04/16/10 3:35 AM ET
Ethier's walk-off hit in 10th caps LA rally
Dodgers fight back with pair of two-out runs in ninth inning
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
Runners on second and third, one out, bottom of the 10th in a tied game and walk-off meister Andre Ethier at the plate. Even with Manny Ramirez on deck, surely Ethier would be walked intentionally. After all, it was Ethier who was named last year's Pepsi MLB Clutch Player of the Year, not Ramirez.
But Arizona manager A.J. Hinch had reliever Blaine Boyer pitch to Ethier with first base open. And if you saw any of Ethier's six walk-off hits last year, you pretty much know how this one ended.
Ethier's long single over the head of drawn-in center fielder Chris Young gave the Dodgers an improbable 6-5 win on Jackie Robinson Night.
"It still feels like the first time, it's a great feeling I think," said Ethier, mobbed by teammates in the infield in what was a familiar scene last year. "I've said it so many times, the game really simplifies there, there's two outcomes, you succeed or fail. One swing of the bat gets the job done or you walk to the dugout with your tail between your legs. It's fun and very simple. I mean it's nice to be able to concentrate on one at-bat -- I wish I could be able to keep that concentration every at-bat. It's tough, it's a thing where a lot of adrenaline, a lot of emotions."
Nonetheless, "What were they thinking" was the consensus question uttered by many a Dodgers player in the clubhouse afterward. Arizona, in fact, even walked Matt Kemp to get to Ethier, understandable in part because Kemp had greeted D-backs reliever Aaron Heilman with a homer in his third consecutive game in the seventh inning for a 3-3 tie, ruining a solid start by Arizona's Dan Haren.
The winning rally started with a single from Blake DeWitt, who didn't start the game because his swing was flawed. DeWitt was bunted to second by Rafael Furcal and Boyer walked Kemp intentionally. His first pitch to Ethier was missed by catcher John Hester for a passed ball, the runners advancing to second and third. Ethier took two more pitches, a ball and a strike, denying that he was still stunned to still be at the plate. It was a 2-1 slider that he sent to center to end the game.
Ethier, who has 10 career walk-off hits, said he understood the opposing strategy.
"They walked Matt for a reason," he said. "I was still ready going up there to drive the ball when you have Manny Ramirez behind you. I think his resume's a lot longer than mine and what he's capable of doing. But I guess each manager has their own rhyme and reason of what they do. Who do you want to take a chance with? Good for us that they wanted to come after me in that situation. It feels like last year. Hopefully this will get us rolling."
Dodgers manager Joe Torre sidestepped the second-guess opportunity.
"With Manny on deck, it gets your attention," said Torre. "I'm not sure what I'd do in that situation. I'm not sure what you should do there."
Torre was just pleased with the result considering an impressive seven-inning start from Hiroki Kuroda nearly went down the drain. Kuroda -- relying on a slider because his sinker wasn't sinking -- was charged with three runs, although two of them scored because of misplays by Kemp, who lost a routine fly, and Furcal, who airmailed a throw into the D-backs dugout.
"For not being as sharp as he was last time, he pitched as good as last time," Torre said of Kuroda. "When a pitcher doesn't have his command like that, to find a way to weave his way through it, that was a courageous outing."
And the Dodgers battled back, tying at 3-3 in the seventh, falling behind in the eighth when Justin Upton homered off Jeff Weaver, then rallying again for two runs to tie in the ninth when Arizona shortstop Stephen Drew fielded Casey Blake's slow bouncer and threw an eephus pitch that bounced off the roof of the Arizona dugout and into the 15th row.
"The important thing is," said Torre, "we never quit."
Maybe the important thing is that the Dodgers aren't the only team in the National League West with bullpen problems. Arizona suffered a pair of blown saves for the second consecutive game, something even the Dodgers' beleaguered bullpen hasn't done this season.
Nonetheless, Torre wound up using both Weaver and Jonathan Broxton, despite saying before the game that he would try to stay away from both. For Broxton, it was the third consecutive day he's pitched. Torre said Ramon Troncoso would be the "save master" Friday night.
George Sherrill was charged with a run and retired only one of the five batters he faced, bailed out of a bases-loaded jam by Ramon Ortiz.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.