Dodgers, Ethier win game of give-and-take
Andre Ethier was greeted by a bouncing mob of teammates at home plate Sunday afternoon at Dodger Stadium following his walk-off, two-run homer in the ninth inning, none happier to see him than James Loney.
The Dodgers first baseman had opened the door for the Milwaukee Brewers in the top of the inning by making two errors on the same play, leading to four unearned runs that tied the score.
But Ethier’s second homer of the game gave the Dodgers a 7-5 victory that moved them into a tie with Arizona atop the National League West standings and may have imbued them with a sense that they can overcome any setback.
“We’re pretty confident right now,” Manager Joe Torre said. “We have a feeling that we can do some special things.”
No one has been more exceptional of late than Ethier, who delivered his second walk-off hit in six days following a run-scoring single in the ninth inning Tuesday against Philadelphia.
His heroics Sunday came after Matt Kemp led off the ninth with a single to center field off reliever Carlos Villanueva. Ethier then whacked Villanueva’s 1-and-2 pitch over the right-field wall for his career-high 15th homer.
“Andre came through big for us today -- again,” said Kemp, who hit one of the Dodgers’ four homers.
The crowd that roared its approval as Ethier’s teammates briefly hoisted him into the air had been in a decidedly different mood only a few minutes earlier when the Dodgers squandered a 5-1 lead.
With a runner on first and one out in the top of the ninth, Loney booted pinch-hitter Craig Counsell’s grounder before picking up the ball and throwing toward Chan Ho Park as the reliever covered first base.
“I knocked it down and I thought I could still get him at first,” Loney said. “I tried to throw it over there and hit him on the run.”
Instead, the ball sailed wide of Park and the runners advanced to second and third base. Ray Durham singled to drive in two runs and draw the Brewers to within 5-3.
Then, after J.J. Hardy grounded out for the second out, Park was one strike away from preserving the victory. But he hung an 0-and-2 breaking ball to Ryan Braun, and the former Granada Hills High star ripped a two-run, game-tying homer to left, leading to a deflated feeling in the stands and the Dodgers dugout.
“It certainly was air coming out of the balloon, especially when you get to two strikes, two out, ninth inning,” Torre said. “Chan Ho had good stuff, he just tried to overthrow that pitch.”
Ethier said he exchanged a “what the heck’s going on?” look with Kemp, and Torre said he didn’t want to think about going into extra innings with relievers Jonathan Broxton and Hong-Chih Kuo unavailable.
But third base coach Larry Bowa implored the Dodgers to persevere, and soon they would notch their third walk-off win of a homestand in which they have gone 6-1 against NL playoff contenders Philadelphia and Milwaukee.
“It’s a statement to ourselves saying we’re capable of playing good baseball on an everyday basis,” said Ethier, who hit a solo homer in the fifth inning and is batting .357 with four homers, two triples, eight runs batted in and 11 runs scored in his last 10 games. “We’re able to compete and come out here and have a shot to win no matter who our opponent is.”