Dodgers making some noise
ST. LOUIS -- The team that put Brad Penny on the disabled list more than eight weeks ago isn’t the same team that will activate him tonight at AT&T; Park in San Francisco.
Over the last three days, which culminated Thursday with a 4-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium, Penny saw and heard the on- and off-field transformation resulting from the addition of Manny Ramirez, as reggaeton blared through a clubhouse that was once a music-free zone and the dreadlocked Dominican slugger hit his fourth home run in six games for what was once a power-free lineup.
“You get a boost like that, you start playing better,” Penny said.
Manager Joe Torre is hoping that Penny can inject the same kind of oomph into the rotation the way Ramirez did into the lineup. The primary concern about Penny is his control, and Torre said, “We’ll know early.”
Penny will become the latest building block for which Torre will have to quickly find a place, as the insertion of Ramirez prompted the manager to reevaluate the roles of several players over the last week.
In the three-game set in St. Louis, which started with a pair of losses, Torre determined that Russell Martin will no longer be hitting in front of Ramirez.
Martin, who was five for 22 with seven strikeouts in five games hitting in front of Ramirez, was rested Thursday, his spot in the order taken by Jeff Kent. Kent was three for four with a double and two runs, forcing Torre to consider the possibility of making him the regular No. 3 hitter.
On the same day, Torre saw James Loney respond well in the first inning when Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse pitched around Ramirez to face him with Kent on second and first base empty.
Loney singled to left, driving in the first run of the game.
Loney said he understood why Lohse took that course of action -- “I mean, it’s Manny Ramirez,” he said -- but admitted that there was a part of him that was irked.
“It always feels better to drive in runs when the person in front of you gets walked,” Loney said.
Lohse (13-4) was prevented from tying his career-high in wins, as Ramirez launched a down-the-middle fastball in the third inning for a two-run home run to put the Dodgers ahead, 3-0.
With Torre saying he had two everyday outfielders -- Ramirez being one and Matt Kemp the other -- the process of figuring out who would claim the third spot remained in question, as Juan Pierre tripled into the right-field corner to drive in the Dodgers’ final run in the fourth.
“I usually don’t score many guys from first base,” said Pierre, who sat the previous two days when Andre Ethier started.
Cementing his place and, perhaps, removing the “kid” tag from his name was 20-year old Clayton Kershaw, who held the Cardinals to one run and three hits over a career-high seven innings.
Kershaw (2-3) struck out seven, won for the second time in three starts and lowered his earned-run average to 3.71.
“I was effectively wild today,” Kershaw said. “They were chasing my fastball up, so I used that a lot today.”
He lamented his four walks but did not regret that he walked the Cardinals’ 3-4-5 hitters, Albert Pujols (twice), Ryan Ludwick and Troy Glaus.
The fifth-inning run that Kershaw gave up on a single by Cesar Izturis was the only run he has surrendered over 19 innings in his last three starts.