Slump-busting victory stands the test of time
PHOENIX -- Chad Billingsley said he didn’t care that he set a career high in wins. He was able to joke about how an up-and-in fastball nearly broke his hand when he tried bunting in the eighth inning.
What mattered was that the Dodgers’ longest losing streak of the season was finally over.
Looks of relief were everywhere in the visitors’ clubhouse at Chase Field, with Manager Joe Torre saying the eight-game skid felt as if it were a month long and Russell Martin expressing similar thoughts about how time passed during the winless run that ended with a 6-2 victory over the first-place Arizona Diamondbacks.
The only player who seemed unaffected by the precious victory was the one in the middle of everything, the one who blasted two home runs, scored three runs, collected four hits for the second consecutive night and became the 47th player in the history of baseball with 500 doubles.
Win or lose, Manny Ramirez said, he feels the same.
“If a guy goes out and plays hard and gives you all he’s got, what is there to ask?” he said. “That’s what I’ve wanted to do.”
Ramirez didn’t say much about his recent form -- he’s 14 for his last 22 -- falling back on the set of lines he has repeated over and over in his month with the Dodgers about how he’s glad to be alive and glad to be playing baseball.
Others did the talking for him.
Torre said that when he went to the workout room in the team hotel at 9:15 Saturday morning, Ramirez was finishing up in the weight room.
Martin said Ramirez, who hit solo home runs in the third and seventh innings, was in a class of his own. Billingsley talked about the energy Ramirez brought to the team on and off the field.
Diamondbacks starter Dan Haren, who beat a Ramirez-less Dodgers team on July 19 by blanking them over seven innings, found out about that immediately, as Ramirez singled to right in his first at-bat.
Stranded at second base in the first inning, Ramirez put the Dodgers ahead in the third, smacking a first-pitch fastball by Haren over the left-field wall for a solo home run.
A run-scoring triple by Chris Young in the bottom of the inning tied the score at 1-1, but the Dodgers scored two runs in the fourth on an infield single by Angel Berroa and a resulting throwing error by Arizona shortstop Stephen Drew.
Ramirez doubled in the fifth, scoring on a home run to right by Matt Kemp that extended the Dodgers’ lead to 5-1. Ramirez added an insurance run with a homer off the right-field foul pole in the seventh.
When Ramirez grounded out in the ninth, it ended a streak of hits in eight consecutive at-bats.
Billingsley (13-10) held the Diamondbacks to two runs and nine hits over seven innings to surpass his win total from last season and lower his earned-run average to 3.13. Hong-Chih Kuo pitched two scoreless innings in relief.
Haren (14-7) was charged with five runs in six innings and picked up the loss.
This evening, the Dodgers will face the other half of the thorny tandem at the front end of the Diamondbacks’ rotation, Brandon Webb (19-5), who will try to become the major leagues’ first 20-game winner in three seasons.
Torre described the game as a must-win, saying that taking only one game in the three-game set in Arizona and returning to Los Angeles on Monday at the end of a 10-game trip with a 4 1/2 -game deficit in the standings would put the Dodgers in a compromising position.
“We have to win both of these,” Torre said. “If we don’t, it doesn’t mean that what we need to do is impossible, but it’s going to make it that much tougher. Controlling your destiny is starting to slip away from you. It’s not that you can’t win. It’s that you want a little more control over it. We need to start it here, for sure.”