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Lo Duca gets rare home run

5/1/2004

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Even though Paul Lo Duca doesn't hit home
runs as frequently as he once did, he hasn't forgotten what it
feels like when he gets all of a pitch.

Lo Duca ended a 65-game homerless drought and Shawn Green also
homered for the Los Angeles Dodgers in an 13-4 victory over the
Montreal Expos on Friday night.

"I hit that ball good. If that wasn't going out, I was going to
come in and scream," Lo Duca said. "I've actually hit four or
five balls this year that have hit the wall, so I'm not really
concerned about it. If we keep scoring runs like this, I could care
less."

Lo Duca, who entered the game third in the NL with a .411
average, has shortened his stroke this season and employed a
different stance to become a better contact hitter. But with the
bases empty in the fourth, he hit a drive to left-center for his
first homer since July 30 at Philadelphia.

"I was looking at some tapes from the last couple of years, and
I just felt like I kept getting taller and taller in the batter's
box," he said. "It sounds weird, but I've always felt more
comfortable as a two-strike hitter. So I've gotten into my
two-strike stance, and I'm flattening my bat out just trying to
make more solid contact."

Lo Duca hit a career-high 25 homers in 2001, then dipped to 10
the following season and hit seven last year. Manager Jim Tracy
prefers this approach from Lo Duca and doesn't want him trying for
home runs.

"This is exactly the way we want him to be," Tracy said. "We
don't want him to swing for the fences because he gets himself into
trouble when he does. He ends up becoming very pull-conscious and
starts hitting a lot of flyballs. He's a much better offensive
player when he's using the whole field and putting the ball in
play."

Kazuhisa Ishii (4-1) allowed two runs and six hits in six
innings, helping send the Expos to their fifth straight loss and
16th in 19 games. He struck out two and walked two.

After Lo Duca's homer gave the Dodgers a 3-2 lead, Juan
Encarnacion added a two-run single that chased Expos starter Zach
Day (2-2) and helped break the game open.

Jason Grabowski and Alex Cora greeted reliever Chad Bentz with
RBI singles to cap the four-run sixth. Cesar Izturis had an RBI
single in the seventh for an 8-3 lead.

The Dodgers tacked on five more runs in the eighth off Rocky
Biddle. Reliever Duaner Sanchez delivered two of them with his
first major league hit, a ground-rule double into the left-field
corner. Roberts tripled home two more and scored on Izturis'
sacrifice fly.

"We hit rock-bottom tonight. This is as low as we can go,"
Montreal manager Frank Robinson said. "It was a bad ballgame all
the way around. We got embarrassed. Something has to wake us up,
and I'm hoping this will make us mad and more determined."

Day, who came in with a streak of 14 consecutive scoreless
innings, was charged with five runs and eight hits in 5 2-3. It was
only the second time in his last 28 starts that the right-hander
allowed two or more home runs.

"I threw strikes the whole game, but I just missed on those two
pitches and they did what they were supposed to do." Day said. "A
lot of times you get away with a couple of mistakes, but tonight I
didn't."

Expos cleanup hitter Tony Batista grounded out with a man on
second to end the first, and Orlando Cabrera grounded into an
inning-ending double play with runners at the corners in the third.
But the Expos broke through with two runs in the fourth to tie it
2-all.

Batista singled, stole second and scored on a single to right by
Brad Wilkerson -- sliding in just under Lo Duca's tag after a
perfect throw by Encarnacion. Wilkerson continued to second on the
throw and came home when Valentino Pascucci singled off the glove
of third baseman Adrian Beltre for his first major league hit.

Ishii, who recorded his first career shutout and complete game
with a four-hitter in his previous start, was staked to a 2-0 lead
in the first inning. Izturis tripled and scored on Beltre's
groundout, before Green tucked his fourth home run inside the
right-field pole.

Beltre finished April with 20 RBI after having 11 at this stage
last season. He was penciled in to bat third this season before the
acquisition of Milton Bradley, but was in the No. 3 hole for the
first time because Bradley was sidelined with inflammation in his
left ankle.

Game notes
Roberts stole second in the seventh, making him 15-for-15.
It's the best start by a Dodgers basestealer since 1995, when Raul
Mondesi was successful on his first 17 attempts. ... Bradley was a
second-round draft pick by the Expos in June 1996. ... No one on
the Expos' roster has had a three-RBI game this season. ... This
was the Dodgers most productive game since April 20th, 2003, when
they scored 16 against San Francisco.