Dodgers’ Schmidt beats Reds in 1st start since ’07

Manny Ramirez didn’t plan to upstage teammate Jason Schmidt in his first major league start in more than two years.

Ramirez hit his 537th home run to pass Mickey Mantle into 15th place on the all-time list, Schmidt lasted long enough to get the victory, and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Cincinnati Reds 7-5 on Monday night.

“I signed here so I could be on a winning team and have a chance to go to the playoffs and get a World Series ring. And to get a pickup like Manny is going to put us right there,” Schmidt said. “I was disappointed not to have that opportunity over the last few years to contribute, but hopefully I can help out a little bit.”

Making just his seventh start for the Dodgers since signing a three-year, $47 million contract in December 2006, Schmidt (1-0) threw 91 pitches over five innings and allowed three runs and five hits with two strikeouts and three walks. He also hit a batter.

“It was an emotional day,” Schmidt said. “It’s been a struggle. I didn’t want it to take this long, but unfortunately, it did. Before the game, driving here and getting all the phone calls and text messages from everybody, there was a lot of buildup. It was fun, and I’m glad we came out on the winning end of it.”

Schmidt’s long-awaited return ended up taking a back seat to Ramirez’s homer in Mannywood, where the dreadlocked slugger went deep for the fourth time in 14 games since his 50-game drug suspension ended on July 3.

“It’s awesome. It was just amazing sitting there watching that,” Dodgers owner Frank McCourt said. “It’s a huge accomplishment for any ballplayer. It’s a real milestone. You saw him hit that ball tonight. The man can hit a baseball, there’s no question about it. He brings a lot of energy and fun to the game.”

Ramirez’s next target is Mike Schmidt at 548.

“To be honest, I haven’t been keeping track of who I’ve passed or where I’m at. I just wait for you guys to tell me,” Ramirez said. “I just go and play and don’t worry about the numbers. Maybe I will when I look back later on and see what I accomplished. But now I’m going to take it day by day and see if we can go to the next step.”

Ramirez, who tied Mantle on July 10, drove a 2-0 pitch into the left field pavilion in the second inning to give Los Angeles a 6-3 lead. The Dodger Stadium crowd of 48,110 chanted his first name in unison, hoping for a curtain call that never came.

Jonathan Broxton pitched a perfect ninth for his 23rd save in 25 attempts. Dodgers second baseman Juan Castro‘s fielding error on Laynce Nix‘s eighth-inning grounder led to two unearned runs in the eighth.

Schmidt, who was activated from the 60-day disabled list on Monday, missed the 2008 season after undergoing shoulder surgery on June 20, 2007. The 36-year-old right-hander had arthroscopic shoulder surgery on Sept. 10, 2008.

Schmidt last pitched off a major league mound on June 16, 2007, when he gave up three runs and five hits over 4 2-3 innings in a 3-0 loss to the Angels at Dodger Stadium.

The Dodgers had used 18 other pitchers to start a game since Schmidt last pitched for them. The three-time All-Star was 3-1 with a 3.65 ERA in seven minor league rehab starts and one relief appearance, striking out 37 over 44 1-3 innings.

“I was nervous. I’ll admit it,” Schmidt said. “I had a lot of anxiety coming in here, the fear of the unknown and what’s going to happen at this level.”

Schmidt’s first game back was against his former manager, Dusty Baker. Schmidt was a prominent member of Baker’s rotation in 2002 with the San Francisco Giants, helping lead them to an NL pennant and winning Game 1 of the World Series against the Angels.

“He still has a ways to go,” Baker said. “I mean, he still has deception and he was effectively wild tonight. He wasn’t the Jason Schmidt I knew before. But if he continues to come back, perhaps he can be there.”

Micah Owings (6-10) gave up seven runs and nine hits in five innings, including Andre Ethier‘s 19th homer, while Cincinnati lost its 10th consecutive game at Chavez Ravine. The Reds have dropped 18 of their last 21 games overall against the Dodgers, who are a season-best 25 games over .500 and own baseball’s best record at 59-34.


The first inning took 42 minutes to play, including the time spent on the video review. … Cincinnati rookie C Ryan Hanigan threw out three baserunners trying to steal, and is 14-for-30 this season. … Cincinnati’s previous victory at Dodger Stadium was on July 28, 2005, when Jason LaRue drove in five runs with two homers in a 6-1 win. Reds RHP David Weathers is the only player on either team’s current 25-man roster who participated in that game. … Schmidt needs 16 1-3 innings to reach 2,000.