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Rafael Furcal is the catalyst who makes the Dodgers go

June 27, 2010 |  8:01 am
This much is abundantly clear: The Dodgers are a vastly superior offensive club when Rafael Furcal is in the lineup.

He is what leadoff hitters are supposed to be. An offensive catalyst. Someone who sparks an entire team. Who makes everyone behind him look better.

He was at it again Saturday in the Dodgers’ 9-4 victory over the Yankees.

Furcal led off the first with a single and scored. He led off the fourth with a bunt single, stole second and scored. He singled in a run in the seventh and then scored.

Then he ended the game with a diving stop of a Robinson Cano drive up the middle, springing quickly to his feet and throwing out the fleet Cano.

His numbers on the night, 3-for-5 with three runs scored, an RBI and a stolen base.

"Raffy at the top of our batting order means a lot," said manager Joe Torre.  "He gets on base and steals. His body is very lively right now."

And he’s doing this with a heavy heart. He returned to the club Wednesday having missed five games -- all of which the Dodgers lost -- while Furcal was on the bereavement list to be with his ailing father. His dad died June 20.

Torre took some criticism for playing him immediately upon his return -- Furcal  committed two errors his first game back -- but Torre said he felt the field offered a refuge from such experiences.

Something Furcal has found it to be true after losing his father.

"I know he loved baseball," Furcal said. "When he was alive, he wanted me to keep playing hard, the way I do every time. As soon as you get to the field, you start to forget."

On the season, Furcal is batting .303 with a team-high 11 stolen bases -- one shy of his total last year. Last season Furcal was returning from a lower back injury and ran somewhat tentatively.

This year, when healthy, he looks like the Furcal of old. The one the Dodgers so badly need.

"I’m feeling pretty good the whole year," he said. "Sometimes you’re hurt for a month, and then I lose my father. You need a little more concentration. There’s nothing I can do. I’ve been feeling a good approach every time I go to the plate."

-- Steve Dilbeck