Ethier belts winning homer for Dodgers
Outfielder's blast is second of game, third in past two days
LOS ANGELES -- Andre Ethier missed a game-winning homer by a couple of feet on Saturday night, hitting what ended up being a 395-foot single when Matt Kemp tagged up thinking the ball would be caught.With Kemp at first again in a tie game in the bottom of the ninth Sunday afternoon, Ethier made sure his fellow outfielder could jog home by drilling a walk-off homer to right to pick up the Dodgers' bullpen in a 7-5 come-from-ahead victory. Ethier, who also homered in the fifth to set a career high in long balls, produced his second walk-off hit of the homestand after also driving home the winning run with a single in the ninth on Tuesday. "It's a great feeling," Ethier said. "You want to be the guy in that situation to get the job done, and you expect those type of situations and when you get a chance to do it, execute the way you want, it feels great." Ethier's heroics put an exclamation mark on a 6-1 week against the Phillies and Brewers that included the team's first three walk-off wins of the season. Los Angeles cruised through the first eight innings of Sunday's game before falling prey to another bullpen hiccup in the ninth with the Dodgers resting Jonathan Broxton and Hong-Chih Kuo, both of whom gave up critical late runs in Saturday's loss. The Brewers tied things up with four unearned runs in the top of the ninth, capped by Ryan Braun's two-out, two-strike, two-run homer. "That was a gut-wrencher there when you lose that kind of lead in the ninth inning, especially with two outs and to be able to come back and win the game," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "It goes from tragic to magical. "You certainly don't look forward to games like this, but when it's all said and done, the fact that we lost the lead and still came back to win I think it tells you a lot about the makeup of the team." Chan Ho Park served up Braun's long ball after throwing a pair of nasty sliders for swinging strikes. Then Torre said Park tried to throw a third slider even harder to make it even better, something the manager saw former Yankee Andy Pettitte often do with his curveball, only to end up tossing a pitch that did nothing and ended up in the seats. Milwaukee's rally was aided when first baseman James Loney booted a ground ball off the bat of Craig Counsell with one out and then threw it away to put runners at second and third. Ray Durham followed with a two-run single to set up Braun's shot. "You can't really blame the pitchers for what they did when your defense sometimes gives them too many outs, more than three a good ballclub is going to be able to execute and capitalize on that, and that's what they did," Ethier said. Added Loney, "You've got to learn from that and try not to make the same mistake."
Torre said it felt like "air coming out of the balloon" when the Dodgers lost control of a game they had led since Matt Kemp hit his first leadoff homer of the year before Manny Ramirez stroked a two-run homer in the first.Still, Torre said players were feeling confident and yelling "Let's go" in the dugout. "We had that feeling, everybody's coming together and swinging the bat really well, and you never know who's going to get that big hit," said Kemp, who started the inning with a single to bring up Ethier. It ended up being Ethier, whose fifth-inning homer set a career high with 14 on a day in which he recorded his second career multihomer game. He tied Kemp for the team lead with his winner. Ethier has been hot his past 10 games, batting .357 with four homers, eight RBIs and 11 runs scored. Before the comeback, Clayton Kershaw was in line for his third career win by pitching six innings of one-run ball, giving up eight hits and striking out six. The young left-hander threw his fifth consecutive quality start after going eight straight appearances without such an outing, compiling a 1.45 ERA during his current hot streak. "Clayton struggled a little bit in this one where he didn't have his command that he had in the last few starts, but that's an important sign that he was able to just get outs when he needed to," Torre said. "It's just another day in the classroom for him." Added Ethier, "If he goes out there and pitches that way every day, then we have a good shot at winning." With the D-backs losing to Houston earlier in the day, the Dodgers moved back into a tie for first place in the National League West with their sixth win in seven games against NL contenders Philadelphia and Milwaukee this homestand. After rolling through what appeared to be a tough week on paper, the Dodgers' schedule eases up quite a bit the rest of the way. Besides a four-game series at Philadelphia -- which Los Angeles swept this week -- and six games against Arizona, the Dodgers do not face another opponent with a record better than 12 games under .500. "We're pretty confident right now," Torre said. "We have a feeling that we can do some special things."
Michael Schwartz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.