Manny creates some space
SAN DIEGO -- Pitcher’s park? Please.
The spacious field at Petco Park was made to look like a scaled-down version of itself on Wednesday night by Manny Ramirez, who crushed a pair of two-run home runs over the fence in right-center that stands 400 feet away from home plate in the Dodgers’ 7-2 victory over the San Diego Padres. The Dodgers won the rubber match of a three-game series and opened a 3 1/2 -game gap on the second-place Arizona Diamondbacks in the National League West.
Ramirez hit three home runs in the series, the first to left field in the Dodgers’ win on Tuesday. In his 38 games with the Dodgers, he has 14 home runs and 40 runs batted in.
“He gets that ball in the air, it doesn’t come down,” said Dodgers Manager Joe Torre, whose team has won 10 of its last 11 games.
Starting pitcher Derek Lowe, who improved to 5-1 over his last seven starts, shook his head.
“What can you say about Manny?” he said. “This is obviously a pitcher’s park.”
Told that, Ramirez smiled.
“I just got lucky,” he said.
Ramirez’s first shot, off starter Shawn Estes in the fifth inning, extended the Dodgers’ lead to 5-1.
His second, off Dirk Hayhurst in the ninth, barely cleared the fence but added the final two runs of the game that let Torre rest closer Jonathan Broxton. Ramirez said he was expecting center fielder Will Venable to catch the ball, only to see Venable sprint into the chain-link fence.
Like Ramirez, Lowe (13-11) had a sense of humor when recounting a night that ended prematurely for him because of a comebacker by Kevin Kouzmanoff that hit him behind the right knee.
Asked where the ball hit him, Lowe replied, “It didn’t. I just wanted out.”
Lowe told Torre and assistant trainer Todd Tomczyk that he felt tightness in the area when he threw a couple of practice pitches and was taken out for precautionary reasons. Torre said that Lowe wanted to continue and that he probably would’ve let him if his pitch count wasn’t already at 86.
In the end, Lowe agreed.
“There was no sense to keep going,” said Lowe, who had his run of 19 consecutive scoreless innings ended when Brian Giles scored in the first inning on a groundout by Kouzmanoff to put the Padres ahead, 1-0.
Torre almost looked surprised when asked if Lowe, who gave up a run and three hits over 5 1/3 innings, would be able to make his next start.
“Yeah,” Torre said.
The Dodgers could ill afford for Lowe to have the same kind of downturn in form suffered by Arizona ace Brandon Webb, who was hit in the chest by a line drive from Kouzmanoff three weeks ago and hasn’t been the same since. In his three starts that followed the incident, Webb has a 12.51 earned-run average and an 0-3 record that includes two losses to the Dodgers.
Though there didn’t appear to be any serious concern regarding Lowe’s condition in the Dodgers’ clubhouse, questions remained about Brad Penny, who was activated from the disabled list and pitched for the first time in almost a month.
Emerging from the bullpen in the seventh inning, Penny faced three batters and delivered 17 pitches, almost all of them fastballs. He walked Venable, gave up back-to-back singles to Josh Bard and Mike Antonelli and his night was over.
Penny was replaced by Cory Wade, who limited the damage to a run and kept the Dodgers ahead, 5-2. Penny said he felt fine, pointing to the velocity of his fastball, which touched 96 mph.