LOS ANGELES (AP) -Manny Ramirez looked somewhat rusty in his first game back off the disabled list. Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto appeared even rustier, surrendering four home runs in his first start after serving a seven-game suspension.
Ryan Theriot, Andre Ethier, Jay Gibbons and Matt Kemp all went deep in a span of just five batters, and the Dodgers snapped the Reds' seven-game winning streak with an 8-5 victory Saturday night. Ramirez was 0 for 3 with two strikeouts, but led the cheers in the dugout after each home run.
``To be honest, it really does change the dynamic of the lineup, having a guy in there like Manny. It's contagious,' Gibbons said. ``Cueto was throwing good fastballs but I think he was having trouble with his command and we took advantage.'
Chad Billingsley (10-7) allowed three runs and seven hits over 5 2-3 innings and struck out seven. The Dodgers had homered only four times in the right-hander's previous nine starts combined, and totaled just eight runs over his previous six outings - including consecutive 2-0 wins over the Giants and Padres.
Jonathan Broxton, the fourth Dodgers pitcher, worked a perfect ninth for his 22nd save in 27 chances. It was the All-Star right-hander's first save opportunity since Aug. 12, when he blew a 9-6 lead in the ninth inning of a 10-9 lead at Philadelphia and was temporarily removed from the closer's role by manager Joe Torre until he worked out his difficulties.
Ramirez, coming off his third stint on the disabled list and second because of a right calf strain, and left the game after five innings with the Dodgers leading 7-1. The 12-time All-Star has missed 59 games this season due to injuries, after sitting out a 50-game drug suspension last year.
The enigmatic slugger, who said at the start of spring training that this would be his final season with the Dodgers, is in the final year of a two-year contract and becomes a free agent at season's end at age 38. Ramirez is 14th on the career home run list with 554, nine shy of Reggie Jackson's total.
Pitching on 10 days rest, Cueto's rustiness was obvious in his first start since an 11-3 loss to St. Louis on in which he was ejected at the end of a bench-clearing melee for kicking several Cardinals players while he was pinned against the home plate screen. The shellshocked right-hander lasted only three innings, allowing five runs and five hits.
It was the first time Cueto gave up more than two home runs in any start against an NL team during his three-year career. The Indians hit three off him on May 16, 2008, and the White Sox matched that total on June 20, 2009.
``I was pitching relaxed and I was feeling great, but because I missed one start, I was feeling weird in the first inning,' Cueto said through a translator. ``It wasn't the same like when I was throwing in the bullpen. I was prepared real good and my conditioning was good. But I was feeling too strong. That's why I was overthrowing, and I was missing my spots.'
Cueto (11-4) walked three straight batters with two out in the first. The third one to Casey Blake forced in Ethier. In the second, Theriot drove an 0-2 pitch into the former ``Mannywood' seats down in the left field corner for his second homer of the season and Ethier followed with his 19th to dead-center.
``He just couldn't find the strike zone. I think because of that long layoff, he might have been overthrowing and he lost his rhythm with his breaking ball and his changeup. Then they started hitting the ball out of the ballpark,' manager Dusty Baker said. ``When you don't have your control, you've got to throw it over the plate. And when you throw it too fat over the plate, those guys know what to do with it - especially guys like Ethier and Kemp. I think every pitch they hit was a fastball.'
The Dodgers, who had recorded back-to-back homers only one previous time this season, turned the trick for the second straight inning when Gibbons' leadoff drive to center struck the top of the center field fence before bouncing over, and Kemp sent his team-high 20th homer into the left field pavilion.
``Four home runs. That certainly came out of nowhere,' Torre said. ``We knew it was in there somewhere.'
Reds heralded rookie Mike Leake, whose role was changed to long man out of the bullpen after going 8-4 with a 3.78 ERA in 22 starts, relieved Cueto and gave up an RBI double to Blake and a run-scoring single by Jamey Carroll that increased the Dodgers' lead to 7-1 in the fifth.
It was the first relief appearance in the big leagues for Leake, who leads all NL rookies with 138 innings. The right-hander gave up two runs and five hits over 2 1-3 innings and struck out four.
NOTES: This was the first time the Dodgers hit back-to-back homers twice in the same game since June 29, 1996 at Colorado. ... With Ramirez's return, the Dodgers used their 94th different starting lineup. ... OF Scott Podsednik was not in the Dodgers' starting lineup for the first time since he was acquired from Kansas City on July 28 for a pair of minor league prospects.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved