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IT'S CINCO DE NOMAR GARCIAPARRA DRIVES IN GAME-WINNER DODGERS 4, MILWAUKEE 3.

Byline: VINCENT BONSIGNORE Staff Writer

The ball squirted off the bat of Nomar Garciaparra and started a slow roll up the first-base line. If it stayed left, the Dodgers' five-game losing streak was history and a team in desperate need of a jolt of momentum would get one.

An inch to the right, and who knows?

By the time it tapped first base and bounced harmlessly into the back edge of the infield, Rafael Furcal was crossing home plate and the Dodgers had a 4-3 win.

``Talk about a fitting end,'' pitcher Derek Lowe said. ``The ball is rolling up the line and bounces right into first base. Hopefully that gets us on a roll of our own. We sure do need it.''

Fitting too that the winning run was the result of the work of Garciaparra. A local hero of Mexican-American heritage, Garciaparra's big hit succinctly kicked off Cinco De Mayo festivities at Dodger Stadium, where the 47,731 fans were treated to a fireworks show after the game.

``You couldn't ask for a better way to end it,'' Dodgers manager Grady Little said. ``Nomar Garciaparra on Cinco De Mayo. And he wears No. 5.''

Garciaparra, whose parents were born in Mexico, wore a makeshift Dodger poncho during pregame stretching, then put it back on after his game-winning hit as he celebrated with teammates on the field.

He wore the poncho at the urging of his parents.

``Just want to honor all the Mexican-American fans for the support they give this team,'' Garciaparra said.

The Dodgers needed the ninth inning heroics after another late-inning meltdown by the bullpen. Lowe pitched into the eighth inning, leaving with a 3-2 lead after hanging a curveball to Carlos Lee in the eighth for a solo home run.

He barely had time to relax in the dugout when Tim Hamulack gave up back-to-back singles to Prince Fielder and Corey Koskie to put runners at first and second. Then Danys Baez hit Damian Miller to put Fielder at third, followed by a wild pitch that enabled Fielder to score the tying run.

It was the third straight game the Dodgers' bullpen failed to support a strong starting pitching effort. And just like Jae Seo and Bret Tomko before him, Lowe had nothing to show for his work.

``The bullpen's still finding their way,'' Little said.

Unlike the last two bullpen implosions, this one didn't end in a loss.

``And that's all that matters,'' Lowe said. ``We just needed a win. I'd love to have that curveball back to (Lee) but that's how it works out sometimes. The good thing is we hung in there and got the job done. We needed this win.''

Lowe went 7 1/3 innings, giving up two runs on seven hits. He also had six strikeouts.

The Dodgers took a 1-0 lead in the second inning on Ramon Martinez's run-scoring single, then added two more when catcher Russ Martin hit a two-run double in the bottom of the fourth.

It was Martin's first hit in the major leagues, and his first two RBIs. He was called up earlier in the day to replace Dioner Navarro, who suffered a badly bruised bone in his right arm off a foul tip against the Padres.

``He had about as strong a debut as you would hope for,'' Little said of Martin. ``He looked good.''

Furcal got things started in the bottom of the ninth with a bunt single, then moved to second base on Jose Cruz Jr.'s sacrifice bunt.

That set the stage for Garciaparra.

``What I'm most happy about is how we got it done,'' Garciaparra said. ``Rafael did what he does, then Jose gets him over with the sacrifice. That's just great teamwork.''

Then, of course, came the long roll up the first-base line.

``You hope it can put us on the kind of roll we need,'' Lowe said. ``But it's up to us to build on this.''

vincent.bonsignore@dailynews.com

(818) 713-3612

CAPTION(S):

2 photos, box

Photo:

(1) Dodgers starter Derek Lowe gave up two runs in seven-plus innings Friday, striking out six before leaving.

(2) The Dodgers' Ramon Martinez and Jason Repko cross the plate on Russell Martin's fifth-inning double Friday against San Diego.

John McCoy John McCoy/Staff Photographer

Box:

DODGERS VS. MILWAUKEE

- Vincent Bonsignore
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 6, 2006
Words:721
Previous Article:KENTUCKY OAKS: LONG SHOT CAPTURES KY. OAKS.
Next Article:DODGERS NOTEBOOK: MARTIN TAKES THE CALL.


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