Blake's big homer rewards Dodgers

Blake's big homer rewards Dodgers

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Dodgers celebrated their return to the friendly confines of the National League West by rebounding from their worst loss of the year with a 4-2 win over the Giants on Casey Blake's two-run homer in the eighth inning that cashed in Manny Ramirez's third hit of the game.

Manager Joe Torre said he sensed in the clubhouse before the game a feeling the Dodgers would shake off Sunday night's crushing loss to the Yankees, when closer Jonathan Broxton blew a four-run lead in a 48-pitch ninth inning and the Dodgers lost in 10 innings.

"In our meeting, nobody's head was down," said Torre. "Everybody was joking and it made you feel they were ready to go out and play."

Instead of focusing on the game that got away, Torre said the weekend series (a win and two close losses) showed the Dodgers they could at least compete with the Yankees, and Blake agreed.

"Maybe it's just knowing that we've got a million games left in the season, but we're not going to let just one game get us down and ruin our season," said Blake. "We played well against the Yankees. They didn't come in and blow us out three games."

And the Dodgers played better against the Giants, recording five double plays to tie a Los Angeles Dodgers record and getting six solid innings from starter Chad Billingsley in his first start back from the disabled list and a strained groin muscle.

Torre sent out a lineup without four of his regulars -- the slumping Matt Kemp and Russell Martin, and left-handed hitters James Loney and Blake DeWitt -- and the subs won despite going 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position.

Reliever Jeff Weaver (5-1), benefitting from one of those double plays, pitched out of a seventh-inning jam in relief of Billingsley for the win, and Hong-Chih Kuo, subbing as closer to give Broxton a rest, picked up his second save of the year, escaping a jam of his own in the ninth. Kuo, making a rare bid for an All-Star berth as a setup man, lowered his ERA to 1.11.

The win raised the Dodgers' divisional record to 19-5, quite a contrast from the 4-11 mark in Interleague Play. The Dodgers had lost eight of their previous 10 games.

"We've been playing well in our division and I think we're familiar with the opponents," said Blake, who homered off Santiago Casilla to end an eight-pitch at-bat, his first in more than a month. "Maybe we're a little more comfortable now that we got back in the National League, and especially in our division."

In addition to Blake's home run, the game hinged on the ability of Weaver and Kuo to put down rallies. In the seventh, Pat Burrell and Pablo Sandoval singled to put runners on the corners with no outs. But when Edgar Renteria flied out too shallow to right field for pinch-runner Aaron Roward to score, Sandoval tried to tag to second anyway and was caught in a rundown. Andre Ethier's throw was cut off by first baseman Ronnie Belliard, with Rafael Furcal taking Belliard's throw and running down Sandoval.

"A great play all around," said Torre.

Said Giants manager Bruce Bochy: "Pablo thought [Rowand] was heading home. He just said the way he broke he thought he was going home so he wanted to go to second. He didn't realize he wasn't and he got caught. ... He was being aggressive there and that's going to happen with a young player. You can't fault him for his thinking, and they executed."

Then with one out in the ninth, Kuo walked Juan Uribe on four pitches and Rowand singled him to third. But Torre said he didn't allow himself to think he was headed for a replay of Sunday night.

"I was relaxed," Torre insisted. "I said, 'This won't happen again.' I refused to believe it would happen again."

Kuo struck out pinch-hitter Buster Posey and got Renteria on a fly to Ethier to end it. At one point, after throwing five consecutive balls, Kuo found catcher A.J. Ellis and infielders Blake and Furcal converging on him.

"He was the only one not slightly panicking, especially after last night," said Ellis. "He kept saying he was OK. He's been through so much in his career, this wasn't much pressure."

Although he only earned a draw with Barry Zito in a pitchers' duel, it was an impressive comeback for Billingsley, especially after the first batter he faced walked and scored. He allowed two runs in six innings.

"It was great to get back out there," said Billingsley. "I was kind of amped up and couldn't find my tempo and rhythm early, but I was able to settle down. The double plays are great and allowed me to get some quick innings."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.