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DODGERS FYI

Andre Ethier turns it around

Right fielder comes through against the Cardinals, and just misses a cycle in Saturday's victory.

October 11, 2009|Dylan Hernandez

ST. LOUIS — Andre Ethier isn't the same player he was last week.

Ethier, who batted .202 over the final 35 games of the regular season, was six for 12 with two home runs and drove in three runs in the Dodgers' three-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League division series.

Ethier fell a single short of the cycle in the Dodgers' series-clinching 5-1 victory on Saturday night, driving in two runs and scoring two more.

"This kid is remarkable right here on my left," Manager Joe Torre said of Ethier.

Ethier's two-run home run in the third inning increased the Dodgers' lead to 3-0 and proved to be the knockout blow to a Cardinals team that appeared to still be reeling from its late-game collapse in Game 2.

Ethier said that home run was as fun as any of the four walk-off home runs he hit during the regular season, when he had a team-high 31 homers and 106 runs batted in.

"It's a little more meaningful just for the case that it's the postseason," he said.

Ethier said that he and Matt Kemp grew as players in large part because of Torre, who he said called on them to player greater roles while Manny Ramirez served his 50-game suspension.

"He kept sticking us in the middle of the lineup to be the ones who showed up and made this team run," Ethier said.

Manny being Manny

For a day, Ramirez looked like the Ramirez of old.

He was three for five with two doubles and two RBIs in the Dodgers' victory, his two-out double to left-center in the first inning driving in Kemp from first base for the first run of the game.

His other RBI also came with two out, a single to left in the seventh inning that scored Ethier to increase the Dodgers' lead to 5-0.

Ramirez was one for eight in his previous two games of the series and batted .237 over his final 41 regular-season games.

"I'm not worried about him, man," Russell Martin said. "He's had a lot of big hits in his career."

Torre said he noticed a change in Ramirez's approach.

"It looked like Manny was thinking line drive tonight," Torre said. "I thought his swing was a lot more level."

Ramirez's two doubles were against Joel Pineiro, whom he hit well in the past. Ramirez entered the game with 14 hits, including four home runs, in 33 previous at-bats against Pineiro.

Kemp's ups and downs

Kemp had some key moments in this series -- he scored on a first-inning double by Ramirez to get the Dodgers on the board Saturday and hit a first-inning homer in Game 1 that accounted for their first run of the series.

But overall in the series, Kemp was two for 14 with eight strikeouts.

Kemp singled in his first at-bat Saturday, but struck out in his next four.

Kuroda improving

Sidelined for the division series because of a bulging disk in his neck, Hiroki Kuroda threw 20 light pitches in the bullpen Friday to prepare himself to pitch in the next round of the playoffs.

"There's almost no pain," he said.

Kuroda will throw a full bullpen session today and a simulated game Tuesday in Los Angeles.

Kuroda last pitched Sept. 28.

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dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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