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DODGERS 6, SAN DIEGO 3

Manny Ramirez is back in Dodgers' victory

Outfielder goes 0 for 3 with a walk in his first game since suspension.

July 04, 2009|KEVIN BAXTER

SAN DIEGO — Manny Ramirez returned to the Dodgers' lineup Friday. You might have heard about that.

But as joyous and momentous an occasion as that might have been, the Dodgers still had to play a game against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Something about the rules, integrity of the game and the purity of the schedule.

Not that it was much of a game.

Although the Padres were gracious hosts, they proved to be little more than bit players in the Manny Melodrama. Even their own fans appeared uninterested in watching them play. Judging from their reaction, many -- if not most -- in the sellout crowd of 42,217 came primarily to cheer or boo Ramirez, who was playing his first game since his May 7 suspension for violating baseball's drug policy.

When it was all over, Ramirez had a walk in four trips to the plate and the Dodgers had a 6-3 victory, though it was difficult to say which was more important.

For the Dodgers, the win allowed them to maintain their 7 1/2 -game lead over San Francisco in the National League West while their six runs matched the second-most they've scored in a win since May.

For Ramirez, Friday's return moved him closer to turning the page on the most embarrassing chapter of his career.

"I took like 200 pounds off my back," Ramirez said. "I was kind of nervous at first. But once I stepped to the plate I was fine."

He was only a minor part of Friday's victory. That left most of the heavy lifting to Rafael Furcal, Andre Ethier and Russell Martin, who each scored in the Dodgers' five-run first inning.

Furcal had his first four-hit game of the season, getting a double and three singles and stealing a base while Martin had two hits and two runs batted in and Ethier scored twice. Matt Kemp also contributed a pair of RBIs.

Ramirez, meanwhile, barely got the ball out of the infield, walking in his first at-bat, grounding out his next two times up and popping to second baseman David Eckstein in short right field in the sixth before getting the rest of the night off.

"It's going to take time," Ramirez said. "I'm going to go day by day."

His first at-bat was his best Friday, with Ramirez fouling off three pitches before drawing a walk.

Ethier then slapped what looked to be a double-play grounder to the right side of the infield, but Ramirez slid hard into second and shortstop Everth Cabrera's throw to first sailed wide, allowing Furcal to score the Dodgers' first run.

They would score four more in the inning, giving them as many in the span of three outs with Ramirez in the lineup as they had scored in the previous three games without him.

"There's no question he's rusty, but I thought that first at-bat was pretty amazing," Manager Joe Torre said.

"We've been struggling to score runs and all of a sudden we jump out there. We seemed to have a lot of energy."

Hiroki Kuroda (3-4) was the chief beneficiary of the all the offense, though he was gone after getting one out in the sixth. A quartet of relievers took it from there, with Jonathan Broxton getting the final three outs for this 20th save.

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kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

MANNY AT THE BAT

FIRST INNING

After 50 games off and a lot of cheers and boos, Ramirez walks on a full count.

SECOND INNING

Ramirez hits a hard grounder up the middle and is thrown out by the second baseman.

FOURTH INNING

With one out, Ramirez hits a weak ground ball to short and is easily thrown out.

SIXTH INNING

Manny finally gets the ball in the air . . . and pops out to short right-center. 0 for 3.

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