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Kemp Powers Dodgers to Sweep Pirates

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Usually weekday afternoon games are sparsely attended. But the Dodgers made a brilliant marketing decision to give away Manny Ramirez bobbleheads at the game leading to an explosion of humanity.

In fact 53,193 people showed up to witness the Dodgers sweep the three-game series from the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-1, the seventh sell out of the season for the Dodgers. It’s the largest weekday non-Opening Day day game in Dodger history.

To greet the masses was a lineup that was more suited for spring training. The only regular starters in the game for the Dodgers were Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp and James Loney.

“Part of it was the 13 innings [played last night],” Torre said of the reason behind today’s lineup. “My catcher is going to be off. Maybe not [Orlando Hudson]. Maybe not Manny [Ramirez]. But everybody else was pretty much scheduled a day off.”

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So there was not an appearance from Manny on his bobblehead game. Apparently Torre wasn’t listening to the crowd in the eighth inning when they clearly chanted, “We want Manny!”

Being a spring training lineup their punchlessness was evident throughout the game as Pirates starter Kevin Hart effectively kept the Dodgers off the bases. In fact only second baseman Ronnie Belliard and left fielder Juan Pierre made it to second base. Belliard would remain stranded in the first and Pierre would run himself out trying to steal third in the third inning.

But the Dodgers stayed patient and broke through in the sixth inning. With Belliard on second, Kemp hit his 24th home run to right center field to give the Dodgers a 2-1 lead.

“I think he tried to throw another fastball up,” Kemp described the at-bat, “missed his spot, and bam.”

Belliard would add an insurance run leading off the eighth inning with a solo blast.

“I got lucky,” Belliard said of his blast. “I always say that I’m not a home run hitter. When I hit it good sometimes I’ll hit it out.”

“That was a big home run he gave us in the bottom of the eighth,” Torre said of Belliard’s homer.

Dodgers starter Hiroki Kuroda (7-6) pitched a masterful game going six innings giving up an earned run on six hits striking out seven.

“Since I allowed a run early in the game, I knew I had to pitch tough and be patient,” Kuroda said through his translator Kenji Nimura.

“Our pitching really has been a big reason we are where we are,” Torre said.

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Billingsley’s Status

Before the game Torre announced the rotation for this weekend’s home series against the San Francisco Giants. Vicente Padilla will pitch on Friday, Jon Garland on Saturday and Randy Wolf on Sunday. Notably absent was Chad Billingsley’s name.

Billingsley last started in Sunday’s game against the San Francisco Giants. His normal start would have been on either Friday or Saturday against the Giants again depending on how Torre handled the off day on Thursday.

Instead Torre announced that Billingsley’s next start will be next week against the Washington Nationals.

“The numbers dictate that Garland has had a little more success against the Giants than Bills has although certain Giants have done well against Garland,” Torre justified.

“We’re all of a mind we want to get him in a good place. But it was just a decision of matching up.

“With the choices we have, we can look at plan certain things that makes sense. We certainly don’t want to dismiss him because he’s too important for us. We want to get him out there. But you have a choice of one of two teams and it’s going to be one start anyways. We just made the choice that way.”

Cameo

Jose Lima was at the game and shown on DodgerVision during a pitching change in the bottom of the seventh inning. He received a nice ovation from the crowd. I contend that he would have received a stronger ovation if his wife/girlfriend/whoeverthatwas was sitting next to him. Those were definitely mammaries that gave the Dodgers their first playoff victory since game five of the 1988 World Series.