodgers' farm system. In addition to Sands' debut, top pitching prospects Rubby De La Rosa and Zach Lee were winners with strong five-inning starts, each allowing one earned run, Lee striking out nine for Class A Great Lakes and De La Rosa striking out five for Double-A Chattanooga. Comments