Reporting from Cincinnati
Manny Ramirez, who overcame a drug scandal to reestablish himself as an offensive force, might have encountered the one obstacle that he can't conquer.
The 37-year-old Ramirez pulled up as he ran down the first base line, reaching his destination but immediately removing himself from the game with what was later described by the Dodgers as a strained right calf muscle.
The end result of Ramirez's sixth-inning single was one of many problems for the Dodgers that led to their 8-5 defeat to the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday night at Great American Ball Park.
Again, the Dodgers had problems pitching the ball. Again, they had problems fielding it. And when the late innings came and it was time for the Dodgers to make their trademark late-inning rally, their .415 cleanup hitter wasn't around.
The Dodgers dropped the series, 2-1, and fell to 7-8.
Ramirez won't be around for at least a couple of more days, as Manager Joe Torre said he could miss the three-game series at Washington that starts Friday.
"It wouldn't surprise me," Torre said. "I'll let you predict on that one."
The calf started bothering Ramirez in the Dodgers' season-opening series in Pittsburgh and sidelined him for a couple of games against the San Francisco Giants at Dodger Stadium last week.
"I think he irritated it a little worse than it was," Torre said.
Torre went into the season with plans to increase the amount of rest he would give Ramirez, but what started as an exercise in restraint appears to be turning into something that will be forced on the manager.
Ramirez hasn't spoken to reporters since the first week of spring training and wasn't about to start now.
When he was asked how his leg felt as he sat in front of his locker, he avoided eye contact and quietly chewed on corn on the cob.
Ramirez looked surprisingly nimble on his feet in the first inning, as he lost his cap in pursuit of a line drive hit to the left-field corner by Joey Votto. OK, so he didn't look like Willie Mays out there. But his dreadlocks-scattering catch limited the Reds to one run in the inning and prevented the lead the Dodgers took on Andre Ethier's two-run home run from being completely erased.
The Dodgers were ahead 3-2 when Ramirez left the game.
Ramirez's premature departure fell on a day when some of his teammates returned – either from substandard form or from the disabled list.
Starter Vicente Padilla was charged with four runs (three earned) and eight hits in six innings. Padilla struck out eight, prompting Torre to say he looked better than he did when he went a season-long seven innings in his previous start.
"That's as close to last year as I've seen him," Torre said.
Padilla was in line for his second win because of Garret Anderson's pinch-hit, two-run home run that put the Dodgers up, 5-4, in the seventh, but Hong-Chih Kuo couldn't hold the lead.
Kuo, who was activated from the 15-day disabled list earlier in the day, forced Chris Dickerson to ground out to start the bottom half of the inning, but gave up a hit to Orlando Cabrera and walked Votto.
In came Ronald Belisario, who served up a two-run double to Scott Rolen that reclaimed the lead for the Reds. The home team scored twice more that inning.