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Offense stalls as LA's win streak ends at four

Offense stalls as LA's win streak ends at four

DENVER -- The Dodgers' intentions for benching Manny Ramirez are still quite fuzzy, but in the two games since he was claimed off waivers by the White Sox, they've shown they can win without him and lose without him.

They won Friday night on Casey Blake's grand slam and had a four-game win streak snapped Saturday night with a 5-3 loss to the Rockies, Rod Barajas' two-run homer with two out in the ninth inning making the score appear closer than the game really was.

Ramirez, now a $20 million pinch-hitter, struck out batting for losing pitcher Chad Billingsley in the seventh, and manager Joe Torre wouldn't say whether he'd take Ramirez out of mothballs and return him to the lineup Sunday after a three-game benching.

He returned from the disabled list Tuesday and went 0-for-4, then had a pair of doubles and a pair of walks Wednesday, and then disappeared from the lineup card.

"I don't know yet," Torre said when asked if Ramirez would start Sunday. "That'll make you come back tomorrow to make sure. It's certainly a possibility. The danger of my thinking overnight is it could result in anything."

One of the myriad reasons Torre has given for not starting Ramirez is the energy provided by the top of the batting order, namely Scott Podsednik, Ramirez's replacement in left field. But until Barajas' homer, the only clutch hit from a Dodgers player was again by Blake, an RBI double in the second inning off rookie winner Jhoulys Chacin (7-9).

"He's really beginning to arrive," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said of Chacin. "He is definitely a huge bright spot as far as our club and what's taken place this season and the things we've had to deal with and force him to step in and not just step in and fill in, but step in and contribute. He's been absolutely spectacular."

The final batter he faced was Ramirez after a two-out single by Barajas.

"[Catcher Miguel Olivo] wanted me to throw a changeup and I didn't want to throw a changeup," said Chacin. "So he told me to throw a fastball away, and I said no. So he asked me what I wanted to throw and I said a curveball, and he said OK, but he was mad. So he went back to the plate and the first pitch he called was a slider. So I threw a slider. And it struck him out."

Billingsley (10-8), meanwhile, struggled to hold the Rockies to three runs over six innings. He allowed a home run for the first time since May 31, an MLB-leading 92-inning stretch, hit by Todd Helton, who also homered Friday night. Billingsley also walked five without a strikeout and had only two swinging strikes.

"I had a good fastball, but my off-speed wasn't there," said Billingsley. "You have days like that. I just battled, located with my fastball."

Things got a little wild after Billingsley left trailing, 3-1. Ronald Belisario relieved, hit pinch-hitter Ryan Spilborghs with an 0-2 fastball, retired the next two batters, then gave up a two-run homer to Carlos Gonzalez. Troy Tulowitzki fouled a bunt, then Belisario nicked Tulowitzki on the thigh with a fastball and veteran umpire Marty Foster ejected the pitcher without warning.

Belisario looked stunned.

"I was surprised," said Belisario, who had not hit any batters in 41 2/3 previous innings this year. "It was crazy today."

Barajas pleaded his case.

"[Foster] said he can throw him out of the game if he sensed intent. For me, there was no intent," Barajas said. "I was completely surprised. Seeing the way the inning goes, obviously he didn't have the greatest control. The ball was slippery, and if a sinker pitcher doesn't have a good grip on the ball ... If the pitch was behind the batter, that would be suspicious. It grazed his thigh I think."

"I certainly didn't think it was on purpose," said Torre. "After a home run, they're a little more sensitive to that kind of stuff. He [Foster] said he had a choice to warn or throw him out and said he had a gut feeling. I thought it's safety first."

Foster issued warnings to both clubs after that, but didn't eject Jeff Weaver for hitting the first batter he faced in the eighth inning, Melvin Mora.

With two out in the ninth, Barajas followed Jamey Carroll's single with his second homer as a Dodger in four starts. That's more homers than Ramirez has hit in the last two months.

"Thank goodness we're in Colorado and the ball stays up longer," said Barajas. "I was just trying to keep the thing going and give us another chance. I would have taken a base hit, but it got up in the air enough and it worked out."

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

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