03/12/08 4:25 PM ET
Kearns hits first homer of spring
Guzman also comes through with timely hit in win over LA
By Anthony DiComo / MLB.com
at Vero Beach, Fla.
Wednesday, March 12
Nationals at the plate: In one fifth-inning swing, right fielder Austin Kearns changed the complexion of Wednesday's game, launching a three-run homer over the fence in left field. Cristian Guzman singled in two with a two-out hit in the fourth, but he was caught trying to stretch it into a double. Catcher Humberto Cota, who entered the game with six hits in nine Grapefruit League at-bats, racked up two more singles and a walk. He's batting .667 this spring.
Dodgers at the plate: Juan Pierre sparked Los Angeles by stealing two bases in the first inning, eventually scoring on a passed ball. Shortstop Rafael Furcal also walked and stole a base that inning, and Andre Ethier knocked him in with an RBI groundout. The Dodgers didn't record a hit off Nationals pitching until Ethier blasted a solo homer to lead off the seventh.
Nationals on the mound: Two walks, three stolen bases and a passed ball all combined to hurt Mike O'Connor, who gave up two runs in the first inning without allowing a hit. That was all he would allow in five innings, striking out four and retiring the final eight batters he faced. Setup man Jon Rauch pitched one perfect inning.
Dodgers on the mound: Starter Chad Billingsley cruised through three innings before finding trouble in the fourth, leaving with one out and men on the corners. Reliever Greg Jones permitted both of those runners to score, then gave up one run of his own. Jason Johnson, who came into the game having allowed only one unearned run in six spring innings, served up the three-run homer to Kearns.
Grapefruit League records: Nationals 7-7-2, Dodgers 6-8-1.
Up next for the Nationals: The Nats head back to Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Fla., on Thursday for a rare 7:05 p.m. ET start against the Marlins. Starting for Washington will be right-hander Tim Redding, who allowed five runs in his second Grapefruit League outing last weekend -- but none in his first. Florida will counter with lefty Mark Hendrickson.
Up next for the Dodgers: Hiroki Kuroda will start Thursday's game against the Astros in Kissimmee, Fla., though the Dodgers might have an even greater interest in who comes next. Top prospect Clayton Kershaw will follow Kuroda and make his third Grapefruit League appearance, after dazzling the Red Sox with a perfect inning on Sunday. He'll throw two innings in this one, falling into a schedule of pitching behind Kuroda once every five days. Right-hander Shawn Chacon will start for the Astros in the 10:05 a.m. PT game.
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.