ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Russell Martin said after Thursday night's game -- a 10-6 victory over the Los Angeles Angels before 44,043 at Angel Stadium -- that when the players began arriving at the ballpark several hours before game time, there wasn't much difference in their overall demeanor.
No one, Martin said, seemed to be carrying the hangover of that awful ninth inning of the night before, when the losing streak had been extended to a season-worst six games in the most inexcusable fashion, a couple of unthinkable baserunning gaffes that left the Dodgers with a one-run loss truly hard to accept.
"We felt like it was basically a new day," said Martin, who was caught off second base for the final out on Wednesday night a split second before Reed Johnson crossed the plate with what would have been the tying run. "That is the beauty of baseball: you get to play every day and forget about stuff quickly. I thought we came out and had a good energy. It looked like we were having fun."
From an emotional standpoint, this probably was a game the Dodgers absolutely, positively had to win. They needed to stop the bleeding, sure. But they also needed to salvage the final game of the annual Freeway Series after basically being dominated by the Angels in the first five. And they needed to prove to themselves that maybe they can hang with teams from the big-brother American League, just to have something to take with them into this week's final interleague series of the season, a monumental three-game set with the World Series champion New York Yankees beginning Friday night at Dodger Stadium.
They not only won, but won with an exclamation point, pounding out 15 hits, batting around once and orchestrating two other sustained rallies in which they sent seven men to the plate in each of the seventh and eighth innings.
The Dodgers (39-33) got at least one RBI from eight of the nine hitters in their order, including two on a double by Rafael Furcal in the third that put them ahead for good. And they gained a game in the National League West standings, moving to within three of the division-leading San Diego Padres and reclaiming sole possession of third place.
"That's what I'm talking about right there," Dodgers third baseman Casey Blake said. "That is the way we are capable of playing. We're not going to score 10 runs every night, but our lineup came up with some big hits. [Furcal] had that big hit to spark us and give us a lift, and we were able to relax after that and keep playing and keep having good at-bats.
"Hopefully, we can build off of this."
Lost in the shuffle
If there was a negative, it was that the Dodgers needed seven pitchers to get through this one, partly because knuckleballer Charlie Haeger lasted only 4 2/3 innings in his return from the disabled list -- although Haeger said he definitely could have gone longer, he respected manager Joe Torre's decision to lift him one out short of qualifying for the win, which ultimately went to Jeff Weaver (4-1).
Although he gave up four runs and walked four batters, Haeger was certainly serviceable. His slider was working unusually well, to the point he seemed to be using it more often than the knuckler.
What isn't exactly clear is where Haeger goes from here -- although the best bet is probably to the bullpen. With Chad Billingsley due to return from the disabled list Monday and start that night against the San Francisco Giants, there doesn't appear to be a spot for Haeger in the rotation.
"I don't know," Torre said. "We'll have to see what our needs are."
Although Haeger threw 102 pitches, knuckleballers don't require the same recovery time that conventional pitchers do. Torre said Haeger could be available out of the pen sometime during the Yankees series, which is probably a strong indication that is where he is headed.
"I have no idea,'' Haeger said. "It isn't my job to make those decisions. I'll just come to the ballpark tomorrow and get ready like I'm going to pitch in five days. That is the only thing I can do. I can't control things that are out of my control."
With Billingsley going on Monday, the Tuesday night game in San Francisco would seem to fall to rookie John Ely, who bounced back from three subpar outings to pitch extremely well on Wednesday night against the Angels -- seven innings, two runs (one earned) and three hits -- and clearly is still ahead of Haeger in the pecking order.
As expected, reliever Travis Schlichting was optioned back to Triple-A Albuquerque to clear a roster spot for Haeger, who was activated from the 15-day disabled list a couple of hours before the game.
Since being recalled on June 16 for the second time this season, Schlichting had made two relief appearances -- one more than he made in his previous, four-day callup -- and pitched a total of 3 2/3 shutout innings, giving him 7 2/3 scoreless innings over his three big league appearances for the season.
Schlichting would have been sent down on Saturday, but he was given a momentary reprieve when rookie right-hander Carlos Monasterios went on the DL because of blisters on two fingers of his throwing hand.
Quote of the day
"You can either sulk and moan, or you can keep working and battling through tough times. What I remember is the character of our team. We don't give in. We just keep playing. It's a long season, and you're going to have ups and downs. But character always stays." -- Martin, when asked about how the Dodgers managed to bounce back emotionally from Wednesday night's gut-wrenching loss to the Angels.
Right-hander Vicente Padilla (1-1, 6.67) will make his second start for the Dodgers since returning from the DL on Saturday, whereupon he gave up four runs and five hits over 5 1/3 innings and got no decision in a game that the Dodgers eventually lost to the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. He will be opposed by left-hander CC Sabathia (8-3, 3.68), whose only previous career start against the Dodgers came on June 21, 2008 during his final few weeks with the Cleveland Indians, when he gave up one earned run over seven innings in a no-decision.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.