SAN DIEGO -- Andre Ethier tried to look like Manny. He laughed like Manny. Then he knocked in runs like Manny.
Ethier drove in four runs and scored another over the last two innings of the Dodgers’ 6-2 come-from-behind victory over the San Diego Padres at Petco Park on Tuesday, moving them 2 1/2 games clear of the second-place Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL West.
The dreadlocked muse who Ethier said inspired his recent surge at the plate, Manny Ramirez, belted his 522nd career home run in the sixth inning to move past Willie McCovey, Frank Thomas and Ted Williams into 17th place on the all-time list and hit the eighth-inning sacrifice fly that scored Ethier for the go-ahead run.
Ethier, who tripled into the left-field corner to drive in Russell Martin in the eighth and hit a bases-clearing double down the opposite line in the ninth to put the game out of reach, embraced the notion that he was hitting better because he was in the No. 2 spot ahead of the Ramirez.
Over his 12 games with Ramirez batting behind him, Ethier is hitting .500 (23 for 46) with 14 runs batted in and 15 runs scored. But Ethier said Ramirez’s influence extended beyond that. Ethier said he was grateful for “not only the protection and the confidence he adds by being in the lineup, but also the knowledge he has brought to us as a team and to me individually.”
Sitting in front of his locker before the game, Ethier spoke at length about how Ramirez told him not to dwell on his every failure and that he could work hard and still have fun.
Proof that Ethier is a more relaxed player these days was in his locker, strings of black medical tape that were twisted by Delwyn Young into Ramirez-style dreadlocks in the dugout with the Dodgers trailing. “My Manny Rally Dreads,” Young called them.
With the Dodgers trailing 2-1 and in danger of starting this 10-game trip with two losses, Ethier put the dreadlocks under his cap to draw a hearty laugh from Ramirez.
“The long shadow of the last road trip” -- which started with a season-long eight-game losing streak -- “was hanging over our heads, so we were trying to stay loose,” Ethier said.
“Hilarious,” he said. “The game is supposed to be fun.”
Manager Joe Torre said he’s noticed a change in Ethier.
“I see a guy who lets go of bad stuff,” he said.
That was important Tuesday, which the Dodgers entered having lost 11 of their previous 13 road games. They were shut down in a series-opening loss Monday night by a no-name San Diego pitcher they’d recently pounded and encountered the same problem on this night.
Left-hander Wade LeBlanc gave up five runs and eight hits over four innings in his major league debut at Dodger Stadium six days earlier but was much better in his second go-around, as the only run he yielded over six innings was on a solo home run by Ramirez on the first pitch of the sixth.
Dodgers starter Hiroki Kuroda gave up nine hits in six innings but minimized the damage to a pair of runs to keep his team in the game.
Kuroda gave up a run-scoring double to Kevin Kouzmanoff in the first inning, and put the Padres ahead, 1-0. Chase Headley’s double in the third increased the Padres’ lead to 2-0. The Dodgers’ deficit could’ve increased to 3-0 on the sequence had Nomar Garciaparra not received a throw from Ethier and nailed Adrian Gonzalez at the plate.
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Derek Lowe is a different pitcher when Greg Maddux is with him on the Dodgers. A look at Lowe’s numbers in 2006 and this season with the Dodgers, after they acquired Maddux, and his overall numbers with the Dodgers when Maddux isn’t on the team. Lowe faces Shawn Estes tonight in San Diego:
*--* Year IP H ER BB SO W-L ERA ’06 75.1 68 20 13 41 8-1 2.39 ’08 28.1 16 3 6 19 3-1 0.95 -- 103.2 84 23 19 60 11-2 2.00 *--*
*--* WITHOUT MADDUX *--*
* Lowe is 41-46 with a 3.90 ERA
Researched by Houston Mitchell
Los Angeles Times