Manny Ramirez makes Diamondbacks pay


Reporting from Phoenix -- Early this season, the Arizona Diamondbacks elected to pitch to Andre Ethier in the 10th inning of a tie game, rather than intentionally walk him to load the bases for Manny Ramirez, and Ethier made them pay with one of his patented walk-off hits that gave the Dodgers the victory.

Once bitten, twice shy, Arizona on Wednesday night intentionally walked the hot-hitting Ethier, who had homered earlier in the game, to load the bases and take their chances with Ramirez in the seventh inning.

This time, Ramirez made them pay.

Ramirez blasted a double off the center-field wall at Chase Field that cleared the bases, and pitcher Hiroki Kuroda held Arizona to two earned runs in 7 1/3 innings, as the Dodgers defeated the Diamondbacks, 6-3, to sweep their three-game series.

“It’s not an easy spot for an opposing manager, knowing how hot Ethier is and knowing the reputation of Manny,” Manager Joe Torre said. “We’re in a good spot in that situation.”

The Dodgers have now won six of their last seven games and nine of their last 12, and the defending National League West champions (17-17) returned to the .500 level for the first time since they were 7-7 on April 21. The Diamondbacks, meanwhile, lost their sixth consecutive game.

Before Ramirez’s blast against starter and former Dodger Edwin Jackson (1-5), Matt Kemp had singled home a run in the fifth inning to give the Dodgers a 3-2 lead, only the second run batted in for Kemp since, coincidentally, April 21.

Kemp had a hot bat in the first two weeks of the season, hitting solidly above .300 and driving in 20 runs. But then the center fielder tailed off; his average after Wednesday’s game was .277.

Kuroda, 35, was much stronger than in his last outing, walking only one and striking out nine. He gave up six hits.

“I thought he was terrific,” Torre said. “It looked like he had real good action on his pitches and was in pretty good counts all day.”

Kuroda acknowledged feeling a bit nervous in the first inning because he was recalling how he was hit in the head by a line drive here Aug. 15, the last time he pitched at Chase Field, and spent the night in a hospital.

“I had to regroup myself in the second inning,” Kuroda said through an interpreter. “I told myself, ‘Hey, what am I doing? I have to pitch aggressively.’”

Kuroda also gave credit to catcher Russell Martin and his pitch selection.

“He was using both sides of the plate and I think the Diamondbacks hitters were kind of confused,” Kuroda said.

The Dodgers took the lead in the fourth inning when Kemp singled and Ethier followed with an opposite-field home run into the left-field stands against Jackson.

The Diamondbacks came back in their half of the fourth inning when Stephen Drew and Mark Reynolds both each singled and scored when Adam LaRoche doubled down the right-field line to tie the score, 2-2.

In the first inning, Dodgers third baseman Casey Blake made a sensational play on Drew’s pop fly, catching the ball as he tumbled into the Diamondbacks’ dugout.

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