Ethier boosts torrid month with clutch hit
Dodgers outfielder enters game, hits go-ahead, two-run single
LOS ANGELES -- Andre Ethier has been the hottest hitter in the Majors in the month of August, but didn't find himself in the starting lineup Saturday against the Cubs.
With a left-hander on the mound, Ethier was on the bench until the seventh inning, when he entered on a double-switch and drove in the go-ahead runs in a 5-2 win over Chicago.
The Dodgers won their fifth straight game for the first time since May 7-12 and tied a season-high by reaching 16 games over .500 on the season. Since Clayton Kershaw said the team needed to play with a sense of urgency after a fifth straight loss last week, the Dodgers haven't lost.
"I think it was the right feeling to freak out a little bit," Ethier said. "You see the Giants creeping up on you a little bit and you see the games you have ahead and the games you have against those guys."
The Dodgers extended their lead in the NL West to 3 1/2 games over the Giants and will host the division rivals for a trio of games starting Monday.
"We've worked really hard to get to this point and I think that's all [Kershaw is] saying," manager Don Mattingly said. "It sounds really good that we've done that, but I just think he has an impact and it is a little bit of a wake-up call for some guys."
Ethier hasn't needed a wake-up call as he's hitting .396 (23-for-58) in August, which is the highest mark in the Majors in that span. Ethier's average has ballooned to .299 -- his highest mark since 2008.
After the Dodgers started the seventh inning trailing, 2-1, Los Angeles strung three straight hits together to tie the game, which brought up Ethier. The left-hander is hitting just .222 against lefties this season, but drove in a pair with a single up the middle off Jon Lester to give the Dodgers the lead for good.
"Andre is one of the most clutch -- I know it's not a stat people want to talk about anymore -- players I've ever played with," catcher A.J. Ellis said. "He has an affinity for big moments, he knows how to have a big at-bat, knows how to slow the game down. He really thrives in those situations and tonight was no different. That's a tough matchup for him, a guy of Jon Lester's caliber, and Andre looked comfortable, doing what he's supposed to do, taking him up the middle."
With the season dwindling down to its final month, the veteran knows that every game is precious at this time of year.
"Whatever it takes at this time of year," Ethier said. "Throw all the matchups out of the window, sometimes, in those situation and just go out there and find a way to win the game."