08/02/08 4:21 AM ET
Dodgers fall short in Manny's debut
Bullpen unable to hold Kershaw's six scoreless innings
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
Ramirez was big box office for his Hollywood premiere, the sellout crowd at Dodger Stadium instantly in love with their new hero and cheering his every move -- right up until his ninth-inning double-play grounder snuffed out what might have been a dramatic comeback.
"It looked like it was all set up for something spectacular," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said.
Instead, the Dodgers suffered the same result by the same score as the night before and dropped three games behind Arizona and one game below .500.
By the ninth inning, Ramirez already had two of the Dodgers' six hits, although one single exploded past shortstop Stephen Drew's glove and the other was a check-swing, scored a hit only because the opposing pitcher was late covering first.
The opposing pitcher, though, was 44-year-old Randy Johnson, which made for a pretty intriguing second storyline because the Dodgers started 20-year-old Clayton Kershaw. Johnson (9-7) allowed one unearned run and got the win.
"Everybody in the dugout was really excited with Manny there, but Randy sort of neutralized it by the way he pitched," Torre said. "Our strength is still pitching. You hope with Manny's addition it helps our offense."
Kershaw pitched a shade better than Johnson in a no-decision with six scoreless innings for a second consecutive start, lifted for a pinch-hitter as much because his spot led off the sixth inning as the 89 pitches he threw with an arm the organization is determined to protect. He criticized himself for a 28-pitch second inning that ran up his count.
"I felt fine. I could have kept going," said Kershaw, who allowed four hits, one walk and struck out three. "With Randy throwing, you know you're not getting a lot of runs, you know that going in. Any time you don't win it's hard to focus on what you did right."
A few runs to work with would have been nice, but even with the addition of a future Hall of Fame cleanup hitter, the Dodgers' offense looked like the Dodgers' offense, losing for the 30th time this year while scoring no more than one run.
That only run was something of a gift. Juan Pierre, pinch-hitting for Kershaw leading off the bottom of the sixth, reached base on second baseman Orlando Hudson's fielding error, then was picked off by Johnson as he broke for second but was safe there on first baseman Tony Clark's wild throw.
Matt Kemp worked a 3-1 count and laced a high slider for an RBI double to score Pierre and extend his hitting streak to 19 games. With two outs, Ramirez sent a check-swing bouncer to Clark, who ranged to his right and gloved the ball, but Johnson was late off the mound to cover the bag. Kemp got a good jump on contact and decided he would steal a run and score from second while Clark threw to Johnson covering first.
But there was no Johnson covering, no Clark throwing and Kemp slammed on the brakes in no-man's land halfway between third and home, eventually tagged out in a rundown.
"Just an aggressive mistake," said Kemp, who has made a number of them on the bases but not many recently. "If Tony throws the ball to Randy, I score. I anticipated him throwing the ball. He didn't."
The usually reliable Dodgers bullpen let the game get away. Clark, one of Arizona's July pickups, had been only 1-for-12 against Chan Ho Park but greeted him with a long home run to center leading off the seventh. Two of the next three Arizona batters reached base and Drew greeted Joe Beimel with a double that landed on the right-field line.
"We shouldn't be losing," Kemp said. "They're a good team, but I feel like we haven't taken advantage of our opportunities against them. We've got to win some of these close games."
The Dodgers are 3-7 against the first-place Diamondbacks, with four of the past five losses by one run. That's essentially why they traded for Ramirez.
He's why the Dodgers sold 30,000 tickets in the first 24 hours after his acquisition and untold jerseys with No. 99, why all of his teammates stopped what they were doing to watch from the dugout as a Manny highlight video preceded his at-bat leading off the second inning.
"I still play video games with him all the time," said Kershaw, meaning Ramirez is the star of the video game.
He caught all three fly balls without incident. But Manny was being Manny when he trotted after a ball in the gap by Chris Burke that should have been less than a triple, and when he stood and watched the Kemp rundown instead of advancing to an unoccupied second base.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.