LOS ANGELES (AP) - Manny Ramirez looked somewhat rusty in his
first game back off the disabled list. Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto
appeared even rustier, surrendering four home runs in his first
start after serving a seven-game suspension.
Ryan Theriot, Andre Ethier, Jay Gibbons and Matt Kemp all went
deep in a span of just five batters, and the Dodgers snapped the
Reds' seven-game winning streak with an 8-5 victory Saturday night.
Ramirez was 0 for 3 with two strikeouts, but led the cheers in the
dugout after each home run.
"To be honest, it really does change the dynamic of the lineup,
having a guy in there like Manny. It's contagious," Gibbons said.
"Cueto was throwing good fastballs but I think he was having
trouble with his command and we took advantage."
Chad Billingsley (10-7) allowed three runs and seven hits over 5
2-3 innings and struck out seven. The Dodgers had homered only four
times in the right-hander's previous nine starts combined, and
totaled just eight runs over his previous six outings - including
consecutive 2-0 wins over the Giants and Padres.
Jonathan Broxton, the fourth Dodgers pitcher, worked a perfect
ninth for his 22nd save in 27 chances. It was the All-Star
right-hander's first save opportunity since Aug. 12, when he blew a
9-6 lead in the ninth inning of a 10-9 lead at Philadelphia and was
temporarily removed from the closer's role by manager Joe Torre
until he worked out his difficulties.
Ramirez, coming off his third stint on the disabled list and
second because of a right calf strain, and left the game after five
innings with the Dodgers leading 7-1. The 12-time All-Star has
missed 59 games this season due to injuries, after sitting out a
50-game drug suspension last year.
The enigmatic slugger, who said at the start of spring training
that this would be his final season with the Dodgers, is in the
final year of a two-year contract and becomes a free agent at
season's end at age 38. Ramirez is 14th on the career home run list
with 554, nine shy of Reggie Jackson's total.
Pitching on 10 days rest, Cueto's rustiness was obvious in his
first start since an 11-3 loss to St. Louis on in which he was
ejected at the end of a bench-clearing melee for kicking several
Cardinals players while he was pinned against the home plate
screen. The shellshocked right-hander lasted only three innings,
allowing five runs and five hits.
It was the first time Cueto gave up more than two home runs in
any start against an NL team during his three-year career. The
Indians hit three off him on May 16, 2008, and the White Sox
matched that total on June 20, 2009.
"I was pitching relaxed and I was feeling great, but because I
missed one start, I was feeling weird in the first inning," Cueto
said through a translator. "It wasn't the same like when I was
throwing in the bullpen. I was prepared real good and my
conditioning was good. But I was feeling too strong. That's why I
was overthrowing, and I was missing my spots."
Cueto (11-4) walked three straight batters with two out in the
first. The third one to Casey Blake forced in Ethier. In the
second, Theriot drove an 0-2 pitch into the former "Mannywood"
seats down in the left field corner for his second homer of the
season and Ethier followed with his 19th to dead-center.
"He just couldn't find the strike zone. I think because of that
long layoff, he might have been overthrowing and he lost his rhythm
with his breaking ball and his changeup. Then they started hitting
the ball out of the ballpark," manager Dusty Baker said. "When
you don't have your control, you've got to throw it over the plate.
And when you throw it too fat over the plate, those guys know what
to do with it - especially guys like Ethier and Kemp. I think every
pitch they hit was a fastball."
The Dodgers, who had recorded back-to-back homers only one
previous time this season, turned the trick for the second straight
inning when Gibbons' leadoff drive to center struck the top of the
center field fence before bouncing over, and Kemp sent his
team-high 20th homer into the left field pavilion.
"Four home runs. That certainly came out of nowhere," Torre
said. "We knew it was in there somewhere."
Reds heralded rookie Mike Leake, whose role was changed to long
man out of the bullpen after going 8-4 with a 3.78 ERA in 22
starts, relieved Cueto and gave up an RBI double to Blake and a
run-scoring single by Jamey Carroll that increased the Dodgers'
lead to 7-1 in the fifth.
It was the first relief appearance in the big leagues for Leake,
who leads all NL rookies with 138 innings. The right-hander gave up
two runs and five hits over 2 1-3 innings and struck out four.
NOTES: This was the first time the Dodgers hit back-to-back
homers twice in the same game since June 29, 1996 at Colorado. ...
With Ramirez's return, the Dodgers used their 94th different
starting lineup. ... OF Scott Podsednik was not in the Dodgers'
starting lineup for the first time since he was acquired from
Kansas City on July 28 for a pair of minor league prospects.