Ethier's walk-off magic rescues Dodgers

Ethier's walk-off magic rescues LA

LOS ANGELES -- The Atlanta Braves kept giving them opportunities, but it didn't seem that the Dodgers had what it took to rally for a win Thursday night at Dodger Stadium.

His team trailing by two runs in the seventh inning, Manny Ramirez walked to the batter's box with two on and two out while a heavy-metal riff fit for a closer played over the P.A. system. Surely, he'd come through in that situation. But Ramirez struck out on a 2-2 slider to end the inning.

The Dodgers couldn't come through again with runners in scoring position in the eighth when Matt Kemp struck out to end that particular threat.

But for the Dodgers, the third time was the charm.

In the bottom of the ninth with runners on first and second, Andre Ethier blasted a 2-0 fastball from Atlanta closer Rafael Soriano over the right-field fence for a walk-off three-run homer and a 5-4 Dodgers victory.

"He has three pitches," Ethier said. "You can for the most part cross a few out in that situation just knowing the count. And if he does throw it, you take your chance in that situation, swinging. And that's what I went there and did and looked for the right pitch in that spot and went and got it."

Ethier now has five walk-off hits this season to lead the Majors. Three of those hits have come via the long ball with Thursday against the Braves, June 29 against Colorado and June 6 against Philadelphia composing the trio of dingers.

"He's been incredible in that situation," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "You put him in a count 2-0 and the game slows down for him. That's pretty incredible. This kid hasn't played a lot of Major League Baseball; just to have that kind of calm in those situations is pretty special."

While Ethier's end-of-game theatrics might be becoming commonplace, it's still an exciting endeavor for the Dodgers right fielder.

"No, they never get old," Ethier said. "It's always jaw-dropping once you see it either land or go over the fence."

Ethier's homer also let Dodgers starter Randy Wolf off the hook for his seventh loss of the season. Wolf instead got a no-decision (No. 13 on the year), one that's easy to swallow considering the game's ending.

"This is definitely one of those happy no-decisions," Wolf said. "It's really amazing what Andre does here at home bottom of the ninth or bottom of the 10th or 11th. His walk-offs are unbelievable."

Braves batsmen rarely hit Wolf hard, and he said he had some of his best stuff of the season on the mound Thursday.

That being said, he still gave up four runs and labored to get through a couple of the early innings.

In the second inning, Wolf was tagged for three hits as the Braves scored two runs for a 2-0 lead. And then in the fourth, three consecutive batters reached to load the bases with just one out.

Wolf proceeded to strike out Derek Lowe and jump to a 1-2 count on Nate McLouth, setting himself up to escape with a scoreless inning intact. But Wolf went on to walk McLouth to force in a run.

That was all the Braves would get that inning. Wolf retired the next batter to end the inning after a short visit from Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt.

"This is probably by far the best stuff I've had all year, so it adds to my frustration as far as personally because today I felt great," Wolf said. "I definitely felt like I was better than giving up four runs in seven."

In the bottom of the fourth, Dodgers second baseman Orlando Hudson reached a milestone for career hits. Hudson hit a chopper that Lowe unsuccessfully tried to backhand. The play was ruled a single, the 1,000th hit of Hudson's career.

The hit resulted in the Dodgers' second run of the game when Hudson scored on a sacrifice fly after he advanced to third base on a sneaky single by Wolf.

Wolf's craftiness didn't end with his single, though.

A few minutes later, Wolf fooled the Atlanta infield by stealing second base in the fourth inning. The steal was Wolf's first of his career, and came as such a surprise to the defense that no one covered second base on the play.

"I knew I could take that base and gambled on it," Wolf said. "It's my first one of my career. It only took me over 10 years to do it. But it was fun to do it, never stealing a base before. I know I'm right behind Rickey [Henderson] now."

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