SAN FRANCISCO -- It seems that Manny's back. "I never went anywhere," Manny Ramirez protested to reporters, who gathered round after he and Matt Kemp homered and drove in three runs each, while Randy Wolf was firing a three-hitter over eight innings as the Dodgers pounded the Giants on Tuesday night, 9-1. From July 16 to Saturday, Ramirez's batting average plunged 50 points, from .352 to .302. But in the last three games, he's 7-for-10. Manager Joe Torre said Ramirez has been fighting his balance at the plate, but he showed improved plate coverage in recent at-bats.
Ramirez spends plenty of time watching video, taking extra batting practice, consciously hitting to the opposite field. Publicly, though, he doesn't even acknowledge the concept of a slump. "I feel good, my swing is good," said Ramirez. "You don't understand. Everything I do now is extra. I give 100 percent and sometimes it doesn't go your way, so you just come back the next day and try again." Giants manager Bruce Bochy walked Ramirez in his first two trips to the plate with a runner on second and two outs. But in the fifth, a dropped throw by Giants second baseman Eugenio Velez ruined a spectacular behind-the-back snag of a comebacker by starting pitcher Joe Martinez, and Andre Ethier followed with a two-run double. "It turned the whole game around, there is no doubt about it," said Bochy. "It was a routine double-play ball, and Joe threw a sinker to second and Eurgenio couldn't handle it." Bochy then had Martinez pitch to Ramirez and he doubled home Ethier, who was then singled home by James Loney, returning to the lineup after a two-game benching and a 1-for-20 slump. "You don't want to start putting guys on with nobody out," Bochy said, explaining why he pitched to Ramirez in the fifth. Ramirez launched a two-run homer in the seventh, his 13th of the year and 540th of his career. Matt Kemp turned the game into a blowout the same inning with a three-run blast to center field on an 0-2 pitch from Brandon Medders. "We had a couple big innings and those long balls we haven't seen in a while," said Torre. "It was a big lift for us after losing three in a row at home. We have a chance to do something special [Wednesday]." Meanwhile, with management shuffling pitchers in and out of town to cover for the ailing Chad Billingsley, Wolf gave the bullpen most of the night off, the only run he allowed scoring on a groundout. "He was great," said Torre. "We wanted to take him out after seven innings because he threw more than 100 pitches his last start, but he was chomping at the bit." Wolf said he had to fight so hard to stay in the game after the seventh inning that there wasn't much fight left in him after the eighth, so he turned it over to James McDonald. It was the longest outing of the year for Wolf, who had a complete game last year for Houston, his first since 2004. He has quality starts in eight of his last nine outings, but he's only 6-6. "With the way things have gone this year," said Wolf, "I'll take what I can get." With the series win locked up and their lead back to 6 1/2 games, the Dodgers must beat Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum on Wednesday for a series sweep. After losing four of five to end the homestand (two in extra innings), the Dodgers have responded to a Sunday postgame meeting with a return to the kind of play that built the lead. "We hit a really rough patch, we just got in a funk," Wolf said, referring to the club losing 10 of 15 games while the lead was shaved from nine games to 5 1/2. "We had a meeting and said to ourselves every good team goes through this. You don't score and you play bad defense and make mental mistakes. It's going to happen. Good teams get over it. Teams that don't make it are the ones that harp on negative things."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.