Manny Ramirez showed up at Dodger Stadium with his dreadlocks trimmed by an inch or so like Manager Joe Torre asked, and, sure enough, he didn't get a hit.
But the way Hiroki Kuroda pitched Thursday in a sweep-sealing 3-1 victory by the Dodgers over the Philadelphia Phillies that kept them tied for first place in the NL West, what did it matter that Ramirez was 0 for 3?
Kuroda turned in his third strong performance in a row, giving up one run and two hits over seven innings after Brad Penny went on the disabled list for the second time this season and Torre expressed his concerns about the state of the pitching staff.
Kuroda walked none and struck out seven to win his second consecutive decision. He threw only 79 pitches.
Hong-Chih Kuo pitched two scoreless innings to earn his first career save, but preserving Kuroda's victory didn't get him out of having to buy his Japanese teammate dinner. Kuo, who is Taiwanese, and Kuroda had a friendly wager over the Olympic baseball game that day between their home countries.
"That," Kuroda said of the save, "has nothing to do with our bet."
Though the Dodgers made up a five-run deficit Wednesday and won on a walk-off home run by Nomar Garciaparra, Torre said the improved Manny-aided lineup didn't make up for losing a top-of-the-rotation starter like Penny.
"You can't score enough runs to offset a lack of pitching," Torre said. "You can't freeze the ball in this game. You've got to get three outs every inning and sometimes that feels like it's impossible. For me, pitching controls the game. It's nice to have the ability, the firepower to come back from situations, but if you have to rely on something, you want to rely on controlling the game pitching-wise."
And that's what the Dodgers did in this game, in which they were held to five hits over seven innings by Phillies starter Brett Myers and six over the entire game.
The Dodgers went ahead, 1-0, in the second inning, when James Loney tripled and scored on a groundout by Garciaparra. Kemp doubled the lead in the sixth with a home run to center.
The Phillies got a run back in the seventh, but Russell Martin scored in the bottom of that inning on a single to left by Casey Blake.
Earning their first four-game sweep in more than four years didn't make the talk of the world's most anticipated haircut go away.
Ramirez, who drew an intentional walk in the eighth, said he had his hair cut at a local barbershop that morning, adhering to Torre's wishes that he "clean up" his look. Ramirez dreadlocks took three years to grow.
"If I come back next year, it'll be shorter," Ramirez said.
Though Torre said he would "continue to monitor and talk about" Ramirez's hair, he was pleased with the fact that it was trimmed to his shoulders and no longer covered his name stitched across the back of his uniform.
In the days leading up to the haircut, Torre jokingly said he would be run out of town if Ramirez stopped hitting, especially with the Dodgers starting to sell Ramirez-style dreadlock wigs in their team stores this week. Torre said Ramirez has needled him on the subject recently, telling him, "It's the hair," whenever he got a hit.
Asked by a television reporter after the game if it was responsible for Ramirez going hitless, Torre snapped. "I'm not going to dignify that with an answer," he said.