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Andre Ethier is a natural for walk-off drama

DODGERS FYI

Monday night's home run in the 13th inning was his fourth game-ending hit this season.

July 01, 2009|Jim Peltz

With the score tied 2-2, Juan Pierre on third base and two out in the 10th inning, the Dodgers' Andre Ethier faced Colorado Rockies reliever Alan Embree with a chance to win the game. But Embree struck him out with a slider.

Three innings later, though, Ethier lined a home run into the right-field pavilion at Dodger Stadium to give the Dodgers a 4-2 win Monday night -- his fourth walk-off hit this season.

Ethier has seven walk-off, game-winning hits since the start of the 2008 season, tops in the major leagues.

And his latest came after he hit three home runs in an 8-2 win over the Seattle Mariners on Friday. Ethier has a team-leading 15 homers.

The left-handed hitter said being in "the right place, the right time" accounted for some of his walk-off drama. But overall, he added, "You've got to look at those situations and say, 'Why not me?' "

Yet Ethier conceded that, for a moment, he thought maybe it shouldn't be him when he came to bat in the 13th inning against Joel Peralta after Casey Blake led off with a single.

"I was really thinking about bunting just to get him over to second" to avoid the double play, Ethier said.

"At least we'd have a guy on second base and have two chances to hit him in."

What persuaded Ethier to hit away instead? "I'm not a very good bunter," he said.

Ethier, 27, said he then was "looking for something to put a good swing on, drive and to stay out of that double play," a pitch up in the strike zone "where I could at least get it up in the air."

With a game at stake, Ethier "doesn't shy away from that situation as long as he doesn't overplay his hand," said Manager Joe Torre.

"In other words, sometimes he tries to be a little too perfect at times and frustrates himself," Torre said. "For the most part, when he comes up there in the last inning -- whenever that is, the 13th, the ninth, the 16th, whenever the heck that is -- he seems to have better focus because it's more about the game instead of, 'I want to make sure I get a hit here.' "

Ethier, hitting .260 with 52 runs batted in, agreed that when the game is on the line, "I guess knowing that, the concentration maybe kicks in a little bit more, and you lock in just a tiny bit more than you would regularly."

Torre said of Ethier, "There's really not a lot he's not able to do," but added that "he should be hitting .290, .300, and a big part of it is just the growing process."

Ethier gets "very impatient with himself," Torre said. "I don't think pitchers get him out as often as he just fights himself. It's not a not knock on him, it's just something he's going to work his way through."

But there's one Ethier statistic that has both him and Torre baffled: Only one of Ethier's 15 home runs was hit on the road.

"That's weird," Torre said.

Martin rests

Russell Martin, struggling at the plate, was not scheduled to start Tuesday or today so that the catcher could clear his head a bit, Torre said.

"He's just fighting so bad right now" with his hitting, Torre said, adding that he didn't want the problem affecting Martin's catching ability.

Martin was hitting .247 with one home run and 21 RBIs as of Tuesday, and "he just needs a couple of mental days off," Torre said. "Physically, I don't think he's tired."

Martin grounded out as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning Tuesday.

A.J. Ellis started Tuesday's game at catcher and Brad Ausmus is expected to start today.

--

james.peltz@latimes.com

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Happy trails

A look at Andre Ethier's walk-off, game-winning hits this season at Dodger Stadium:

Monday vs. Colorado -- After Casey Blake singles in the 13th inning, Ethier slugs a 1-and-2 pitch from Rockies reliever Joel Peralta for a home run to lift the Dodgers to a 4-2 win.

June 6 vs. Philadelphia -- The Dodgers win, 3-2, when Ethier hits a solo home run in the 12th inning off Phillies reliever Chad Durbin, the left-handed hitter's second walk-off hit in as many days.

June 5 vs. Philadelphia -- With two out in the ninth inning, Ethier hits a bases-loaded double off Phillies closer Brad Lidge to give the Dodgers a 4-3 victory.

May 2 vs. San Diego -- Ethier hits a bases-loaded single in the 10th inning to give the Dodgers a 2-1 win over the Padres. The victory extends the club's season-opening home winning streak to nine games, tying a franchise record first set in 1946.

-- Jim Peltz

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