Tonight, Hanley Ramirez (two) & Luis Cruz combined to match that total in only five innings. In the second inning, they teamed with James Loney to go went back-to-back-to-back off Atlanta starter Ben Sheets; in the sixth, after Matt Kemp & Andre Ethier walked, Ramirez sealed the game with his second blast of the night.
As it happened, the four homers were the only Dodger hits of the night; since the two walks came around to score on the Ramirez homer, it was nearly the first time since June of 2002 that the Dodgers won in a game with zero men left on base, at least until Loney ruined it with a walk in the ninth. It was just the second time in team history that the team had at least four hits which all went for homers, with the first coming back in 2002 when Alex Cora, Shawn Green (two), & Eric Karros all took future Dodger Ramon Ortiz deep, though Ortiz went the distance in an 8-4 Angel win. (As Jon Weisman points out, both Baltimore and Colorado have done that with five homers this year alone.)
For Ramirez & Cruz, the big night served to further illustrate just how much of an improvement they’ve been on their predecessors on the left side. Ramirez was hitting .322/.388/.483 as a Dodger headed into the game, even before hitting his third & fourth homers for the team; Cruz now has 11 hits over his last seven games, including five of the extra-base variety. Like we saw with Elian Herrera, I’m expecting there to be a point where the Cruz magic disappears, but for now it’s real, and I love it.
The offensive show overshadowed another bizarre outing from starter Aaron Harang. After the Dodgers went quietly in the top of the first tonight, Harang threw 26 pitches in the bottom of the inning, and only eight were for strikes. Though he walked Michael Bourn, Chipper Jones (intentionally), & Dan Uggla, and allowed a double to Martin Prado, Harang managed to escape further damage by getting David Ross to strike out with the bases loaded and two outs – even though he looked terrible doing it. Despite the inauspicious start, Harang managed to survive into the seventh inning, having allowed just the one run despite walking five.
In the eighth, Javy Guerra & Shawn Tolleson combined to load the bases with two out and Friday hero Juan Francisco at the plate, and temporary manager Trey Hillman did what we’d all been clamoring for Don Mattingly to do last night – bring in the best reliever in the bullpen when the game was actually worth saving. Kenley Jansen blew away Francisco, shocking everyone who thought that closers were contractually obligated to pitch only in the ninth. Jansen allowed a homer to Prado when he came back out, a ball which just barely escaped Shane Victorino‘s reach at the left field wall, but otherwise escaped unscathed as the Dodgers temporarily pulled even with San Francisco for first place, though the Giants currently hold a 5-4 lead over San Diego in the fifth.