Back in the lineup after a third stint on the disabled list, the 35-year-old six-time All-Star made the biggest contribution in perhaps the Dodgers’ most significant victory so far this year on Wednesday night.
Garciaparra, playing in just his 29th game, hit a one-out, solo homer in the bottom of the ninth, lifting the Dodgers to a 7-6 come-from-behind victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.
Garciaparra lined a 2-1 pitch from Clay Condrey (3-3) just over the fence in left field for his sixth homer and first since July 26.
“I’m just trying to drive the ball there,” said Garciaparra, playing in his second game after coming off the disabled list. “I’m just glad it kept going.”
Garciaparra’s teammates hoisted him off the ground in celebration after he crossed home plate.
“That was pretty high, they didn’t know my knee hurt,” Garciaparra said with a smile. “You get excited when you can win like that. That’s just a thrill — they’re all at home plate.”
By winning their third straight over Philadelphia and fifth in seven games overall, the Dodgers moved into a first-place tie with Arizona in the NL West. The Phillies, who have lost five straight to the Dodgers and five of seven overall, dropped into a first-place tie with the New York Mets in the East.
“This is huge,” Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. “If this doesn’t help our confidence, I don’t know what will.”
Garciaparra said the best part for him was the way the Dodgers won, coming back from a 6-1 deficit after the first 1 1/2 innings.
“I’ve got to hand it to our bullpen, they came in and did a tremendous job,” he said.
Jonathan Broxton (3-3) pitched a perfect ninth to earn the victory. Los Angeles relievers held the Phillies to one hit and no runs over the final six innings.
“He’s an asset to any lineup. He’s definitely an asset to ours,” Garciaparra said. “I said when we got him, we can’t leave it all on his shoulders.”
The Dodgers certainly didn’t Wednesday night, tying the game 6-all in the eighth on Jeff Kent’s two-out, two-run double off Chad Durbin. Kent had a season-high four hits and is 13-for-26 in seven games since being moved to the No. 3 spot in the Los Angeles batting order.
Durbin threw what appeared to be a pretty good breaking pitch—down and away. But Kent yanked it over the third baseman’s head and down the left-field line.
“The result makes it a bad pitch,” Durbin said. “He’s a professional hitter.”
“There’s no use for (the walk) in that situation,” Durbin said. “I pitched myself into that and I didn’t pitch my way out of it.”
Brad Penny, making his second start after spending eight weeks on the disabled list with shoulder tendinitis, allowed four runs in the first after retiring the first two batters. Chase Utley was hit by a pitch before Ryan Howard hit an 0-1 pitch halfway up the left-center field pavilion for his big league-leading 33rd homer. Pat Burrell then drew a walk, and Greg Dobbs followed with his fifth homer.
The Dodgers made it 4-1 in the bottom of half when James Loney drew a four-pitch walk with the bases loaded to force in a run. Joe Blanton avoided further damage by striking out Casey Blake and retiring Garciaparra on a fly to right.
The Phillies got another two-out, two-run homer in the second, this one by former Dodger Jayson Werth, who hit his 16th on a full-count pitch to make it 6-1.
The Phillies wouldn’t score again.
“They shut our offense down and they kept coming at us and we couldn’t hold them,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “They’ve got some good hitters, man. Jeff Kent, I’ve seen him for a long time. He’s a good hitter.”
Ramirez hit a two-run homer in the third, and Ethier added a solo shot in the fourth to trim Philadelphia’s lead to 6-4.
Penny was lifted for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the inning after allowing six runs and six hits in three innings—his shortest outing since Sept. 28, 2006.
Blanton gave up nine hits and four runs in five innings while walking three and striking out six. He had allowed five hits and one run in 14 innings during his previous two starts.
Ramirez has 14 hits in 23 lifetime at-bats against Blanton. … Phillies OF Shane Victorino didn’t play because of lower back stiffness, but said he hoped to be back in the lineup Thursday night. He came out of Tuesday night’s game after six innings. … Torre said he wasn’t sure when Ramirez would get a haircut, but expects it sometime during a 10-game homestand that ends next Thursday. “That’s what he told me,” Torre said. “If he doesn’t, I’ll ask him again. I’m going to get booed out of town anyway.” … Howard extended his consecutive games-played streak to 235—the longest current such streak in the majors. He has 74 homers and 215 RBIs during the streak. … Martin, batting eighth for the first time this season, had three hits including a leadoff single in the eighth. He had one hit in 16 at-bats in his previous six games. His double in the sixth was his first extra-base hit in 15 games.