|Manny Ramírez took a low pitch from Cubs reliever Sean Marshall and turned it into his 25th career postseason homer. (Frank Polich/Reuters)|
Dodgers come out swinging
Loney's slam one of three LA blasts
CHICAGO - Manny Ramírez and Joe Torre brought their winning postseason ways to the Los Angeles Dodgers - and Wrigley Field.
James Loney hit a go-ahead grand slam off a wild Ryan Dempster, Ramírez and Russell Martin homered, and the new-look Dodgers beat the Chicago Cubs, 7-2, in their National League Division Series opener last night.
"The atmosphere here was real quiet as I was going around the bases. So I think our fans were cheering back home," Loney said.
The Cubs entered the postseason with the best record in the league, hoping for a fast start 100 years after their last World Series championship.
But Ramírez and Torre, winners of six World Series crowns in the AL, wound up on top in their first playoff game together. Ramírez's homer was his 25th in the postseason, extending his record.
"I'm just being Manny," Ramírez said. "That's it. I've been playing great everywhere, and I'm just happy that I'm here in LA. It was a great move for me, just to go and show people that that other stuff that I left behind wasn't true, that I just want to come and get a new life and play the game . . . and show people that I still can do this."
Few needed to be convinced, because after being traded from the Red Sox July 31, Ramírez sparked the Dodgers to the NL West title by providing 17 homers and 53 RBIs in 53 games.
And there he was last night, leading them again, even hustling hard to beat out an infield single in the third inning.
"We get a sense of what he's been doing all these years," Loney said.
The win was a good omen for the Dodgers. The last time they started a postseason series with a victory was the 1988 World Series - the Kirk Gibson game.
The Cubs will try to get even in Game 2 tonight when they send righthander Carlos Zambrano against Chad Billingsley. Only 18 of 56 teams who lost the Division Series opener came back to win the series, including only four of 28 in the NL, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
"Let's hope we get better," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "Let's put this one behind us and go get them [tonight]."
Torre made his 13th straight postseason managerial appearance - the previous 12 were with the Yankees - and extended his record for postseason wins to 77 in a matchup with Piniella, another veteran skipper.
"It does a lot for our confidence," Torre said. "We know how good Chicago is. We know how consistent they've been all year. And to have them get a lead and for us to just maintain our patience, it's important."
The Cubs took a 2-0 lead on Mark DeRosa's homer in the second inning off Derek Lowe, but the Dodgers rebounded against Dempster, who had trouble finding the strike zone all night.
"I felt good," said Dempster, who allowed runners to reach base in every inning. "I don't know if I was trying to be too fine or what."
Dempster walked the bases loaded in the fifth, and Loney delivered for the Dodgers.
After swinging and missing the first two pitches, he sent a 1-2 pitch over the wall in center for the grand slam that gave the Dodgers a 4-2 lead and silenced a Wrigley Field crowd that was cheering loudly for Dempster to get out of the jam he created.
"Invariably, when you keep putting people on, they're going to score, and they scored there quickly with that grand slam," Piniella said.
When Matt Kemp followed with a double, Piniella had seen enough and brought in Sean Marshall from the bullpen. Marshall gave up Ramírez's solo shot in the seventh that made it 5-2.
The Dodgers padded the lead in the eighth when Blake DeWitt doubled and reached third on an error by center fielder Jim Edmonds, scoring on Casey Blake's single off Jeff Samardzija. Martin homered off Jason Marquis in the ninth.
Dempster, 14-3 at Wrigley during the regular season, threw 109 pitches in just 4 2/3 innings, giving up four runs and four hits while matching a career high with seven walks.
"I sure put myself in a tough situation," Dempster added.
Lowe, who went 6-1 in his final 10 starts of the regular season, allowed two runs and seven hits in six innings. Cory Wade and Jonathan Broxton each worked a scoreless inning, and Greg Maddux pitched the ninth for the Dodgers. The 355-game winner started his career with the Cubs and had two stints with them.
The Cubs are out to end their 100-year championship drought and the Dodgers have been struggling in the postseason for the last two decades. Before winning last night, Los Angeles had been 1-12 in the playoffs since beating Oakland in the 1988 Series.
After all his successful years with the Yankees and the many eventful games, Torre was still well aware of his surroundings.
"I've been in the American League for 12 years, to come into Wrigley Field for a playoff game, this is pretty cool," said Torre, who also has managed the Mets, Cardinals and Braves.