Kemp leads slumping Dodgers past Giants |

Kemp leads slumping Dodgers past Giants

The Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO – Joe Torre was less concerned with a shrinking division lead than he was with a blow to the Los Angeles Dodgers’ confidence following a recent slide.

The Dodgers addressed both in the highly anticipated opener of a key three-game series against their longtime rivals.

Matt Kemp hit a three-run double to back a strong effort from Hiroki Kuroda and help the slumping Los Angeles Dodgers beat the San Francisco Giants 4-2 Monday night.

“It’s really too early to concern ourselves with winning anything,” Torre said. “It’s just a matter of trying to minimize your bad stuff. We’re coming off a three-game losing streak at home. Anytime you do something like that it pokes holes in your confidence.”

Los Angeles had lost three straight and 11 of 17 heading into the series, cutting their lead in the NL West to 51/2 games over San Francisco and Colorado. That led Torre to call a clubhouse meeting after Sunday’s loss to Atlanta. He also shook up the lineup, moving Russell Martin to second and dropping Manny Ramirez to fourth for the first time this season.

Ramirez sparked a four-run fourth inning with a one-out single. Following back-to-back walks by Jonathan Sanchez (5-10) to load the bases, Kemp hit his double to clear the bases and then scored on Mark Loretta’s single.

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Ramirez was loudly booed by a sellout crowd in his first game in San Francisco since coming back from a 50-game suspension for violating baseball’s drug rules – payback for the treatment former Giants slugger Barry Bonds used to get in Los Angeles. Ramirez finished 2 for 4.

“It felt like a playoff atmosphere out there,” Dodgers second baseman Orlando Hudson said. “It was loud, the fans were into it.”

The big fourth inning proved to be more than enough for the Dodgers, who won for the sixth time in the last seven games started by Kuroda (5-5). Kuroda allowed a solo homer to Travis Ishikawa in the second inning and nothing else in his 6 1-3 innings as the Dodgers avoided their second four-game losing streak of the season.

Ishikawa’s eighth homer came just after Fred Lewis was caught trying to advance to second on a pitch in the dirt. The Giants didn’t get another hit until Eugenio Velez’s infield single to lead off the sixth. Kuroda then got Freddy Sanchez to hit into a double play. Kuroda allowed six hits and one walk.

“We faced a guy who threw the ball well and we didn’t do much offensively,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “This is not the way you want to start a series but it’s not desperation time. We need to relax and play our game.”

The Dodgers used four relievers the rest of the way. Jonathan Broxton pitched the ninth for his 25th save in 29 chances, allowing a solo homer to Bengie Molina. With a runner on second and two outs, second baseman Juan Castro made a diving stop on a grounder by Ryan Garko to end the game.

Castro was in the game because Hudson left earlier with a groin injury that could sideline him for a couple of days.

“This was huge for us,” Broxton said. “We went through a little skid and we just have to come out of it and hopefully tonight will be the start of it.”

Bochy was ejected after arguing two plays at first base with umpire Bill Hohn.

The first came in the third inning when Sanchez was called out even though replays appeared to show he beat the throw from third baseman Casey Blake. Then in the fifth, pinch-hitter Rich Aurilia was called out on the back end of the double play even though it appeared that Loretta’s foot was off the first-base bag when he picked up a throw in the dirt. Bochy argued and was ejected for the third time this season.

“He blew both calls, that’s all,” Bochy said. “I didn’t agree with them and I saw them pretty good. It’s frustrating when you see a blown call.”

NOTES: Giants CF Aaron Rowand did not start because of a strained hamstring. He grounded out as a pinch hitter in the eighth. … Sanchez allowed four runs and five hits in five innings. … Dodgers All-Star RHP Chad Billingsley will miss Wednesday’s start with a strained left hamstring.

A’s 9, Orioles 1

BALTIMORE – On a sweltering night at Camden Yards, rookie Gio Gonzalez had more trouble with the heat than with the Baltimore Orioles.

Gonzalez took a five-hit shutout into the seventh inning, Mark Ellis had a career-high five hits and four RBIs, and the Oakland Athletics beat Baltimore on Monday night to extend their winning streak against the Orioles to nine games.

The 23-year-old Gonzalez struck out five and allowed seven hits in six-plus innings, but his performance wasn’t as easy at it looked.

“I was sitting in the tunnel the whole time, trying to get away from that heat. It was like fighting fireballs,” the left-hander said. “I was throwing water on my face, ammonia towels, trying to cool down a little bit.”

The pitcher’s between-innings ritual wore on Oakland catcher Kurt Suzuki, who, according to Gonzalez, said, “I’m tired of coming out here. Relax.”

After giving up two hits to start the seventh, Gonzalez (4-2) was pulled following a rain delay of 52 minutes. When play resumed, Craig Breslow got three straight outs to strand both runners in scoring position.

Gonzalez blanked Texas over 6 2-3 innings in his last start and has won four straight decisions over a seven-game stretch.

“Unless I really shut them out, we didn’t have much of a shot anyhow,” Baltimore starter Jeremy Guthrie said. “But unfortunately, I did not pitch well.”

Guthrie (7-12) allowed five runs and a season-high 11 hits in 4 2-3 innings. The right-hander avoided adding to his AL-high total of 27 homers allowed, but he took over the league lead in losses.

Guthrie lamented his inability to put away batters after getting two strikes in the count, which contributed heavily to his 107-pitch count.

“They fouled them off, fouled them off, then ended up with a base hit,” he said. “It was their fault. They didn’t put it in play for me tonight, which was unfortunate because they swung at a lot of pitches. Up, down, out, in. I don’t know what else I could do.”

The Athletics are 4-0 against Baltimore this season, and their nine-game run against the Orioles is the longest in Oakland history. The A’s are 64-27 (.703) versus Baltimore since the start of the 1999 season – the best winning percentage by any AL team against the Orioles in that span.

Luke Scott hit his 19th home run in the ninth inning to ruin Oakland’s shutout bid, but the Orioles went 0 for 12 with runners in scoring position and fell to 6-18 since the All-Star break.

“It seems like when we do hit the ball hard, we hit it right at somebody. And it seems like when we get opportunities to make productive outs and drive a run in, we don’t,” Orioles manager Dave Trembley said.

Oakland used four straight hits to take a 2-0 lead in the second. Tommy Everidge singled and Ryan Sweeney doubled before Ellis and Cliff Pennington delivered RBI singles.

The A’s used a three-run fifth to make it 5-0. Singles by Rajai Davis, Jack Cust and Suzuki produced a run before Ellis ended Guthrie’s night with a two-out, two-run single to left.

In the ninth, Suzuki doubled in a run, Sweeney hit a two-run double and Ellis finished his big night with an RBI double. Ellis was rested in Oakland’s previous game, and break seemed to be beneficial.

“Sometimes, a day off helps,” Ellis said. “It can really refresh you.”

NOTES: Oakland RHP Justin Duchscherer, who’s yet to pitch this season due to a sore right elbow, threw 85 pitches in a rehab assignment at Triple-A Sacramento on Sunday. … Orioles rookie C Matt Wieters started a fifth straight game for the first time, but Chad Moeller will start Tuesday, manager Dave Trembley said. … Baltimore’s Nick Markakis has reached by hit, HBP or walk in 31 straight games, the longest active streak in the majors.