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Kent thriving batting ahead of Manny

Kent thriving batting ahead of Manny

LOS ANGELES -- Jeff Kent believes seven games is too small a sample to draw any conclusions.

But since he's moved into the third spot of the Dodgers' batting order, and more significantly ahead of Manny Ramirez, Kent is looking like a Hall of Famer at the plate and not a 40-year-old. And the Dodgers are 5-2.

Coming into Thursday night's game, Kent was batting .500 (13-for-26) with a home run, four doubles, eight RBIs and a .567 on-base percentage as the 3-hole hitter, raising his overall average from .256 to .273. Russell Martin preceded Kent as the third hitter in Ramirez's first five games as a Dodger and hit .217 (5-for-23).

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"Kent's the perfect example of a guy who knows what to do with a pitch you can hit," said manager Joe Torre. "What I'm seeing in Jeff, he's not going out of the strike zone, like we've seen when he knew he's the one we have to count on.

"A big part of getting your pitch is who's protecting you. Jeff feels responsible, whether he's naked or surrounded by Manny. I'm just giving my perspective. It's been a benefit to the two guys who back-to-back have been a force in this game."

Kent, however, disagrees. He said even when Barry Bonds (batting third) and he (batting fourth) presented back-to-back MVPs in the Giants' batting order, that lineup worked because there were contributions from top to bottom, not just from two stars.

"When it was Barry and I, we absolutely couldn't have done it without the people ahead of us and those picking up in back," said Kent. "That's why I believe in a group of guys. It's better to have run producers behind a bunch of guys who can get on base. A group of guys getting on base are more valuable than relying on one or two or three guys. It's true that hitters feed off each other.

"Personally, I'd rather bat deeper in the order. Manny could bat third, because you want your best hitter batting in the first inning. It's only a few games, but with Manny, we're absolutely improved. We haven't had a player like Manny here. Whether he can sustain it, we'll see. As long as he can, we haven't had an addition like that before."

In Thursday night's lineup, Martin batted sixth after being dropped into the eighth spot Wednesday night, when he went 3-for-3.

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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