After eight-game funk, Dodgers win fourth in row, cut into D-backs' lead

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- For the past month, manager Joe Torre has been watching Manny Ramirez perform at the level of a 12-time All-Star and is still probably wondering who that guy was that caused all that discord trying to get out of Boston.

Ramirez homered and drove in three runs Tuesday night, and the resurgent Los Angeles Dodgers closed in on Arizona in the NL West with an 8-4 win over the San Diego Padres.

"It's been great for me, having Manny over here," Torre said. "Even though he terrorized me for 12 years in New York, it's nice to see other managers wrestling with their decisions about whether to pitch to him or not. And the month he's been here, he's been A-No. 1 for us."

Ramirez reached the 30-homer mark for the 12th time. The only players who have done it more often were Hank Aaron (15), Barry Bonds (14), Babe Ruth (13) and Mike Schmidt (13).

Since the trade, the Dodgers are only 15-16. But no one can fault Ramirez, who is hitting .414 with 29 RBIs in 31 games. His 1,701 career RBIs are one behind Reggie Jackson for 21st place all-time, and needs just one for his 12th 100-RBI campaign. The record is 13, shared by Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx.

"I'm sure both sides are better for the separation," Torre said. "I mean, he seems happy here. I don't know what he was like when he was over there because I wasn't there. They're playing well since he left and it's a lot calmer over there."

Andre Ethier had three hits including a homer, and rookie Clayton Kershaw (5-3) allowed a run and three hits over the first seven innings to help the Dodgers reduce the Diamondbacks' lead in the division to 1½ games.

Kershaw, who struck out six, was pulled after walking the first two batters in the eighth. Both runners scored when Ramon Troncoso gave up an RBI double to Luis Rodriguez and a two-run single to Kevin Kouzmanoff, slashing the Padres' deficit to 8-4. But lefty Joe Beimel retired the next three batters and pitched a scoreless ninth to end it.

The Dodgers have rebounded with four straight wins following an eight-game losing streak, which was Torre's longest as a manager since 1982 with the Atlanta Braves.

"Everybody's showing a lot of life, and it's been real fun," Beimel said. "That losing streak was kind of crazy. It was like we couldn't do anything right. We knew we were a better team than what we were showing, and I think everybody in here figured that once we snapped that streak that we'd win a bunch of games in a row and get back in it."

San Diego had only one baserunner through the first four innings. That was in the second, when Chip Ambres hit a grounder to shortstop and Angel Berroa could not make a play because the ball ended up inside his shirt. Berroa was charged with an error.

"I knew he had sort of gotten it up in the wrist area. But then when he couldn't find it, I pretty much knew where it was," Torre said with a grin, "I think he left it there just to show the fans that he didn't screw it up. I told him that I started my career with the Milwaukee Braves and we had zippers, so that wouldn't have happened."

Ramirez, moved down to third in the order last week because of Jeff Kent's ailing left knee, opened the scoring in the first with a home run into the pavilion seats in left-center after a single by Ethier.

Ramirez's 520th career home run put him one behind Ted Williams, Willie McCovey and injured Oakland A's DH Frank Thomas, who are tied for 17th place. Ramirez has 30 this season, 10 since the trade that sent him from Boston to Los Angeles on July 31.

The next time Ramirez came up, after Ethier's leadoff triple in the third, Cha Seung Baek's first pitch sent Ramirez bailing out of the batter's box. Umpire Jerry Meals immediately issued a warning to both dugouts.

Ethier, whose wife Maggie is expecting the couple's first child this month, hit his team-high 19th homer in the third inning and scored three runs. He came up in the eighth needing a double to join Wes Parker as the only Dodgers to hit for the cycle since the franchise moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 1958. But he grounded out to second.

Ethier has met Parker a number of times over the years at Dodger Stadium and at the team's former training site in Vero Beach, Fla., but had no idea that Parker was all alone in the L.A. Dodgers record book.

"I wish you would have told me before that at-bat. Maybe I would have bore down just a little bit more," Ethier said with a grin.

Baek (4-9) lost his fourth straight decision. The right-hander made 71 pitches in just 3 2/3 innings, giving up seven runs and eight hits in his first career start against the Dodgers.

"Cha Seung just couldn't seem to get anything going or get into any rhythm," Black said following the Padres' eighth straight road loss. "He wasn't repeating pitches and couldn't get to that point where he could retire consecutive hitters. When that happens, guys are on base and pitching out of the stretch, and it's just tough on you."

Game notes
Dodgers CF Juan Pierre pulled up with a back problem while running out a grounder to third in the seventh inning and left the game. ... James Loney extended his hitting streak to 13 games with two hits, including a two-run single that chased Baek in the fourth.