The enigmatic slugger hit his first two home runs of the season—and dropped a flyball for his first error—as the defending NL West champions extended their winning streak to seven games with a 9-5 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Saturday.
“I’m just happy to get that out of the way,” said Ramirez, who was presented with a magnum of champagne from clubhouse manager Mitch Poole after the game.
“I know it’s a long season and I knew it was going to come around, so I was just being patient,” Ramirez said. “But I’ve got to go and keep finding myself out there. What we did today don’t mean anything. It’s not how you start, but how you finish. We’ve got to keep battling and keep winning.”
Andre Ethier also homered twice and drove in four runs while batting second for the first time this season. Manager Joe Torre shuffled the lineup to give shortstop Rafael Furcal, third baseman Casey Blake and catcher Russell Martin the day off after Friday night’s come-from-behind win.
“Ethier’s such a good hitter,” Torre said. “Even though he gets angry and all that stuff, I see a difference in him where every at-bat is different— which is good, because he doesn’t carry it over. And no matter where he bats, he’s in a significant spot in the lineup. He certainly took advantage of hitting in front of Manny today.”
Chad Billingsley (3-0) allowed three runs and four hits over six innings with six strikeouts. The right-hander was staked to a 5-0 lead before the Rockies got on the board in the sixth with Brad Hawpe’s two-run triple past a diving Ramirez in the left-field corner and Ian Stewart’s sacrifice fly.
The Dodgers increased their lead to 9-3 with four runs in the seventh, the first on Ethier’s second homer of the game and fourth this season. Matt Kemp added an RBI single that extended his season-opening hitting streak to 12 games, Juan Castro hit a sacrifice fly and Will Ohman had an RBI single—using Ramirez’s bat.
Aaron Cook (0-1) lasted just four innings, allowing five runs and eight hits — three of them homers. The right-hander, who beat the Dodgers twice last year, has given up five homers in his first 12 1-3 innings this season. Last year he allowed just 13 in 211 1-3 innings last year.
“He left the ball up in the zone a lot today,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “Flyballs, home runs—it’s uncharacteristic. It’s wasn’t a good start.”
Both of Ramirez’s homers came with the bases empty and increased his career total to 529, five behind Jimmie Foxx for 16th place all-time and seven shy of Mickey Mantle’s total.
The 12-time All-Star, who signed a two-year, $45 million deal on March 4 after weeks of protracted negotiations, snapped his season-opening drought of 11 games and 36 at-bats without a home run. The longest stretch the 17-year veteran has gone from the start of the season before hitting his first homer was in 2006 (16 games, 55 at-bats). He also came out of that drought with a pair of homers— against Toronto.
“He probably got through this thing easily because we’ve been winning,” Torre said. “I mean, we rely on him so much. And to have him break out like that today was a big lift for everybody. It was great to have them all contribute the way they did.”
The multihomer game was the 54th for Ramirez, tying Frank Robinson for ninth place in that category. The two RBIs tied Honus Wagner for 19th place on the career list at 1,732.
“Manny’s one of those guys who you never worry about how they start, because his numbers are always going to finish up in the same place. And it makes him a little bit more dangerous if he’s cold,” said Colorado reliever Alan Embree, Ramirez’s teammate in Boston for four seasons including 2004, when Ramirez was named World Series MVP.
Ramirez drove a 3-2 pitch to left-center with two outs in the first to open the scoring. In the third, he deposited Cook’s 1-0 delivery into the lower seats in the left field corner.
Ethier increased the margin to 5-0 in the fourth with a three-run shot. He and Ramirez became the first pair of Dodgers to each homer twice in the same game since Aug. 19, 2004, when Shawn Green and Adrian Beltre did it in a loss to Atlanta.
Ramirez’s error on Hawpe’s routine fly followed a leadoff walk to Garrett Atkins. Both runners advanced on Stewart’s groundout, but Billingsley got Ramirez off the hook by striking out Troy Tulowitzki and retiring Yorvit Torrealba on a fly to center.
“I just dropped it,” Ramirez said after his third error in 65 games with the Dodgers. “Torii Hunter, he’s got 10 Gold Gloves and he misses sometimes. What about me? I don’t even got a silver one.”
Torre added: “When he came in after he dropped the fly ball, he says: `Well, no Gold Glove this year.”’
Ramirez has now homered against every team in the majors. … When Cook retired Castro on a fly to left for the first out of the fourth, he broke RHP Jason Jennings’ franchise record of 941 innings pitched. … The Dodgers placed RHP Cory Wade on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to April 12, because of bursitis in his shoulder. He is scheduled for an MRI on Monday. LHP Scott Elbert was recalled from Double-A Chattanooga. … The Dodgers have scored 59 runs over their last eight games.