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Barajas’ three-hit debut propels Dodgers

August 24, 2010

MILWAUKEE — Growing up in Southern California, catcher Rod Barajas dreamed of some day playing for the Dodgers. Once given the opportunity, Barajas made the most of it.

Before the game Tuesday night, Dodgers manager Joe Torre talked about the offense his new catcher could provide and how that could boost his ballclub. In particular, Torre talked about Barajas being a home run threat.

Coming into a new clubhouse as he joined the Dodgers in Milwaukee, Barajas just wanted to get the first hit out of the way. He did a lot more than that.

Barajas was even better at the plate than advertised in his first game in a Dodgers uniform, going 3-for-4 with two doubles and a three-run homer in a 5-3 victory over the Brewers.

“It was nice,” Barajas said. “I try not to do too much. I was excited, nervous, a little bit of everything. I think getting that first base hit — something I’ve never really done in my career, hit a ball down the line like that — kind of got the nerves out of the way.

“From there on, it was just regular baseball.”

Barajas’ blast, off Brewers starter Dave Bush with two out in the sixth, put the Dodgers back on top and proved to be the eventual game-winner in the first of a three-game set with the Crew at Miller Park.

It was the 13th home run of the season for Barajas, who also increased his RBI total to 37 on the season. Perhaps more significant for Barajas, it was his first homer with the Dodgers.

“It’s been exciting,” he said of the last 48 hours. “The fact that I came to the Dodgers was the real exciting part. If it was any other team, then I probably wouldn’t be as excited. But being an L.A. boy and growing up cheering for these guys, I was nervous coming in here meeting new guys and performing with all my family and friends watching.

“They’ve said all along, we’d love to have you over here. I was afraid that if I didn’t do well, I’d get some bad text messages. It’s been a little hectic, but it’s been great.”

With the Dodgers trailing 3-2 at the time, Barajas came to the plate with two on and two out, following back-to-back singles by Ronnie Belliard and Jamey Carroll.

Given a 2-2 slider that caught too much of the plate, Barajas jumped on it, belting the pitch from Bush into the Brewers bullpen in left-center.

“It was supposed to be a slider around the bottom of the zone,” Bush said. “It just backed up. It was a terrible pitch, no two ways about it. It didn’t do much of anything.”

While Barajas made an excellent first impression, left-handed starter Ted Lilly has been doing so for the past three weeks.

Lilly continued to impress, tossing 6 1/3 innings while giving up just three runs on seven hits with a walk and two strikeouts. Lilly (8-8) has enjoyed success throughout his career against the Brewers, posting a 5-2 record with a 3.54 ERA. This season, Lilly has allowed just four runs over 22 1/3 innings against the Crew.

Since joining the Dodgers at the Trade Deadline, Lilly has gone 5-0 with a 1.84 ERA, giving up just seven runs over 34 1/3 innings in five starts.

While his performance Tuesday night was decidedly uncharacteristic for Lilly, the lefty was fortunate enough to escape with just the three runs allowed against a potent Brewers lineup.

“I got away with quite a few pitches,” Lilly said. “I just wasn’t locating. I was leaving just about everything arm side on all my misses. We got some good ‘D’ and I got away with a few and a few of the balls that were hit hard, were right at guys.

“Fortunately, we came up with some big hits.”

Most impressive defensively was a big double play turned by Belliard at third base in the eighth.

Following a one-out double by Prince Fielder, Belliard snagged a hard liner off the bat of Casey McGehee and fired quickly to second base, doubling off Fielder and ending the inning.

“Heck of a play. So quick,” Torre said. “It’s not easy catching a ball and then getting rid of it, but to throw over the runner too, that was a huge play in that inning.”

The Dodgers had fallen behind just an inning before Barajas’ home run on a two-out solo home run off the bat of Rickie Weeks, which was followed by an Alcides Escobar single and Ryan Braun’s RBI double into the corner in left field.

Those two runs put the Brewers on top after the Dodgers had taken an early 2-0 lead.

In the second, the Dodgers’ other two runs came on another homer, as center fielder Matt Kemp belted a ball off the scoreboard in center field, measuring an estimated 447 feet.

Kemp and Barajas continued the Dodgers’ recent power surge, which has seen the club smack seven home runs in the last three games while scoring 15 runs on 30 hits.

Before this current stretch, the Dodgers had scored 17 runs in the previous eight games.

“Hopefully we can build on something,” Torre said. “We keep threatening to, we just need to do that. We need to win a handful of games. But you can only do it one game at a time.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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