At the beginning of the season, Paul Konerko looked like anything but last season's minor league player of the year. It took another trip to the minors to settle him down.
After batting just .176 in April and May, with no homers and just two RBIs in 68 at-bats, Konerko has turned it around in June with four home runs, 12 RBIs and a .293 average. His two-run homer Friday night helped fuel the Los Angeles Dodgers' 5-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
"I just reached a point where I got sick and tired of not doing well," said Konerko, who has played third base, left field and first base in his first 43 games. "I'd been consistently giving away at-bats and not making the pitcher earn it. Now, I feel like if I don't do well, it's because the pitcher made a good pitch on me."
Esteban Loaiza (5-4) didn't make the right pitch to Konerko in the second inning and watched it sail deep into the left-field pavilion, giving Los Angeles a 2-1 lead.
"I was looking fastball, but he hung a slider and I just reacted to it and stayed back," said Konerko, whose homer followed a leadoff single by Eric Karros and rewarded Chan Ho Park (6-5) for the job he did escaping a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the top of the second.
Leading 1-0 on a first-inning RBI double by Kevin Young, the Pirates threatened to break the game open after singles by rookies Aramis Ramirez and Lou Collier and a fielding error by Park on Loaiza's sacrifice bunt. But Ramirez was forced at the plate on Tony Womack's grounder to third, Turner Ward struck out and Jason Kendall popped to second.
"We couldn't get a big hit in the second inning when we had a chance to break the game open," Pirates manager Gene Lamont said. "It usually comes back to haunt you."
The Pirates stranded six runners in scoring position against Park, who allowed two runs and 10 hits in 6 2-3 innings following the worst outing of his career. The right-hander, who lost four of his previous five decisions, struck out four, walked one and hit two batters.
"Early in the game he got out of a few jams and still was able to get us through 6 2-3 innings," said Dodgers manager Glenn Hoffman, who yanked Park after 120 pitches. "It was a tremendous effort."
Park retired the first two batters in the seventh, but hit Young with a pitch and gave up a single to Jose Guillen. Scott Radinsky hit his first batter, pinch-hitter Mark Smith, but struck out Ramirez as the Pirates again left the bases loaded.
"We have a lot of young talent all over the place waiting to blossom as major league talent," Young said. "We just want to make it sooner than later."
Radinsky, who has seven blown saves, made it through 1 1-3 innings unscathed. Antonio Osuna, who replaced Radinsky ithe closer's role when Hoffman became manager, got three outs for his fourth save and first at Dodger Stadium since 1996.
"I hope it gives him a lot of confidence. That's what I want to see," Hoffman said of Osuna. "Both wins I've got here he got for me. He's getting more confidence each time, which I like."
Adrian Beltre, in his third major league game since being promoted from Double-A San Antonio on Wednesday, put the Dodgers ahead to stay in the fourth with an RBI single to center through a drawn-in infield.
Karros made it 4-2 with a sacrifice fly in the fifth against Loaiza (5-4), and Tom Prince added an RBI double in the eighth against Jason Christiansen. Loaiza gave up four runs and eight hits in five innings.
Young led off the third with his second double and scored when center fielder Raul Mondesi misplayed Guillen's single. Young, who was held up by third base coach Jack Lind, broke for the plate once the ball eluded Mondesi, but official scorer Don Hartack missed the play and credited Guillen with a gift RBI.
The Pirates had a chance to tie it in the sixth, but Park retired Womack on a grounder to short with runners at second and third.
The victory was the Dodgers' second in five games under Hoffman and only their fourth in the last 13 overall. It prevented them from falling five games under .500 for the first time this season.
Notes: Pete Rose Jr., whose father helped Reds beat the Pirates in the 1970, 1972 and 1975 NL championship series, signed a Triple-A contract with Pittsburgh on Friday. He hit .277 with three homers and 13 RBIs in 42 games this season with the Reds' Triple-A Indianapolis farm club before he was released. ... Dodgers right fielder Gary Sheffield did not play because of an upset stomach. ... Pittsburgh, which started the season with the NL's second-lowest team payroll at $13.35 million, has the second-best team ERA in the league at 3.52. The Dodgers have the fifth-highest payroll at $47.97 million, but only the seventh-best ERA at 3.95. ... The Dodgers announced Friday that former major league catcher Lance Parrish will manage their Double-A San Antonio farm club. He replaces Ron Roenicke, who became manager of Triple-A Albuquerque on Thursday when Hoffman was promoted.
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