Roughly 24 hours into his Dodgers career, Manny Ramirez said he had already found the “peace” he sought in Los Angeles after his often-tumultuous stay in Boston.
Of course, the left fielder also welcomes the kind of commotion that swept through Dodger Stadium at precisely 7:28 p.m. Saturday, when Ramirez launched his first homer as a Dodger, a two-run shot in the first inning that landed in the left-field pavilion.
After rounding the bases to raucous applause and being greeted by Juan Pierre with a hearty slap on the helmet at home plate, Ramirez was serenaded by chants of “Man-ny! Man-ny!” as he returned to the dugout.
“I like that they’ve got my back,” Ramirez said of the fans. “I’ve got their back.”
Ramirez’s blast propelled the Dodgers to a 4-2 victory over Arizona in which they scored twice as many runs as they had in the first two games of the series combined.
“We scored more than one run,” said Casey Blake, who also hit his first homer as a Dodger, a solo shot in the second. “That was pretty big for us.”
Ramirez’s homer off Yusmeiro Petit (1-2) was No. 511 of his career, moving him into a tie with Hall of Famer Mel Ott for 22nd on the all-time list.
Not that Ramirez is much into historical footnotes.
“I don’t know, man,” he said when asked about the significance of moving within one homer of Ernie Banks and Eddie Mathews. “I just don’t think about it. I live day by day.”
Ramirez’s teammates nudged him to the front of the dugout for a curtain call in which he raised his cap to acknowledge the fans.
“I’m still kind of nervous, kind of shy,” Ramirez said. “I’m still settling in.”
Hiroki Kuroda pitched 7 1/3 superb innings to rebound from a string of poor starts after his one-hit shutout of Atlanta on July 7. He gave up four hits and one run to help the Dodgers pull within two games of the Diamondbacks in the National League West.
Kuroda cited his ability to complete the follow-through on his breaking pitches as the biggest reason for his improvement.
After Miguel Montero’s leadoff homer in the third, Kuroda (6-8) retired 16 of the next 17 batters before Montero reached with one out in the eighth on a fielding error by second baseman Jeff Kent. Pinch-hitter Jamie D’Antona followed with a bloop single to right-center, bringing Manager Joe Torre out of the dugout to replace Kuroda with reliever Hong-Chih Kuo.
Kuo struck out Stephen Drew and got Orlando Hudson to ground into an inning-ending fielder’s choice. Kuo also got two outs in the ninth before Alex Romero’s run-scoring single forced Torre to go with Chan Ho Park.
Park, pitching because fill-in closer Jonathan Broxton said he had a “tired arm” after either pitching or warming up in each of the previous nine days, got Chris Young to ground into a fielder’s choice to record his second major league save.
The sellout crowd of 54,544 included 8,000 fans who had bought tickets since the Ramirez trade was announced.
“To see how quickly he’s had an impact, it’s amazing,” Blake said.
In his first extended clubhouse interview with the local media before the game, a jovial Ramirez said he hoped he had found a new home.
“This is what I was looking for,” he said, noting that he had gone out to dinner the previous night and not been hounded by his fellow diners. “I want to stay here. . . . I’m looking for peace. I’ve got it here.”