07/31/09 1:27 AM ET
Dodgers win in 10th, end four-game skid
Kemp delivers two-run single as LA salvages finale
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
"The only time we'd come back would be the playoffs so, yeah, sure I'd like to come back," said Matt Kemp, whose two-run single with two outs in the 10th inning gave the Dodgers a 5-3 win over the Cardinals that snapped a four-game losing streak.
On a day that started with another Manny Ramirez controversy, followed by the acquisition of reliever George Sherrill, the Dodgers saw their weary bullpen let another lead get away late when Rick Ankiel homered off Guillermo Mota in the seventh inning (Mota's first run allowed since June 19), wiping out a lead provided by Rafael Furcal's two-run double in the top of the seventh.
But Andre Ethier worked an 0-2 count into a walk with one out in the 10th, was singled to second by Casey Blake (four hits) and they advanced on a wild pitch from former Dodger reliever Dennys Reyes. After James Loney struck out, Kemp greeted Todd Wellemeyer by lifting a slider for a soft line single to left to break the 3-3 tie. Kemp also singled in the Dodgers' first run in the second inning after Blake's double.
"That slider was a little bit up and he hit it where we weren't," Wellemeyer said. "That's all there is to it."
The Dodgers won the game in the 10th inning, but strategically they didn't lose it in the eighth inning, when manager Joe Torre went unconventional. After Mota allowed a leadoff pinch-double by Nick Stavinoha, Hong-Chih Kuo was brought in on back-to-back nights for the first time since coming off the disabled list. Skip Schumaker bunted Stavinoha to third, Kuo struck out pinch-hitter Ryan Ludwick and up came Albert Pujols, who beat the Dodgers in 15 innings the night before and countless other times as well.
Torre managed the eighth inning as if it was the ninth. He came to the mound and instructed Kuo to not only walk Pujols, but also Matt Holliday, who homered earlier off starter Hiroki Kuroda, to load the bases and bring up Ankiel, who homered the previous inning.
"You know we're going to walk Albert, but [pitching coach Rick] Honeycutt said, 'How about both?' And I said, 'Why not?'" said Torre. "Lose by one or lose by four. I told Kuo. He was fine with it. And he had that look in his eye. He's a tough customer. He was locked in."
Kuo fired three consecutive fastballs up and in -- one 94 mph, two at 95 -- and Ankiel swung through all three.
"The first one, with the bases loaded, I wanted to get ahead," said catcher Brad Ausmus, who started the seventh-inning rally with a single. "The way he was throwing and the way he swung, we just stayed with the elevated fastball."
"I'm just happy to be back and be pitching again," said Kuo, who missed three months with a sore left elbow that has already undergone four operations. "I just get ready to pitch every day and not worry about anything."
Rookie James McDonald, thrown into a pressure relief situation because the 15-inning game left the veterans weary, pitched a clean ninth and earned the win on Kemp's two-run single. McDonald spread the credit around for helping him adjust to relief by relaxing after starting most of his Minor League career, naming teammate Juan Pierre, bullpen coach Ken Howell, even the visiting club psychologist.
After McDonald's inning, though, there was still work to do.
Closer Jonathan Broxton, tagged with a blown save the night before on a broken-bat RBI single, pitched a scoreless 10th, although it took two exciting Ramirez catches after a leadoff walk to former Dodger Joe Thurston.
"When you don't think it can get any more crazy, it gets crazier all the time," Torre said. "Yesterday's game was important, so you can imagine how important today's game was. Yesterday we had a closer in the ninth with a lead and two outs and didn't win. But we bounced back, which doesn't surprise me. The mood of this ballclub was very good today. I didn't know what to expect after last night. They came in with a good frame of mind."
Torre praised Kuroda, who allowed two runs in six innings and was lifted for a pinch-hitter Pierre, whose legged out an infield single, then scored from first on Furcal's double.
"Kuroda was great. He trumped his last outing," Torre said. "I didn't want to take him out with 76 pitches, but with nine outs to go, I had to do something."
Ramirez went 0-for-5 hours after the New York Times reported that he and former Boston teammate David Ortiz tested positive for performance enhancing drugs in 2003. On the series, he was 4-for-18 with five strikeouts.
"Don't panic. I'll be OK," he promised.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.