ARLINGTON, TEXAS -- The Dodgers of 2008 couldn't win without Manny Ramirez.
The Dodgers of 2009 can.
Asked why, Manager Joe Torre often points to the team's 35-year-old third baseman.
Torre likes to talk about how Casey Blake's consistent approach to the game is an example for the team's younger players. He likes to say that acquiring Blake in a trade turned the Dodgers around last season.
Sunday, Torre was able to talk about something more concrete that Blake adds: runs.
Blake hit a home run and drove in four runs and the Dodgers beat the Texas Rangers, 6-3, to win two of three games over the weekend at Rangers Ballpark and maintain their seven-game lead over second-place San Francisco in the National League West.
"In the tight situations, you need a security blanket," Torre said. "That's just my opinion. I've always been one to respect experience."
He wasn't talking only about Blake.
Brad Ausmus, the Dodgers' 40-year-old backup catcher, reached base four times, drove in a run and guided Chad Billingsley to his ninth victory of the season.
Juan Pierre scored twice. He was moved into scoring position both times by another 31-year-old, Rafael Furcal.
Orlando Hudson had a double, scored a run, and had a key sacrifice bunt in the first inning.
"They've made contributions even when they don't get base hits because of their presence and how they conduct themselves," Torre said. "The quality of people we have here has been very important."
Blake's and Ausmus' ages were supposed to work against them Sunday. The temperature in Rangers Ballpark was in the mid-90s. The humidity was, well, Texan.
But Blake said he didn't mind, saying the weather reminded him of a summer day in his home state of Iowa.
"I love this weather," he said. "I'll play in this weather any day. It beats cold."
Russell Martin, who was the designated hitter, laughed when kidded about how he passed on his catching duties to a 40-year-old man for a day game in Texas.
But Ausmus hadn't caught a game in a week.
"Russ catches plenty," he said. "He deserves a day off."
Blake drove in the game's first run in the opening inning on a sacrifice fly. The Rangers responded with two runs in the bottom half of the inning, but Blake's three-run home run in the third inning against starter Derek Holland put the Dodgers back up, 4-2.
Former Dodgers outfielder Andruw Jones hit his second home run in as many days to trim the Rangers' deficit to 4-3.
A single by Ausmus that drove in James Loney capped a two-run seventh inning for the Dodgers that put the game out of the Rangers' reach.
While Blake and Ausmus turned back the pages on the calendar, Billingsley (9-3) flipped them forward.
Unable to pitch past the sixth inning in his previous two starts because of high pitch counts, Billingsley was a model of efficiency, throwing 97 pitches in seven innings of five-hit ball.
"I was trying to get contact fairly early," he said. "The past few games I've had a lot of foul balls, so I wasn't worried about pitch count. Today, they put the ball in play."
Jonathan Broxton, who celebrated the birth of his first child last week, earned his second save of the series and 16th of the season.
The Dodgers have a day off today and will resume play Tuesday when they play host to Oakland in the first game of a three-game series.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times