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Ethier shakes slump from tough trip

Ethier shakes slump from tough trip

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers' late collapse hasn't all been about Manny Ramirez.

Andre Ethier went 1-for-29 on the disastrous trip just completed and he was determined to make things right over the final weekend as a tuneup for the postseason.

In Friday night's series opener against the Rockies, Ethier went 2-for-3 with an RBI and a hard-fought walk.

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Dodgers at a glance
2009 record: 95-67
2008 record: 84-78
NL West champs
NL best record
NLCS matchup:
Phillies at Dodgers
Postseason tix: Buy now

WHO ARE THESE GUYS?
Loney: Taking good swings
Kuo: Long road back
Thome: Back in Philly
Loney: Building resume
Bullpen: Led by Broxton
Torre: Rep precedes him
Blake: Chemistry guy
Kershaw: Game 1 nod?
Dodgers: Eyes on prize
Kemp: Path of the pros
Furcal: Back healthy
Kershaw: Like Koufax
Hudson: Keeping head up
Billingsley: Unknown role
Ethier: Slump over
Torre: Tough decisions
Kershaw: Elite comparisons
Kemp: Nearly elite
Kershaw: Path to the pros
Billingsley: Fate in balance
Ethier: Aims to improve
Torre: Back to playoffs
Kershaw: Ready to rock
Rotation: Plenty of options
Kemp: Chasing LA history
Bullpen: Dominant pair
Honeycutt: Pitching guru
Kemp: Tools to match talent
Ethier: Walk-off wonder
Billingsley: Vying for spot
Ethier/Kemp: Dynamic duo
Torre: Another pennant race
Pierre: Receives high praise
Kershaw: Beyond his years

"I felt good tonight," Ethier said. "I told Donnie [hitting coach Don Mattingly] after the second at-bat Wednesday night in San Diego that I felt I was back where I was before all of this. I had a different placement of my hands, moving them up a little and I felt those last at-bats in San Diego felt a lot better."

Ethier carried that over to Friday night. Facing Rockies starter Ubaldo Jimenez, Ethier doubled down the left-field line with one out in the first inning, but Ramirez was caught looking and Matt Kemp grounded out.

In the third inning with runners on first and second, Ethier worked a nine-pitch walk to load the bases. The first Dodgers run scored on a wild pitch, but Jimenez struck out Ramirez and Kemp.

In the fifth inning with one out and Rafael Furcal on first base, Ethier just missed squaring a pitch and flied out to deep left field.

In the seventh inning, which Russell Martin led off with a home run, Ethier came up with one out and runners on the corners. As the Rockies made a pitching change to former Dodgers left-hander Joe Beimel, Mattingly called Ethier from the on-deck circle to the dugout for some last-minute instructions.

"He just told me to stay up the middle, don't try to do too much, don't try too hard to go the other way, don't try to pull," Ethier said. "Those are the kinds of adjustments you have to make as the season is going on."

Ethier dropped a flare single into left field to bring home pinch-runner Chin-lung Hu, but the rally fizzled when Ramirez struck out for the fourth time and Kemp flied to right.

Delivering off a left-hander is key to Ethier, who is hitting only .189 against lefties compared to .302 against lefties this year. And it will be very important in the postseason, especially if the Dodgers play the Phillies, who will start lefties Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and possibly J.A. Happ.

But Dodgers manager Joe Torre gave Ethier a vote of confidence before Friday night's game when asked if he would consider sitting Ethier against a tough lefty in the playoffs.

"No. He's a player," said Torre, who often raves about Ethier's talent.

"You can't make yourself what he was blessed with -- that swing. He has the ability to let the ball get deeper and still drive it. You wish you could bottle it. He has to work at it, but there is a gift. The timing, the strength, the quickness and putting it all together. Andre is blessed with the ability to hit. It's not how high you go, it's how often you do it. That's what I look for. It's about doing it over and over, about repeating it and being that guy you can count on."

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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