Dodgers can look ahead
Booed throughout his brief time with the Dodgers, Andruw Jones brought the fans to their feet in the bottom of the ninth inning Thursday night at Dodger Stadium.
The center fielder stepped to the plate against Arizona Diamondbacks closer Brandon Lyon with the potential tying run on first base and two out.
It was exactly the kind of spot in which Dodgers fans would want a coveted, middle-of-the-order outfielder to hit.
Tonight, the Dodgers will have one.
For while Jones lined out on the first pitch to end the Dodgers’ 2-1 defeat and perhaps seal his fate as a bench player, his team prepared to welcome newly acquired outfielder Manny Ramirez.
Ramirez is expected to make his Dodgers debut tonight and hit somewhere in the middle of the lineup after being acquired from the Boston Red Sox as part of a three-team, six-player trade.
Joining Ramirez, a 12-time All-Star with a .312 career average and 510 home runs, could be Jeff Kent, another future Hall of Famer who was sidelined Thursday after jamming his left knee the previous night while sliding into third base.
Diamondbacks starter Brandon Webb sliced through a batting order that included sub-.250-hitting Jones, Angel Berroa and Pablo Ozuna in the opener of a four-game series, pitching eight strong innings to win his 15th game and help the Diamondbacks increase their lead to two games over the Dodgers in the National League West.
Not that the Dodgers didn’t have their chances. Pinch-hitters Andre Ethier and Mark Sweeney led off the eighth inning with consecutive singles before Juan Pierre advanced the runners to second and third with a sacrifice bunt.
But Matt Kemp, who had driven in the Dodgers’ run with a sixth-inning single, lined out to left fielder Conor Jackson, whose one-hop throw home allowed catcher Chris Snyder to tag out Ethier to complete an inning-ending double play.
“He clubbed me in the face pretty good,” said Ethier, who attempted to slide around the catcher after tagging up from third base. “He got me barely before I touched home.”
After holding Arizona without a run over the first six innings to extend the Dodgers’ pitchers scoreless streak to 29 innings, Derek Lowe (8-9) surrendered hits to three of the first four batters in the seventh, including a run-scoring double by Mark Reynolds that tied the score, 1-1, and an RBI single by Snyder that pushed the Diamondbacks ahead to stay.
Though Manager Joe Torre wouldn’t say which two players would join Ramirez in the outfield tonight, he might be hard-pressed to make out a lineup that doesn’t include Kemp and Pierre if Torre sticks with his pledge earlier this week “to go with the hot hands.”
Kemp’s hit-and-run single in the sixth extended his career-high hitting streak to 18 games and Pierre had two hits before his sacrifice.
Jones had a chance to be a hero after Casey Blake singled to center off Lyon with two out in the ninth. When he flied out to Jackson, Jones lowered his batting average to .163.
Signed before the season to a two-year, $36-million contract, Jones has two homers and 13 runs batted in in 196 at-bats.
Ramirez, who hit .299 with 20 homers and 68 RBIs for the Red Sox, will cost the Dodgers nothing over the season’s last two months.
His presence could cost Jones everything.
“Whatever they give me,” Jones said of playing time, “I’ll take it and try to help the team any way I can.”