Dodgers earn first sweep since June
Combined two-hitter includes great work from bullpen
MILWAUKEE -- No Manny? No problem for the Dodgers.
With Manny Ramirez rumored to be the subject of trade discusions, the Dodgers showed Thursday they could put up plenty of offense without him and shut down their opponents' bats as the 12-time All-Star took a scheduled off-day for the day game after a night game.
With a 7-1 victory Thursday over the Brewers at Miller Park, the Dodgers completed the sweep, giving them three straight wins for the first time since Aug. 7-10, when the Dodgers won their last two against the Nationals and the series opener in Philadelphia.
The sweep is the Dodgers' first since they took all three games from the Giants in San Francisco on June 28-30.
"We haven't done this for a while," said Dodgers manager Joe Torre. "We certainly need more than this, but you can't go win five in a row unless you win three in a row. I thought we played these three games very well and we had some key outs that we got out of the bullpen and some key two-out hits. We did a lot of things well this week.
"Hopefully we can build on this."
While the six-run margin of victory looks like an easy win in the box score, the way the Dodgers got there was anything but. After taking a 1-0 lead in the first and letting the Brewers tie it back up in the fourth on a Prince Fielder home run, things got interesting in the middle innings.
With a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fifth, Torre used three pitchers for three outs for a second consecutive game. Starter Carlos Monasterios seemed to lose his command in the inning, walking Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo and hitting Rickie Weeks and Corey Hart.
"I don't think I lost that much control," Monasterios said through an interpreter. "But since I hit that hitter, I lost a little bit of rhythm and that's what happened."
Torre, who said he thought Monasterios tried to rush through the fifth inning to put himself in line for the win, brought in Ronald Belisario with the bases loaded. Belisario (2-1) retired Ryan Braun for the third straight game, needing just four pitches -- all fastballs -- to strike out Braun and earn his second win of the season.
George Sherrill then entered to face Fielder, who grounded into a forceout to get the Dodgers out of the jam.
With Belisario matching up against Braun and Sherrill against Fielder, the fifth inning resembled the ninth inning of Wednesday night's 5-4 win, when Torre used Belisario, Sherrill and Octavio Dotel to close out the game.
"That's why they're a good team," Fielder said. "It's a good move, bringing tough guys out of the bullpen to kind of shut it down."
The move did appear to shut the Brewers down. Over the final four innings, the Dodgers' bullpen allowed just one baserunner -- catcher Jonathan Lucroy walked to lead off the seventh. For the game, the Dodgers gave up just two hits, which matched a Milwaukee season.
Reliever Kenley Jansen had a lot to do with that, as he was impressive over the sixth and seventh innings, retiring six of seven batters faced. He did not allow a hit while striking out four batters and walking one.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, Andre Ethier was called out on strikes to lead off the inning and was later ejected by home-plate umpire Adrian Johnson following a Matt Kemp strikeout.
"It was just a bad call, I thought it was a bad call," Ethier said. "The pitch was repeated to the next batter, same exact pitch, I thought even a better pitch, and he called it a ball that time. So I was asking him from the dugout, 'Are you sure about that?'
"He didn't like it too much. Neither did I. One of us has the power to kick the other one out."
Two batters later, Casey Blake blasted a two-run homer that gave the Dodgers some breathing room.
Finally, in the seventh, a walk followed by three straight singles and a fielding error by Lucroy resulted in three Dodgers runs, putting the game out of reach. Jansen got things started with a one out walk in his first career plate appearance and later scored his first career run on Ryan Theriot's single.
"The seventh inning was not pretty," Brewers manager Ken Macha said. "We didn't back up home. We had a wild pitch. A ball got through Luc's legs. That stuff happens from time to time, but you hope it would be at a minimum."
When he wasn't being asked about Ramirez this week, Torre talked a few times about the need for his players to ignore the standings, focus on themselves and string together a handful of wins as they look to get back in the playoff race.
After winning three in a row, the Dodgers cut their National League Wild Card deficit from eight games -- following Sunday's loss -- to five games as of the end of Thursday's win, with the Phillies having lost earlier and the Giants yet to play.
"We talked about winning series, and we didn't do that for about a week and a half," said catcher Brad Ausmus, who recorded his first three-hit game since July 27, 2008. "You're talking about not only winning series, but mixing in a few series where you manage to sweep the team that you're playing.
"We're fortunate to come out of Milwaukee having done that."
Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.