Matt Kemp hit a three-run double to back a strong effort from Hiroki Kuroda and help the slumping Los Angeles Dodgers win the opener of their key three-game series against the San Francisco Giants, 4-2 Monday night.
The first meeting in three months between the longtime foes was a highly anticipated matchup as the Giants had closed within 5½ games of the first-place Dodgers in the NL West.
Los Angeles had lost three straight and 11 of 17 heading into the series, leading manager Joe Torre to call a clubhouse meeting after Sunday's loss to Atlanta. Torre also shook up the lineup, moving Russell Martin to second and dropping Manny Ramirez to fourth for the first time this season.
Ramirez then sparked a four-run fourth inning with a one-out single. Following back-to-back walks by Jonathan Sanchez (5-10) to load the bases, Kemp hit his double to clear the bases. Mark Loretta capped the inning with an RBI single.
Ramirez was loudly booed by a sellout crowd in his first game in San Francisco since coming back from a 50-game suspension for violating baseball's drug rules -- payback for the treatment former Giants slugger Barry Bonds used to get in Los Angeles. Ramirez finished 2 for 4.
The big fourth inning proved to be more than enough for the Dodgers, who won for the sixth time in the last seven games started by Kuroda (5-5). Kuroda allowed a solo homer to Travis Ishikawa in the second inning and nothing else in his 6 1-3 innings as the Dodgers avoided their second four-game losing streak of the season.
Ishikawa's eighth homer came just after Fred Lewis was caught trying to advance to second on a pitch in the dirt. The Giants didn't get another hit until Eugenio Velez's infield single to lead off the sixth. Kuroda then got Freddy Sanchez to hit into a double play. Kuroda allowed six hits and one walk.
The Dodgers used four relievers the rest of the way. Jonathan Broxton pitched the ninth for his 25th save in 29 chances, allowing a solo homer to Bengie Molina. With a runner on second and two outs, second baseman Juan Castro made a diving stop on a grounder by Ryan Garko to end the game.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy was ejected after arguing two plays at first base with umpire Bill Hohn. The first came in the third inning when Sanchez was called out even though replays appeared to show he beat the throw from third baseman Casey Blake.
Then in the fifth, pinch-hitter Rich Aurilia was called out on the back end of the double play even though it appeared that Loretta's foot was off the first-base bag when he picked up a throw in the dirt. Bochy argued and was ejected for the third time this season.