Ethier locked in at plate

Ethier locked in at plate

LOS ANGELES -- When Andre Ethier finished Tuesday's game a double shy of a cycle, he regretted not becoming the first Dodger to accomplish that feat since Wes Parker did so 38 years ago.

But when Ethier took a deep turn around second needing a triple for a cycle Friday against the D-backs, instead of going for that achievement, he thought about making sure Russell Martin scored an insurance run in what was a 5-0 game in the sixth and not making the final out at third.

"I was 99 percent tempted, but I heard that old thing that's been instilled in you since you're a little kid, 'Never make the last out at third,'" Ethier said. "It kind of held me up. It leaves a little bit of a bitter taste in my mouth, but we went out there and did what we set out to accomplish, which is to win that game against one of their top starters."

Ethier ended up being gunned out scurrying back to second after Martin scored the run in the Dodgers' 7-0 win, the only damper on his 5-for-5 day with two doubles, a homer and a career-high five RBIs. The right fielder is 13-for-20 (.650) in his past five games and 19-for-38 (.500) in his past nine.

His homer was his team-high 20th of the season, a solo job off Dan Haren in the first that opened the floodgates for his big night.

When asked the key to his success, Ethier attributed it to two words: Manny Ramirez.

"It's unbelievable getting a chance to hit in front of him," Ethier said. "It's the confidence knowing guys are going to throw you good pitches, and when they get behind in the count they're going to have to come at you."

Ethier has 21 extra-base hits in his past 24 games beginning Aug. 9, including nine doubles, three triples and nine homers.

Dodgers manager Joe Torre said Ethier has "grown a great deal" as a hitter from earlier in the year, when he would fall behind in the count, get frustrated and make an easy out swinging out of the zone.

"He's just locked in," Torre said. "He's getting himself in pretty good positions. Right now, he looks about as relaxed as I've seen him."

Ethier and the Dodgers will be aiming to take over sole possession of first place in the National League West on Saturday for only the second day all season and the first time since they were 3-1 on April 4.

Although facing D-backs ace Brandon Webb would be bad news for most hitters, Ethier has found success against the sinkerballer in the past, hitting 9-for-18 (.500) with four doubles, three RBIs and a homer, which came in the first inning of Sunday's game in Phoenix that set the tone for a 8-1 Dodgers win.

"Stay up the middle, stay the other way, see the ball deep," Ethier said of his game plan against Webb. "Don't try to guess, just stay aggressive to a certain area, and try to hit the ball the other way."

Pitching matchup
LAD: RHP Chad Billingsley (13-10, 3.13 ERA)
Blessed with a lead Saturday, Billingsley knew what to do with it. He took a critical start into the eighth inning before running out of gas and picked up a team- and career-high 13th win. He's gone 10 consecutive starts without allowing more than three runs and has pitched at least six innings in seven of his last eight starts.

ARI: RHP Brandon Webb (19-6, 3.19 ERA)
For the second straight outing, Webb was roughed up by a National League West rival in search of his 20th win of the season. Webb lasted just 3 1/3 innings against the Dodgers on Sunday night, allowing eight runs -- six earned -- on eight hits. The ace also couldn't find the plate, as he had five walks -- two intentional. The Dodgers put the game out of reach in the first inning when Andre Ethier hit a solo home run and Casey Blake hit a three-run shot four batters later.

Tidbits
The Dodgers purchased the contract of utility player Pablo Ozuna from Triple-A Las Vegas and placed pitcher Mario Alvarez on the 60-day disabled list after recalling him (not to report) to make room for Ozuna on the 40-man roster. Ozuna hit .167 (3-for-18) with a triple and an RBI in 28 games for the Dodgers, being primarily used as a defensive replacement at second base for Jeff Kent before Los Angeles designated him for assignment on Aug. 27 to call up Blake DeWitt. ... The Dodgers have won 13 of 16 and 19 of 25 at Dodger Stadium. ... Angel Berroa has hit in six straight games as Los Angeles' starting shortstop, batting .381 (8-for-21). ... Blake has hit in nine of 10, hitting .361 (13-for-36) during that stretch. ... The Dodgers raised $166,485 to fund cancer research at City of Hope and Childrens Hospital Los Angeles during their ThinkCure radiotelethon the weekend of Aug. 15-17. A check presentation took place on the field before Friday's game. ... Chris Young is 8-for-19 (.421) with a homer and three RBIs in his career against Billingsley. ... James Loney and Martin are both career .389 hitters against Webb (7-for-18). ... The Dugout Club at Dodger Stadium was named the best seat in the National League, the best premium seat in Major League Baseball, and the third-best overall seat in baseball, according to the USA Today's search for the "best seat in the house." ... Children ages 5 to 15 can participate in the McDonald's Kids Run the Bases program after Saturday's game. ... U.S. Olympic women's soccer players Shannon Boxx and Lindsay Tarpley, who won gold medals in Beijing, threw out a ceremonial first pitch. ... Friday was the eighth annual Strike Out AIDS Day at Dodger Stadium.

Tickets
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On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• FOX

On radio
• KABC 790, KHJ 930 (Español)

Up next
• Sunday: Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw, 3-5, 4.50) vs. Diamondbacks (Randy Johnson, 10-9, 4.21), 1:10 p.m. PT
• Monday: Dodgers (Greg Maddux, 7-11, 4.18) at Padres (Cha Seung Baek, 4-10, 5.36), 7:05 p.m. PT
• Tuesday: Dodgers (Hiroki Kuroda, 8-10, 3.96) at Padres (Wade LeBlanc, 0-1, 11.25), 7:05 p.m. PT

Michael Schwartz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.