Manny Hitless; Dodgers Not So

The Dodgers used a little slight of hand to stop the Padres who held Manny Ramirez hitless on his return to the National League wars. While all eyes were on the un-suspended outfielder, they scored five times in the first inning on the way to a 6-3 win before 42,217 fans that seemed predominantly of the Dodgers persuasion.

It was Independence Day just a bit early according to the calendar and Manny Ramirez had paid for his sins as far as the Commissioner's office was concerned. The Dodgers in their red, white and blue caps celebrated with some first-inning fireworks that carried them to a win.

There was a capacity crowd at Petco Park, bolstered by a big contingent of Dodgers fans who swarmed down from the North to see the outfielders first game since May 7th. "It was great," Ramirez said. "I was kind of nervous at first, but once I stepped to the plate I was fine."

The fans cheered him and booed him depending on their inclination but Manny's teammates were unanimous in their feelings: "Manny brings a lot of confidence and makes everybody happy he came back," said Rafael Furcal who enjoyed his first four-hit game of the season. "He's a leader. I've been waiting for this moment. Now I feel better at the plate, a little more patient."

Although the best he could manage during the evening was a popup to shallow center field, he drew a walk in the big first inning that was just what was needed for Hiroki Kuroda to collect his third win of the season.

The change in the atmosphere is remarkable. Russell Martin, with one RBI over the previous five weeks, had one in each of his first two at-bats, and the team that scored five runs in its past three games collected five before the Padres even came to bat.

The Dodgers remarkable bullpen picked up where they left off against Colorado, working 3.2 hitless and scoreless innings, walking one and striking our four.

In the last 45.2 innings over four games they have held the opposition scoreless.

Kuroda's tank hit empty after he served up a two-run double to Adrian Gonzalez in the bottom of the sixth inning. The rejuvenated Guillermo Mota, who ran his streak to one earned run over the last 21.2 innings, finished the inning and added a scoreless seventh.

Ramon Troncoso followed and issued a two-out walk in the eighth, and Torre called on lefty Brent Leach to face the lefthanded Gonzalez. He whacked a long shot to left where Juan Pierre, taking over for Ramirez, caught up with it against the left field wall.

Jonathan Broxton was hitting three figures in the ninth, energizing the Dodgers fans in attendance with a 103 reading at one time. He recorded his 12th save in a row and his two strikeouts gives him 64 in 38.2 innings (14.9 per nine innings).

Furcal opened the first inning with a single. He would later bounce out in the second, double in the fourth, single and steal second in the sixth and cap his night off with a bunt single in the ninth.

After Orlando Hudson bounced out, Ramirez came to the plate and a standing, cheering, booing crowd. Chad Gaudin brushed him away from the plate with the first pitch and Manny just smiled, fouled off three pitches and walked on a 3-2 count.

Andre Ethier bounced into a force play and Ramirez, hustling up the line, slid hard into second base and disrupting shortstop Everth Cabrera enough that he threw the ball past first as Furcal scored and Ethier moved to second.

Casey Blake walked before James Loney recorded his 50th RBI when he lined a single into left-center that scored Ethier. Russ Martin singled to center to score Blake and Matt Kemp boomed a long shot that might have gone out in Dodger Stadium but went for a double as Loney and Martin scored.

Kuroda, caught up in the emotion of the moment, swung at a third strike with such violence that he fell down.

In the third, Ethier doubled, Blake walked and Martin's ground ball to short drove in the sixth, and final, Dodgers run of the game.

Ramirez expects to be in the lineup again this afternoon. "I need a couple more games under my belt," he said. "I'm looking forward to tomorrow. And I'm going to take it day-by-day. I feel like I have 200 pounds off my back now that the first one is out of the way. Like I said, I'm going to take it day-by-day and get back in shape."

"Yeah, he'll be in there," Dodger manager Joe Torre said. "I told him unless he came in feeling all beat up in the morning, he's going to play the game."

"Obviously, he brought a little something to the table," said Casey Blake. "We knew there would be a lot of media and the fans would be crazy. Both were true. Now we just hope Manny can relax enough so he can get his feel back."

The Dodgers will send LHP Randy Wolf (3-3, 3.61 ERA) to the mound. He had to battle against the Rockies during his six innings but allowed only a two-run home run. However, all he got out of the game was his 11th no-decision, but he helped out with a two-run RBI single in the 4-2, 13-inning win.

RHP Josh Geer (1-3, 5.68 ERA) gets the call for the Padres. He recorded his third consecutive quality start in a 3-1 loss to the Astros at PETCO Park. He allowed three runs on seven hits in seven innings.

 Score by innings
Los Angeles	501 000 000-6
San Diego	000 102 000-3

 Los Angeles	ab r  h  bi  ave
Furcal ss	5  1  4  0  .250
Hudson 2b	5  0  0  0  .289
Ramirez lf	3  0  0  0  .337
 Pierre lf	1  0  0  0  .321
Ethier rf	5  2  1  0  .256
Blake 3b	2  1  0  0  .284
Loney 1b	4  1  1  1  .276
Martin c	4  1  2  2  .250
Kemp cf	        3  0  1  2  .303
Kuroda p	3  0  0  0  .000
 Mota p	        0  0  0  0  .000
 Loretta ph	1  0  0  0  .247
 Troncoso p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Leach p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Broxton p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Totals	        36 6 9 5
 San Diego	31 3 4 3	

 Two-base hits- Kemp (11), Ethier (17),
Furcal (14). RBI- Loney (50), Martin 2
(23), Kemp 2 (43). LOB- Los Angeles 7, 
San Diego 3. SB- Furcal (5).

 Los Angeles	in  h r-er bb so  era
Kuroda (3-4)	5.1  4  3-3  2  2  3.91
Mota        	1.2  0  0-0  0  2  3.93
Troncoso	0.2  0  0-0  1  0  1.92
Leach	        0.1  0  0-0  0  0  3.18
Broxton (sv 20)	1.0  0  0-0  0  2  2.09
 T- 3:00. Att- 42,217.
Dodger Blue Notes-- The Dodgers moved pitcher Hong-Chih Kuo from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day DL and activated pitcher Claudio Vargas from the 60-day DL. Vargas, originally a candidate for the fifth-starter spot, was sidelined near the end of Spring Training with a strained elbow tendon. In mid-April, he received a platelet injection similar to the one that got Takashi Saito back on the mound last year. ...Last year on July 4, the Dodgers were were 42-44, although they were just a half-game behind the first-place D-backs in the National League West. ...After starting all 50 games while Ramirez was suspended, Juan Pierre was back on the bench although he took over left field in the final innings and lined out to center in his only at-bat. He batted .318 with 14 doubles, 21 RBIs, 31 runs scored and 21 steals while the Dodgers were 29-21.