08/27/09 1:07 AM ET
Dodgers restore West lead to three
Trio of homers -- two by Ethier -- back Wolf vs. Rockies
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
The Dodgers have seen their Opening Day starter nearly killed by a line drive, so they aren't feeling sorry for the Rockies just because this game became a starting pitcher mismatch.
"Oh, we needed it," said a relieved manager Joe Torre, whose club restored its National League West lead to three games. "We lost a tough two games [Sunday to the Cubs, Tuesday to the Rockies] and to come back, as high as those guys are flying, and put points on the board early, was big."
Randy Wolf ran his win streak to four, powered by Andre Ethier's pair of homers and a three-run blast by James Loney, his first home run in six weeks.
Ethier, who had three hits for the second consecutive game, drove in three runs with his sixth multihomer game of the season (one shy of Adrian Beltre's Los Angeles record). Ethier has 27 home runs with 87 RBIs, moving into the league top 10 in both categories.
The win followed a 10-inning loss to the Rockies on Tuesday night that cut the Dodgers' lead to two games for the first time since April. But Wolf said he didn't approach this start as if the season was on the line.
"You can't lose sight of the fact there's six or seven weeks left in the season," he said. "I know this is a big series, but there's a lot of season left. You can't put all the emphasis on three games as make or break. We know we haven't played our best baseball lately and they've played great, but a lot can happen."
Wolf, who had 12 no-decisions in his first 17 starts, is 9-6 with a 3.25 ERA after allowing one run on five hits over 7 1/3 innings. His five wins since the All-Star break lead the club. His ERA in the past four starts is 1.80.
Wolf rejects the label of ace, but while he's been on his roll, Opening Day starter Hiroki Kuroda has gone on the disabled list, Chad Billingsley has had to overcome a strained hamstring, Clayton Kershaw has gone winless in his past six starts and the fifth-starter spot has been up for grabs.
Wolf said the no-decisions were really eating at him. He leads the Major Leagues with having left seven games in position to win, only for the bullpen to let the game get away.
"But I just realized it wasn't doing me any good," he said of his annoyance with the way his season was going. "I changed my train of thought. I believe thought can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Your mind has to be stronger than that."
Wolf issued a common complaint about pitching in altitude, that the ball was particularly slippery in the first inning, when he allowed one of his five hits (to Eric Young Jr., who was caught stealing) and one of two walks.
But Ethier gave Wolf a first-inning lead, following Matt Kemp's one-out walk with his 26th home run to center field off Fogg, who was making his first start of the year.
"Ethier is really fun to watch," Wolf said. "He's been a huge pickup when the offense has needed it."
Ethier leads the club in all of the power categories, but his average has climbed back to .290, a high since May 9, after touching .247 just before the All-Star break. In August, he's hitting .383 with six homers and 21 RBIs.
"He's one of those guys that you know, just watching him, he's going to hit the ball hard somewhere," Torre said. "He's very relaxed right now."
Ryan Spilborghs hit a home run with two outs in the third for the Rockies. Spilborghs also homered off Wolf on June 29.
"He was mixing it up pretty good, keeping us off the fastball," Spilborghs said. "He was throwing cutters in and changeups away. He was basically working both sides of the plate with everything he had and throwing them for strikes. He just left a changeup down the middle. That was the worst pitch he made all day."
Ethier slugged his 27th home run leading off the fourth, and before the inning was over, Loney added his three-run shot. It was his first since July 10, his eighth on the season, but it put him back in the Coors Field mode after an uncharacteristic 0-for-5 with two strikeouts Tuesday night.
It was his fifth home run in Colorado out of 40 for his career, and after going 2-for-4 he's 37-for-103 (.359) lifetime at Coors Field with 37 RBIs in 27 games. His next-highest road RBI total is 12 in Arizona and Philadelphia.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.