Manny hits 1st HR since return, but Dodgers fall
Manny Ramirez needed only five plate appearances before hitting his first post-drug suspension home run.
It wasn't enough to help Los Angeles overcome 22-year-old rookie Everth Cabrera's three RBIs and brilliant defense as the San Diego Padres beat the Dodgers 7-4 on Saturday.
Ramirez homered in his second game back from his 50-game suspension for violating baseball's drug policy. It was his seventh homer of the season and 534th of his career, tying Jimmie Foxx for 16th on the all-time list. Up next is Mickey Mantle with 536.
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Ramirez dodged reporters afterward, leaving the clubhouse through a side door.
"I think this is his comfort zone, in that batter's box, in the ballpark, in the clubhouse, something that he hasn't had for a couple of months," manager Joe Torre said. "I think it's going to take a little time, but I think it's just him getting the rust off and getting used to what he's doing."
With two outs in the first, Geer got ahead of Ramirez 0-2 before throwing an outside pitch for ball one. The right-hander then served up a 79-mph changeup that Ramirez drove an estimated 369 feet into the seats in left field for a 1-0 lead.
"I think this is the best medicine for him after having to go through what he went through," Torre said. "Again, it's not that you're feeling sorry for him because he obviously was suspended for a reason and we're past that."
Ramirez left after six innings for the second straight game. He's 1-for-6 with a walk in two games back.
"I just hung one there with Manny in the first inning," Geer said, "and of course most good hitters will take advantage of it."
San Diego scored three runs in the seventh inning and added three unearned runs in the eighth. Cabrera hit a go-ahead, two-run single in the seventh. He added an RBI infield single in the eighth, with a second run scoring on the play on third baseman Casey Blake's throwing error.
Cabrera had nine assists at shortstop, including two on grounders by Ramirez that led to bang-bang plays.
"I feel very happy," Cabrera said through an interpreter. "I always wanted to play like that."
He seemed happiest that it was against the team with the best record in baseball.
"I get very motivated in those kinds of games and I like the pressure and feed off it."
Ramirez also hit two ground balls that led to close plays.
Cabrera fielded Ramirez's grounder deep in the hole in the fourth and threw him out with a one-hopper to first baseman Gonzalez. Ramirez whipped off his helmet and argued with umpire Sam Holbrook before being pushed away by first base coach Mariano Duncan.
With runners on first and third and two outs in the sixth, Ramirez hit a grounder to almost the same spot. Cabrera bobbled the ball before throwing to second baseman David Eckstein to force Russell Martin. Martin argued with Dan Iassogna, and manager Joe Torre also came out to argue, unsuccessfully.
Even Torre was impressed with Cabrera.
"He seemed to be everywhere we hit the ball," Torre said. "He's not shy about swinging the bat, either."
The Dodgers had runners on second and third with one out in the eighth when manager Bud Black turned to NL saves leader Heath Bell. Andre Ethier had an RBI groundout before Bell got Casey Blake to fly out to end the inning.
Bell allowed one run in the ninth, on a walk and a single, before striking out the side to get his first five-out save and his 23rd in 24 chances.
The Dodgers had gone ahead 2-1 when Blake scored on Greg Burke's wild pitch in the seventh. It was Burke's first pitch after relieving starter Josh Geer. Burke (1-0) got two outs in the seventh for the win.
Loser Ronald Belisario (1-3) allowed three runs and three hits while getting only one out in the seventh. He walked one batter and hit another.
The Padres tied it in the third when Geer led off with a double for his first career extra-base hit, advanced on Cabrera's sacrifice bunt and scored on David Eckstein's single to right-center.
Dodgers starter Randy Wolf held San Diego to one run and four hits in six innings while striking out eight and walking none. Geer went 6 1-3 innings, allowing two runs and seven hits. He struck out one and also didn't issue any walks.
Padres C Henry Blanco left the game with a strained right hamstring. Blanco pulled up rounding first base after hitting a broken-bat single with two outs in the second inning. He was replaced by pinch-runner Eliezer Alfonzo, who stayed in as catcher.