Dodgers continue timely success, drop Padres to extend West lead

SAN DIEGO -- Andre Ethier is thriving with Manny Ramirez batting right behind him in the Los Angeles Dodgers' lineup.

Ethier drove in four runs, Ramirez quieted the boos with a line-drive homer and the Dodgers beat the last-place San Diego Padres 6-2 on Tuesday night to extend their NL West lead to 2 1/2 games.

The Dodgers' ninth victory in 10 games came shortly after second-place Arizona lost 5-4 at San Francisco.

Los Angeles was leading 3-2 when Ethier hit a three-run double into the right-field corner with two outs in the ninth. An inning earlier, he tripled to tie the game, then scored the go-ahead run on Ramirez's sacrifice fly.

Ethier has batted in the No. 2 spot ahead of Ramirez for the last 12 games, hitting .500 (23-for-46) with 14 RBIs.

"He's a great talent, man," Ramirez said.

Ramirez's presence means "not only the protection and confidence he adds hitting behind you but the knowledge and stuff that he's brought so far to us as a team and to me individually," Ethier said.

The two talk about more than just hitting.

"Staying calm, keeping cool and just having fun with it throughout the game," Ethier said. "You're going to have your ups and downs and that's the biggest thing he's showed me and taught me and you've got to smile and have fun through it all."

Trying to lighten the mood in the dugout while the Dodgers were behind, Ethier pulled on some "Manny hair," dreadlocks made out of athletic tape.

"We had a deep hole to come out of there early in the game," Ethier said. "That looming shadow of the last road trip was hanging over our heads a little bit, of what can happen, and we were trying to stay loose and have fun through it all."

Said Ramirez: "That was funny as hell. I liked it."

The Padres (56-89) were eliminated from postseason contention. San Diego won the weak NL West in 2005 and 2006, then fell one victory short of making it to the postseason last year.

Ramirez had been 0-for-6 in this series and was booed every time he came to the plate. But he lined rookie Wade LeBlanc's first pitch of the sixth into the left-field seats to pull the Dodgers to 2-1. It was his 522nd career homer, passing Willie McCovey, Frank Thomas and Ted Williams for sole possession of 17th place.

It was Ramirez's 12th homer with Los Angeles and 32nd overall. He was traded by Boston on July 31.

The Dodgers rallied for two runs off Heath Bell (6-6) in the eighth. Russell Martin hit a leadoff double to left-center and scored the tying run when Ethier tripled into the left-field corner. Rookie Chase Headley stumbled as he tried to track down Ethier's hit.

Ethier scored the go-ahead run on Ramirez's sacrifice fly.

"I've got to be able to keep them down there, but the inning got off bad," Bell said. "I got ahead of Manny but then gave him a pitch that he got just enough of."

Ramirez has six homers and 15 RBIs in his last 12 games. He has 36 RBIs and a .395 batting average since joining the Dodgers.

Joe Beimel (5-1) got the last out of the seventh and first two of the eighth for the win.

LeBlanc pitched six solid innings in his second big league start, holding the Dodgers to one run and five hits. The 24-year-old left-hander bounced back from a rough big league debut when he allowed eight hits and five runs in four innings in a 6-4 loss at Dodger Stadium last Wednesday night.

"He bounced back," manager Bud Black said. "All week he was looking forward to this start. He made some adjustments. He was in the strike zone effectively."

Dodgers right-hander Hiroki Kuroda also went six innings, allowing two runs and nine hits.

San Diego's Kevin Kouzmanoff hit an RBI double in the first and Headley doubled in a run in the third. Adrian Gonzalez tried to score from first on Headley's hit, but was called out at the plate by umpire Marty Foster. First baseman Nomar Garciaparra's relay throw beat Gonzalez to the plate, but replays appeared to show that he slid in under Martin's tag.

Game notes
Padres rookie catcher Nick Hundley was ejected by Foster for arguing a called third strike that ended the eighth. ... Luis Rodriguez had two sacrifice bunts, the first time a Padres position player has done that since Jay Payton did it against Chicago on Aug. 12, 2004. Since then, the feat has been accomplished 10 times by Padres pitchers. ... Dodgers RHP Brad Penny (shoulder) could be activated from the disabled list as early as Wednesday. ... RHP Takashi Saito (elbow) will throw a simulated game Wednesday and SS Rafael Furcal (lower back surgery) will take part in it. Both could be activated by the weekend or early next week.