Ramirez is the difference-maker

For six innings Wednesday night, the Dodgers were back in pre-Manny form.

With men on base, they couldn't hit. With a career Mexican Leaguer on the mound for the San Diego Padres, they had trouble scoring.

Care to guess what happened in the seventh?

Manny Ramirez drove a ball near the image of his smiling face on the electronic video board in the right-field wall, breaking a tie on a two-run double that sent the Dodgers on their way to a 5-2 victory over the Padres at Petco Park.

"We had a couple of soft singles before that," Manager Joe Torre said of the consecutive hits by Rafael Furcal and Orlando Hudson. "And boom! We needed that."

Ramirez entered the game with only one hit in his first seven at-bats but was two for four on this night and drove in his first three runs of the season.

The reason?

Manny was watching Manny. He said spending more time in recent days watching videos of his at-bats.

"When you play a six-month season and can't practice as much, you have to constantly check video to make sure everything's right -- that your feet are in the same place, your hands," he said. "Because I didn't play much in spring training, I have to check even more that everything's where it's supposed to be."

Ramirez said he discovered that he was holding his hands too far out.

There wasn't nearly as much available footage of Padres starter Walter Silva, a 32-year-old right-hander who was pitching in his first professional game in the United States.

Silva was 7-8 with a 4.21 earned-run average for the Monterrey Sultans of the Mexican League last year. He was discovered by Padres infielders Adrian and Edgar Gonzalez, who were his winter ball teammates, and drove himself for two days from his home in Mazatlan to report to spring training in Arizona.

The Dodgers immediately went to work on him.

Furcal led off the game with a double to right and scored on a groundout by Ramirez.

An inning later, Casey Blake drove Silva's 89-mph down-the-middle fastball into the left-field seats.

Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley (1-0) encountered no such trouble, holding the Padres' lineup scoreless through four innings.

But Billingsley collapsed under the weight of his own wildness in the fifth inning, as he gave up two runs without giving up a hit.

He started the inning by issuing three consecutive walks. Henry Blanco scored on a forceout and Everth Cabrera tied the score, 2-2, when he came home on a sacrifice fly by David Eckstein.

"I was happy we could get out of that inning with only two runs," said Billingsley, who held the Padres to two hits over six innings. "I was relieved."

Relief turned to jubilation when Ramirez's line drive cleared the head of Brian Giles in the seventh to drive in Furcal and Hudson. Ramirez scored on a single to right by James Loney to extend the Dodgers' lead to 5-2.

The Dodgers' bullpen had a solid effort, as Cory Wade, Hong-Chih Kuo and Jonathan Broxton each posted a scoreless inning.

Broxton had another clean inning to record his second save, striking out Chase Headley on a 99-mph fastball to end the game. Broxton, whose tendency to run up his pitch count was a concern entering the season, retired the side on only nine pitches.



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