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04/17/10 2:31 AM ET
Big bats of Ethier, Kemp lead Dodgers
Padilla turns in solid seven-inning start to beat Giants
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
LOS ANGELES -- The occasional opponent still strategizes as if Manny Ramirez is the man, but as they showed in blasting to a 10-8 win over the Giants on Friday night, Dodgers Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp are the faces of the franchise. Ethier slugged a pair of home runs, including his first career grand slam, and Kemp homered for the fourth consecutive game while helping build a 10-3 lead for starter Vicente Padilla, who got his first win with seven effective innings. The cushion was large enough that even the nightly bullpen meltdown -- a five-run ninth inning -- couldn't keep the Dodgers from a win. As for Ramirez, the 37-year-old who has declared this his final season in town, he left the game after three innings with a tight right calf muscle. "It's good, man," Ramirez said as he left the clubhouse, and manager Joe Torre said Ramirez might start Saturday's day game. Ramirez wasn't the only one to leave early, however. Giants center fielder Aaron Rowand suffered cheek fractures and a mild concussion after getting beaned by an 87-mph Padilla pitch that loaded the bases in the fifth inning. Rowand walked off under his own power with a bloody nose after being struck on the batting helmet. Padilla came to the Dodgers with the reputation as a headhunter. He said he wanted to come in tight to Rowand but the pitch got away. He also denied that it was retaliation for three innings earlier -- and one inning after he homered -- when Kemp was buzzed under the chin by Giants starter Todd Wellemeyer. Kemp would walk that at-bat, followed on the next pitch by Ethier's slam. "It's baseball, you know?" said Kemp. "Maybe it got away. No big deal. Get back in there and get the walk." There were no further incidents to take the spotlight off Ethier and Kemp, who are off to a fast start in staking out their All-Star candidacy. Despite a sprained ankle that has limited him to six starts, Ethier is hitting .387 with three homers, 12 RBIs and a .710 slugging percentage. He's on pace to hit 48 home runs after a career-high 31 last year. Kemp is hitting .333 with team highs in homers (five), RBIs (15) and a .756 slugging percentage. He didn't hit his fifth homer last year until May 29 en route to a career-high 26. He's on pace for 80. Okay, that won't happen, but put the pair together and they figure to out-produce every Dodgers outfield tandem since Shawn Green had 49 homers and Gary Sheffield had 36 in 2001, when baseballs were flying all over the place. "They both seem to have an idea what they are looking for," said Torre. "The big part for both is, they are not trying to pull the ball. Look at the homers -- the slam went to center and Matty hit another one to right-center. That makes it tougher to pitch to them." Kemp's came in the first inning after a leadoff walk to Rafael Furcal. Ethier then went back-to-back. In the second inning, Padilla walked with one out, Furcal singled and Kemp walked to bring up Ethier, whose teammates were surprised to learn that he'd never homered with the bases loaded. "Everyone was saying something about it," Ethier said. "It's something where maybe sometimes before I tried a little bit too hard in those situations to do that; right there I think that was the last thing on my mind." Meanwhile, Padilla didn't allow a hit until the fifth inning, when the Giants scored twice, and Pablo Sandoval took him deep leading off the sixth. Still, the three runs allowed in seven innings was a huge improvement over his first two starts, which each lasted 4 1/3 innings. "We pulled out tape from his first two starts in the playoffs last year and the first game this year and it wasn't the same guy," said pitching coach Rick Honeycutt. "There was a little something in the delivery with his leg and it was a pretty easy fix. He was better in his second start and tonight was more like last year." Despite the final score, the game came to a bittersweet end for Russ Ortiz, who was brought in with a seven-run lead and asked to get the final six outs. He retired the side in the eighth with two strikeouts, but couldn't get the final out in the ninth and Torre was forced to bring in closer-for-a-day Ramon Troncoso, who served up a three-run homer to Eugenio Velez before getting the final out. It's the second time in a week that Ortiz has been unable to finish off a game with a big lead, and next week management will be looking for a roster spot when Hong-Chih Kuo returns from the disabled list.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.