Hey, Ma, Look Who's in First Place!

What a difference a week makes. The Dodgers were 4 1/2 games behind Arizona in second place, frantically bailing out their lifeboat in an attempt to keep afloat. Now they are in first place by 1/2 games after beating Arizona 7-2 for their seventh straight win.

After being outscored 54-15 during their losing streak, the Dodgers have outscored the opposition 47-15 in their seven consecutive wins.

Chad Billingsley and Manny Ramirez handled most of the pitching and offense, Billingsley winning his 14th game and Ramirez knocking in five runs with a double and a homer.

The Dodgers are in first place alone for the first time since April 4, when they were 3-1 and had a half-game lead for one day. The Diamondbacks had either held or shared first place since April 5.

Los Angeles has been tied for first place for 14 days and in second place 120 days during the season.

Manny Ramirez struck out with the bases loaded and two out in the third inning, then cracked open a scoreless game in the fifth by lining a shot 10 rows deep into the right field stands with two on base, then followed that with a two-run gift double in the sixth and Los Angeles rolled past the Diamondbacks into first place in the N.L. West with 20 games left on the schedule.

Arizona ace Brandon Webb absorbed all the punishment in his attempt to become the first 20-game winner in the National League and for the second time in a week, the Dodgers beat the DBacks top two pitchers, Dan Haren and Webb. They are 3-5 against the Dodgers this season and 30-9 against everyone else.

Webb allowed five hits and seven runs in 5.2 innings while striking out six. He has issued 11 walks in his last two starts -- both against the Dodgers, one more than he had in his previous seven starts combined.

In the fifth, Ramirez followed a single by Angel Berroa, hitting in his seventh straight game, and a walk to Andre Ethier by smacking a line shot into the right field seats for a 3-0 lead in the fifth.

The home run, his 11th as a Dodger and his 521st career shot, tied him with Ted Williams, Willie McCovey and Frank Thomas for 17th on the career list.

He also increased his RBI total to 1,706 RBI, putting him 20th all-time. Ramirez has 11 homers and 34 RBIs in 34 games for the Dodgers since being acquired from Boston on July 31.

Webb struggled again in the sixth, hitting Casey Blake with a pitch and allowing a single by Matt Kemp. Blake DeWitt bounced out on a hit and run play that avoided a double play and Berroa was walked intentionally before Billingsley fanned for the second out of the inning.

Both Martin and Ethier walked, forcing in a pair of runs and after the game Martin quipped, "They walked us to get to Manny."

Ramirez hit a towering drive to right field that Justin Upton lost in the sun. The ball landed 20-feet to his left and bounced into the stands for a two-RBI ground-rule double.

Billingsley matched Webb pitch for pitch until the Dodgers exploded in the fifth. Then, after a lengthy sixth inning, Billingsley seemed to lose his edge.

He struck out the first Arizona batter in the inning, then allowed a pair of singles to right field and with his 97th pitch walked the bases loaded.

Billingsley allowed four hits and struck out nine in improving his record to a team-leading 14-10 mark.

Cory Wade preserved the shutout, getting a Berroa-DeWitt and Loney double play.

Wade added a scoreless eighth and was taken out for a pinch hitter, Nomar Garciaparra.

Rookie Scott Elbert got the first batter on a long fly that drove Jason Repko, filling in for Ramirez, back to the left field wall.

He then hit a batter and served up a single and Torre replaced him with Jason Johnson. He also got the first batter he faced before allowing a walk and a two run single, breaking the shutout.

Jonathan Broxton took care of things, recording the game-ending strikeout after hitting 98 on the speed gun. Before the two-run inning, Dodgers pitchers had compiled a 0.77 ERA in their past four games against Arizona.

"We got hammered two days in a row here and have lost the last four to them, so we need to respond tomorrow," said Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin, whose team has dropped nine of 12. "There's no doubt. We'll see what we're made of tomorrow. We've been in first place for quite a while. Now it's our turn to respond tomorrow and take it back."

