Dodgers walk off on Blake hit in 9th

Luis Ayala thought he had already done the hard part of his job when he struck out Manny Ramirez with two runners on in the ninth inning of a tied game.

When the Florida reliever tried the same slider against Casey Blake moments later, he learned just how tough it really is to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in close games.

Blake’s two-out, bases-loaded bloop single ended Los Angeles’ 4-3 victory over the Florida Marlins on Saturday night, the 27th comeback victory for the club with the majors’ best record.

downlevel description

This video requires the Adobe Flash Player. Download a free version of the player.

Los Angeles has won 10 games this season on its last at-bat, the most in the majors. This one had an unlikely hero in Blake, the veteran third baseman who has been slumping since the All-Star break.

Blake’s chip shot to shallow right-center wasn’t exactly emphatic, but it was decisive for the Dodgers, who are a major league-best 20-9 in one-run games.

“I was just trying to get myself mad and fired up and ready to step in there and battle him,” said Blake, who was called out on a dubious strike in the third inning. “I found a hole. I thought it might hang up a little bit and let their guy get there, but I was fortunate. You get some luck in this game, and right now I’ll take anything I can.”

After Rafael Furcal‘s one-out bunt single in the ninth, Orlando Hudson singled to left off Dan Meyer (2-1). Ayala then got Ramirez, but walked Andre Ethier to load the bases before Blake connected on a 2-2 pitch to end Los Angeles’ sixth win in seven games.

“There aren’t many other people you want up there instead of him, in terms of coolness,” Los Angeles manager Joe Torre said. “You know he’s going to fight for it. Casey’s not going to go just quietly. … I told him when he came off the field that he just bought himself the day off (Sunday).”

Blake had been in a 7-for-43 drought before his winner, including a 5-for-31 slump during the Dodgers‘ eight-game homestand. Ayala sent his dugout into celebration after fanning Ramirez, but the right-hander couldn’t finish.

“I tried to get him to swing a little and get a ground ball, but things like that can happen,” said Ayala, who was dropped by the Minnesota Twins last month after angering manager Ron Gardenhire. “It’s a tough situation.”

Ramirez’s seventh-inning single was his first hit since his pinch-hit grand slam Wednesday. He also was awkward on two early plays in the field, but made a nice running catch on Dan Uggla‘s drive to the gap in the ninth inning.

James Loney and Russell Martin tied it in the sixth with run-scoring singles for the Dodgers, who improved to 62-35 while snapping the Marlins‘ four-game winning streak on their West Coast road trip.

Jonathan Broxton (7-0) pitched a perfect ninth for the Dodgers, who have lost back-to-back games just once in July. They still haven’t lost three straight all season.

One night after pounding the Dodgers‘ bullpen, Florida managed just six hits, none after the sixth inning.

Rick VandenHurk labored through five effective innings in his second start of the season for Florida, yielding five hits and three walks, but just one run.

“Of course you want to go deeper, but I was battling and trying to keep it close,” said VandenHurk, who’s hoping to nail down a regular spot in the Marlins‘ rotation. “It’s a very good lineup. They’re experienced, and they’ve got good hitters.”

Hiroki Kuroda matched his season high with nine strikeouts and allowed just one extra-base hit in six innings of six-hit ball, but the Marlins manufactured three runs against the Japanese right-hander by stealing bases and exploiting the Dodgers‘ fielding imperfections. Hanley Ramirez stole second before scoring on Jeremy Hermida‘s sixth-inning single to put the Marlins up 3-1.

After VandenHurk left in the sixth, Los Angeles swiftly tied it against Florida’s usually reliable bullpen. After Ethier’s leadoff single and Blake’s walk from Renyel Pinto, Loney and Martin hit back-to-back RBI singles.


Guillermo Mota pitched two hitless innings of relief for Los Angeles on his 36th birthday. He has thrown 19 consecutive scoreless innings in his last 15 appearances since June 24. … Kuroda got his first hit of the season in the fifth inning. … During the 51st annual Hollywood Stars celebrity softball game, actor Rob Lowe charged the mound and tackled pitcher Dave Annable, his co-star on “Brothers & Sisters.” No actors were harmed in the ensuing bench-clearing brawl. Sugar Shane Mosley and Tom Arnold were co-MVPs.