Diamondbacks Get Swept Away by Hanley and A.J. Dodgers 7, Diamondbacks 5

Hanley Ramirez getting full extension on a swing has become one of the most feared sights for an opposing team in baseball the past month. Ramirez’s blast to right-center on the first pitch of the top of the 14th inning gave the Dodgers a 6-5 lead and helped propel them to a sweep of the Division-leading Arizona Diamondbacks. (Image source: True Blue L.A. at http://cdn1.sbnation.com/uploads/chorus_image/image/7574915/20130108_mjr_su5_265.0_standard_352.0.jpg)

Hanley Ramirez didn’t wait until the midnight hour to do his magic tonight, though it was well after 11:30 p.m. in Phoenix and in Los Angeles when he came to the plate in the top of the fourteenth inning.

Ramirez took the first pitch he saw from Josh Collmenter and deposited it into the right-center field seats at Chase Field, giving the Dodgers a 6-5 lead and pushing across the deciding run in a three game sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

With the win, the Dodgers find themselves back at an even .500 with a record of 45-45.  They sit a mere 1 1/2 games back of the Diamondbacks after a 15-3 sprint that has mostly come against divisional opponents and includes a just-completed 7-2 road trip to Colorado, San Francisco and Arizona.

Everything the Dodgers touch right now seems to be coming up aces.

The night did not always look like it would go in the Dodgers’ favor, however.  Hyun-Jin Ryu, who came into the game with a 7-3 record and a 2.83 ERA, had one of his worst outings of the season.  Ryu gave up 5 runs in 5 innings of work.  On this night, however, his bullpen and ultimately his offense would lift him up and get him off the hook for the loss.  Seven Dodgers relievers combined to pitch the equivilent of a complete game two hit shutout, limiting the Diamondbacks to only the two hits over nine combined innings of work, striking out 8 and walking 3.  Chris Withrow and Kenley Jansen both pitched multiple innings, with Withrow’s 3 innings of work in extra frames keeping the Dodgers’ hopes alive well into the evening and Jansen pitching the last two innings to pick up the win and ultimately saving his own win.

The Diamondbacks started out the scoring in the bottom of the first when Aaron Hill went deep off Hyun-Jin Ryu with nobody aboard to stake the Diamondback out to a quick 1-0 lead.  Hill would add to that lead when A.J. Pollock led off the top of the third with a triple.  Hill’s fly ball to left fielder Scott Van Slyke was good enough to score Pollock and Hill’s sacrifice fly had the Diamondbacks up 2-0.

The Dodgers struck back against Diamondbacks starter Tyler Skaggs in the top of the fourth.  Hanley Ramirez walked, A.J. Ellis and Andre Ethier singled, and Scott Van Slyke hit a bases-loaded sac fly to right to get the Dodgers on the board at 2-1.

The Dodger scoring spree continued in the top of the fifth.  Mark Ellis and Yasiel Puig singled, Adrian Gonzalez moved the runners to second and third with a groundout, then Hanley Ramirez drove a ball to the base of the center field wall for a double, scoring both Ellis and Puig to give the Dodgers a 3-2 lead.  Two batters later, the Dodgers chased Tyler Skaggs after drawing back-to-back walks.  Scott Van Slyke would ground out with the bases loaded to end the inning, however.

The Diamondbacks saw the Dodgers’ 2 runs and raised 3 of their own in the bottom half of the fifth inning.  Paul Goldschmidt’s two RBI double and Martin Prado’s RBI single combined gave the Diamondbacks a 5-3 lead.  Ryu finished the inning, but was replaced by pinch-hitter Carl Crawford in the top of the sixth.

Surprisingly, the Dodgers came into this game having not won a single game this season when trailing after seven innings.  Adrian Gonzalez’s seventh inning line drive homer got out in a hurry and cut the Diamondbacks’ lead to 5-4.  The deficit-cutting blast was Gonzalez’s team-leading 14th home run of the season.

The Diamondbacks looked poised to close the Dodgers out.  Two quick outs by closer Heath Bell had the Dodgers down to their last out with Adrian Gonzalez coming to the plate.

However, the Dodgers showed the same refuse-to-quit, refuse-to-lose mettle that has defined their hot streak over the past three weeks.  Gonzalez battled and drew a nine pitch walk.  Gonzalez was promptly lifted off the basepaths for pinch runner Jerry Hairston, Jr.  Hanley Ramirez then singled back up the middle.  Then A.J. Ellis, who got the big hit that decided Sunday’s game in San Francisco when his line drive to the gap with the bases loaded resulted in 3 runs and a 4-1 Dodger victory, came up big again.

The Legend of A.J. Ellis Continues: Ellis tied the game with a sharp single toward the left-center field gap with two outs in the ninth, and provided a valuable insurance run in the 14th with his home run to left field. (Image source: Fox Sports at http://static.foxsports.com/content/fscom/img/2013/07/07/070313-AJ-Ellis-Los-Angeles-Dodgers-LA-PI_20130707194418728_660_320.JPG)

Ellis drove a line drive toward the gap in left-center field.  Hairston came in to score, and only a quick cut-off of the ball by the Diamondbacks’ Cody Ross prevented the ball from going to the wall and bringing home Hanley Ramirez with the go-ahead score.  The Dodgers had tied the game at five, and Paco Rodriguez’s 1-2-3 ninth included a ridiculous strikeout of Didi Gregorius to send the game to extra innings and silence what had only moments before been an energetic Diamondbacks crowd, while invigorating a surprisingly-large contingent of Dodger fans that at times made enough noise to make Chase Field sound like Dodger Stadium.

The bullpens battled back and forth in extra innings.  Chris Withrow threw three shutout innings, while his counterpart Josh Collmenter gave the Diamondbacks four shutout innings.  Both pitchers were brilliant.  However, Dodger manager Don Mattingly elected to pull Withrow after three innings and instead went to Kenley Jansen in a non-save situation.  Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson opted to leave Collmenter in.

The decision to leave Collmenter in for the start of a fifth inning proved decisive.  Hanley Ramirez hammered the first pitch he saw, Collmenter’s 66th of the night, into the right-center field seats for a 6-5 Dodgers lead.  Six pitches later, A.J. Ellis padded the lead by getting all of a low inside changeup from Collmenter and sending it into the seats down the left field line.

Kenley Jansen pitched a second inning of scoreless relief, freezing A. J. Pollock with a cut fastball that caught the outside corner for a called third strike that ended the game and brought an end to a very successful nine game road trip that has the Dodgers coming back to Dodger Stadium with a stronghold on second place and breathing down Arizona’s neck for the division lead.

Jansen is your winning pitcher, improving to 3-3 and effectively saving his own win (though he doesn’t get credited with the save this time.)  Josh Collmenter, who was brilliant in his first four innings of relief, picks up the loss after running out of gas in the 14th inning.  His record falls to 4-2 and given his 74 pitches thrown in the game it wouldn’t be surprising if Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson opted to give Collmenter a night or two of recovery time before turning to him in a relief role again.

The Dodgers look to keep their hot steak alive as they open up a final four game homestand before the All Star Break with a weekend series against the third place Colorado Rockies.  The series opens up tonight at Dodger Stadium, a 7:10 p.m. start on Adrian Gonzalez Bobblehead Night.  Chris Capuano (2-6, 5.19 ERA) returns to the Dodger rotation despite recent struggles due to the injury to Stephen Fife.  He’ll be opposed by the Rockies’ Drew Pomeranz (0-2, 9.72 ERA) who has failed to get out of the fourth inning of either of his first two starts this season.



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