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Dodgers on top of things

They win seventh in a row and take over first place in West by pounding the Diamondbacks again, 7-2

September 07, 2008|Ben Bolch | Times Staff Wrier

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The Dodgers dismissed another Arizona ace with relative ease Saturday afternoon, battering Brandon Webb and leaving the Diamondbacks looking as lost as right fielder Justin Upton during a 7-2 victory at Dodger Stadium.

Upton lifted his arms in surrender moments before Manny Ramirez's sixth-inning fly ball bounced off the warning track and over the right-field wall for a two-run double that helped catapult the Dodgers into sole possession of first place in the National League West for the first time since April 4.

It only seems as if Arizona has conceded the division during a four-game stretch against the Dodgers in which it has been outscored 28-5. Ramirez homered and drove in five runs for the Dodgers, who celebrated their seventh consecutive victory by immediately posting the updated NL West standings on the scoreboard:

Dodgers 72-70

Arizona 71-70

"It's not first place until the year is over," Dodgers catcher Russell Martin said.

Today, in the final meeting of the season between the teams, the Dodgers will look to increase their half-game division lead against Diamondbacks rookie Max Scherzer instead of veteran Randy Johnson, who was scratched because of soreness in his pitching shoulder.

Maybe that will somehow work out in Arizona's favor. The Diamondbacks had aligned their rotation so that Webb and Dan Haren would each face the Dodgers twice over the last week, but that didn't turn out so well.

Webb's numbers: 15 runs in nine innings over two starts, both losses.

Haren's numbers: 10 runs in 10 innings over two starts, both losses.

"These guys are All-Star pitchers for good reason," Dodgers Manager Joe Torre said. "We just caught them at a flat time."

Webb surrendered five hits, six walks and seven runs in 5 2/3 innings Saturday for the Diamondbacks, who had held at least a share of the division lead every day since April 6.

Ramirez inflicted most of the damage as the Dodgers denied Webb (19-7) in his bid to notch his 20th victory for the second time in seven days. Ramirez hit a three-run homer in the fifth inning, giving him 521 homers for his career and moving him into a four-way tie for 17th place on the all-time list alongside Willie McCovey, Ted Williams and Frank Thomas.

Ramirez also surpassed Reggie Jackson and Thomas to move into 20th place on the all-time RBIs list with 1,706.

Ramirez's day at the plate actually got off to a rocky start. He flied out in the first inning and then stepped to the plate in the third after Webb had walked Martin on five pitches and Andre Ethier on four to load the bases. Ramirez wasn't quite as selective, striking out on three pitches to end the inning.

But he blasted the next pitch he saw from Webb over the right-field wall in the fifth, prompting a curtain call and something resembling a group hug in the dugout as the Dodgers took a 3-0 lead.

"He was just setting him up right there," Martin joked of Ramirez's third-inning strikeout.

Webb further imploded in the sixth, walking Martin with the bases loaded to force in a run before being replaced by Juan Cruz. The reliever promptly walked Ethier to force in another run before Ramirez's fly ball eluded Upton in right field.

"The sun's always tough here," Upton said. "There's some balls that go up and just never come out of the sun and that was one of them. I actually saw it going up and then I had to turn and go because the ball was carrying and I just couldn't pick it back up."

Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley (14-10) pitched 6 1/3 scoreless innings with a major assist from reliever Cory Wade, who escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the seventh when he got Upton to hit into a 6-4-3 double play. Upton broke up the Dodgers' shutout bid in the ninth with a two-run single against reliever Jason Johnson.

While Webb and Haren amounted to a terrible twosome in the two series against the Dodgers, Billingsley and Derek Lowe were nothing short of spectacular over the same stretch, combining to go 4-0 with a 0.66 earned-run average.

"The pitching staff is what's kept us together the whole year," Martin said.

--

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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