On a night when the Dodgers had to end a three-game losing streak to prevent their lead in the National League West from shrinking to 4 1/2 games, they delivered a gritty 4-2 victory over the San Francisco Giants on Monday at AT&T; Park.
The Giants, who began the game tied for second place, fell to 6 1/2 games back. The Colorado Rockies remain 5 1/2 games behind the Dodgers.
"Huge win, huge win," Orlando Hudson said. "It felt like a playoff atmosphere out there."
The win came at a price.
Hudson strained his left groin in the sixth inning as he slipped trying to reach a hard-hit ball by Eugenio Velez that was knocked down by first baseman Mark Loretta. Manager Joe Torre said he expected Hudson to sit today.
"I'm going to give it a fight," said Hudson, who was replaced by Juan Castro in the eighth inning.
With Billingsley ruled out from making his scheduled start on Wednesday, Manager Joe Torre said the Dodgers would probably make their series finale in San Francisco a bullpen game, so long as they don't have to overwork their relievers in the first two games.
Kuroda did his part.
"When someone goes down, we have to cover for each other," Kuroda said. "When I was hurt, they covered for me. I'm hoping we can continue to do that."
Kuroda walked only one batter but complained of control problems, saying, "They weren't the kind of pitches I wanted to throw . . . I got through that game on emotion."
The lone run charged to Kuroda came on a home run to right field by Travis Ishikawa that gave the Giants a 1-0 lead.
A one-out single by Ramirez in the fourth inning got the Dodgers started.
The hit was followed by walks by Casey Blake and Hudson that loaded the bases.
Kemp doubled into the left-field corner, driving in three runs to hand the Dodgers a 3-1 lead. Kemp scored on a single by Mark Loretta to increase the margin to 4-1.
Kemp's double ended a streak of eight hitless at-bats for the Dodgers with men in scoring position.
"It got the crowd out of it a little bit," Kemp said. "You could hear a pin drop in the stadium after that."
For Ramirez, who is five for eight in his last two games, the visit to AT&T; Park was his first since returning from his 50-game suspension for violating baseball's drug policy.
Several fans held signs in the left-field stands that overlooked Ramirez, and used to overlook alleged drug cheat Barry Bonds, who was the target of verbal abuse in Los Angeles.
"Roids 99," read one sign. "Drugs are bad," read another.
Bengie Molina smashed a solo home run against Jonathan Broxton into those seats in the ninth inning to cut the Dodgers' lead to 4-2.
Giants Manager Bruce Bochy was long gone by then, as he was ejected for arguing a close call at first base in the fifth inning. Loretta dropped a throw by Rafael Furcal on a double-play ball hit by Rich Aurilia and didn't appear to pick it up before Aurilia stepped on the bag. Bochy had protested another close call in the third inning, when Freddy Sanchez appeared to beat Blake's throw to first.
"He blew both calls," Bochy said of first base umpire Bill Hohn.