Torre said: "It doesn't count until the last game of the season. A week ago yesterday, we were five games out in the loss column. We've come a long way in a short time."

Scheduled pitchers for the third game, 354-game winner Greg Maddux and 294-game winner Randy Johnson, will watch the third game of the series as a pair of youngsters, 20-year-old Clayton Kershaw (3-5, 4.50 ERA) and 24-year-old Max Scherzer (0-2, 2.65 ERA) go head to head.

The 11th player taken overall in last year's draft, Scherzer has a 2.65 ERA in three big-league starts and nine relief appearances.

Torre felt Kershaw matched up well against the Diamondbacks, while Johnson was scratched because of a sore left shoulder.

Martin summed the whole thing up this way: "These two games don't mean nothing if we don't win today. Today's game is the most important."

 Score by innings
Arizona	        000 000 002-2	
Los Angeles	000 034 00x-7

 Los Angeles	ab r  h  bi  ave
Martin c	2  1  0  1  .282
 Ardoin c	0  0  0  0  .231
Ethier rf	2  1  0  1  .291
Ramirez lf	4  1  2  5  .403
 Repko ph-lf	1  0  0  0  .200
Loney 1b	4  0  0  0  .301
Blake 3b	2  1  0  0  .274
 Hu pr-2b	0  0  0  0  .157
Kemp cf	        4  1  2  0  .289
DeWitt 2b-3b	4  0  1  0  .257
Berroa ss	2  2  1  0  .240
Billingsley p	3  0  0  0  .086
 Wade p	        0  0  0  0  .000
 Garciaparra ph	0  0  0  0  .234
 Elbert p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Johnson p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Broxton p	0  0  0  0  .000
  Totals	28 7 6 7
  Arizona	31 2 6 2

 Two-base hits  Ramirez (8), HR- Ramirez (11), 
RBI- Ramirez 5 (34), Martin (60), Ethier (66). 
CS- Martin (6). LOB- Los Angeles 8 , Arizona 6. 
DP- Berroa, DeWitt and Loney.
 Los Angeles	     in  h  r-er bb so  era
Billingsley (14-10) 6.1  4  0-0  1  9  3.02
Wade	            1.2  0  0-0  0  2  2.47
Elbert	            0.1  1  2-2  0  0 10.12
Johnson	            0.1  1  0-0  1  1  4.55
Broxton	            0.1  0  0-0  0  1  3.45
 WP- Billingsley. HBP- Blake; by Elbert.
T- 3:06. Att- 46,543.
The Wounded Coming Back
Ken Gurnick of MLB.com reports that Rafael Furcal, after rehabbing his strained lower back in Phoenix, could be about a week away from coming back to the Dodgers' lineup. He said he's 80 to 85 percent better, as he can run full speed whereas before he wasn't even jogging. Torre said the club likely would be able to start thinking about activating Furcal in a week. Furcal hit .366 with five homers, 16 RBIs and eight stolen bases in the 32 games he played before the injury.

Second baseman Jeff Kent has begun his rehab from knee surgery to repair minor cartilage damage in his left knee by working out in the weight room, but he has yet to begin participating in baseball activities. "I don't know how long it's going to be, but I know we have a few weeks left," Kent said. "If I didn't have a good outlook on what could happen the next few weeks, I'd be doing something else, not here in gym shorts trying to get back."

Closer Takashi Saito (sprained right elbow) will throw a simulated game before today's game, after which the club will know more about his potential return next weekend in Colorado.

Dodger Blue Notes-- ?A win on Sunday would tie the Dodgers' season-high eight-game winning streak accomplished from April 25-May 3. ...Los Angeles has won six in a row, 14 of 17 and 20 of 26 at Dodger Stadium. The club's 44-30 home mark is second in the National League behind only the 51-24 Cubs. ...The Dodgers are 51-6 when scoring five or more runs, winning their past 12 such contests. ...Manny Ramirez has reached the 100-RBI plateau for the 12th time in his 14 seasons and 10th time in the past 11 years. ...Angel Berroa has hit in his seven straight starts, batting .391 (9-for-23).