Ramirez’s HR, 3 RBIs leads Dodgers over D’Backs

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LOS ANGELES (AP)—Chavez Ravine is rocking again on a daily basis—this time with Manny-mania.

Slugging All-Star Manny Ramirez flourished during his first three games with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the balance of power in the NL West appears to have shifted in a dramatic way.

The 12-time All-Star and 2004 World Series MVP went 4-for-5 with a homer and three RBIs in a 9-3 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday. He is 8-for-13 with five RBIs in three games since Thursday’s three-way trade with Boston and Pittsburgh.

“He certainly changes the personality of our lineup,” manager Joe Torre said. “That presence is going to help other people get better, because they’re not going to want to pitch to Manny—especially with men on base. So it figures that the guys at the top of the lineup are going to get better pitches to hit.”

Curtain calls and chants of “Man-ny! Man-ny!” have quickly become commonplace at Dodger Stadium since Ramirez came over from the World Series champion Red Sox, who are paying off the remaining $7 million of Ramirez’s 2008 salary.

“I really appreciate Manny being here, but I don’t think he’s our savior,” second baseman Jeff Kent said. “Everybody wants him to be—and, man, I hope he is. But we still have to pitch and we still have to play. Now that we’re going to play with him, he’ll make us better and we’ll make him better.”

Kent may have a better perspective on the situation than most because he played with Barry Bonds in San Francisco. And Kent is not yet ready to put Ramirez in that class.

“Barry was a home-run threat every at-bat,” Kent said. “I mean, he hit 70 home runs in one year. Manny’s not going to do that. … Hopefully, it’ll just be easier for us to score runs than before when it was such a nail-puling issue for us.”

Ramirez hit an RBI single in the first inning, doubled in a run in the second and went deep in the fifth for career homer No. 512, passing Mel Ott and moving into a tie with Eddie Mathews and Ernie Banks for 20th place.

His second home run with the Dodgers traveled an estimated 436 feet into the pavilion seats in left field on a 1-2 pitch from reliever Billy Buckner. It came one pitch after Ramirez ran out a grounder behind third base at full speed and had to take a slow walk back to the plate when the ball was ruled foul.

Ramirez capped his first four-hit game since June 1, 2007, with an infield single in the ninth and scored on a triple by Pablo Ozuna. Ramirez nearly made it out of the clubhouse before a swarm of media engulfed him about 30 feet from a clean getaway.

“They gave me a lot of good pitches to hit and I drove it,” Ramirez said. “I’m still nervous out there, but I’m going to play hard no matter what.”

Ramirez is even getting loud ovations for making the simplest of catches in left field—and when he strikes out.

“I didn’t know whether or not to give Manny a high-five after he struck out in the seventh, because they were cheering him pretty good out there,” Kent said. “That just puts it in perspective. There is a lot of excitement going on right now with the fans.”

The Dodgers salvaged a split of the four-game series and sliced Arizona’s division lead to one game. Matt Kemp, whose career-best 19-game hitting streak ended Saturday, had a homer and RBI single.

Jason Johnson lasted just 4 1-3 innings for Los Angeles and left with a 5-3 lead after surrendering a solo homer to Stephen Drew and a walk to Orlando Hudson. The right-hander, making his second spot start in place of Brad Penny, allowed five hits after pitching six scoreless innings in a 2-0 victory over San Francisco on Tuesday.

Penny will rejoin his teammates in St. Louis for the start of a six-game road swing. He hasn’t pitched for the Dodgers since June 14 because of shoulder tendinitis and bursitis, but is scheduled to pitch Friday night at San Francisco.

Brian Falkenborg relieved Johnson and retired both batters he faced. Cory Wade (2-1) worked 1 2-3 innings to get the win.

Doug Davis (4-6) retired only five of the 13 batters he faced, allowing five runs and six hits over 1 2-3 innings. The left-hander was lifted after three straight two-out hits, including RBI singles by Kemp and Russell Martin and a run-scoring double to right-center by Ramirez.

Davis’ outing matched his shortest since Aug. 31, 2004, with Milwaukee, when he was struck by a line drive off the bat of Pittsburgh’s Tike Redman with none out in the second and left that game with a bruised left forearm.

“I didn’t have control. And when I got it in the zone, they hit it hard,” Davis said. “I didn’t do my job today, but I’ll go out there again in five days and do my job.”

Notes

Umpire Kerwin Danley worked behind the plate at Dodger Stadium for the first time since his frightening injury on April 26, which left him unconscious for several moments and resulted in him being taken by ambulance to a hospital. The mishap occurred when C Martin was crossed up by Penny’s fastball to Colorado’s Garrett Atkins and the pitch slammed into Danley’s facemask. … Among the crowd of 52,972 was actor Hal Linden, the star of the 1970s TV sitcom classic “Barney Miller.” Organist Nancy Bea Hefley played “Hey There,” one of the songs Linden sang when he did the Broadway revival of “Pajama Game” in 1973.

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