Dodgers get last word, walk off to sweep of Cubs
Hanley delivers winner after Blanton goes six innings in LA debut
However, this victory didn't come easy for the Dodgers as it took a back-and-forth final four innings for Los Angeles to get the win and remain only a half-game back of San Francisco in the National League West. Kenley Jansen failed to pick up his 22nd save of the season when he gave up a leadoff homer to Anthony Rizzo in the ninth, setting the stage for Ramirez's heroics.
"At the end of the year, you have to win 'X' amount and this counts on the good side," said manager Don Mattingly, who got six strong innings of two-run ball from newly acquired Joe Blanton before the craziness ensued.
With the game tied at 6 after Jansen's blown save, Matt Kemp worked a four-pitch walk with one out in the bottom of the inning, and the center fielder advanced to third on a single into right field by Andre Ethier.
Ramirez stroked a single into left that easily scored Kemp to give the Dodgers the win and send all the players in the dugout onto the field in a frenzy. It was the Dodgers' first sweep against the Cubs at Dodger Stadium since 1998 and it was the team's eighth walk-off win of the season.
"Everybody, from the first pitch all the way to the end of the game, we never give up," Ramirez said. "Anybody here can win the game. When I got up to home plate, I was trying to be nice and easy and look for a pitch."
As Carlos Marmol started to warm up in the bullpen for Chicago, Cubs manager Dale Sveum headed to the mound to talk to pitcher Shawn Camp to make sure the infield was in and everybody knew what they were doing with Ramirez at the plate.
"It didn't take too much longer," Sveum said. "By the time I got in the dugout, I turned around and the game was over."
Prior to both clubs scoring in the ninth, the game featured lead changes by both teams in the sixth and seventh.
After A.J. Ellis doubled home James Loney from first in the bottom of the fifth to tie the game at 1, Blanton gave up a solo home run to Welington Castillo to give the Cubs a slim lead.
With two outs in the bottom of the sixth, pinch-hitter Juan Rivera tied it back up with a bases-loaded walk, and Luis Cruz gave the Dodgers a 4-2 lead with a two-run single.
Then, with Blanton's Dodgers debut in the books and L.A. leading, relievers Brandon League and Randy Choate loaded the bases in the seventh. Choate gave up a run on a sacrifice fly by Rizzo and then Alfonso Soriano hit a two-run double off Javy Guerra.
After the Cubs got two quick outs in the bottom of the seventh, Mark Ellis drew a four-pitch walk and Kemp singled to put runners on the corners. The base knock gave Kemp a hit in his eighth straight game, and he's hitting .469 (15-for-32) during the span.
Ethier, who was in a 3-for-22 slump, battled back from 0-2 and delivered a two-run double off James Russell with the count full to help the Dodgers regain the lead.
"We got the first two here and we had a great opportunity to sweep the series to put pressure on San Fran ahead of us and the Diamondbacks behind us," Ethier said. "Every game is big obviously and it was nice to come away and keep going and didn't get discouraged by it being an up-and-down game."
Blanton didn't factor into the final decision, but the righty will play a key role for the Dodgers down the stretch with Ted Lilly's return stalled indefinitely.
He gave up an uncharacteristic three walks for only the second time this season, but he said nerves weren't a factor at all.
"I felt like I kept the ball down low, except for that one mistake," he said. "For the majority, my pitches were down in the zone. Even misses were down in the zone. That's what I've been trying to focus on lately is missing down."
The Dodgers have now swept the Mets, Giants and Cubs during the last two weeks, while also being swept by the D-backs before Chicago came to town. L.A. also lost three of four to St. Louis in its only other series since July 20.
Up next for the Dodgers is a three-game set against the last-place Colorado Rockies at home before embarking on a 10-game road trip.
"I think this time of year we're not so much worried about one guy to the next," Mattingly said. "We're worried about getting a win and you try to get a win that day. Andre was a big part of that today. Hanley got a big hit. A lot of guys did stuff today to help us get a win."
As for moving on to the next one: "We're going to enjoy this one for a couple of minutes before we start worrying about Colorado," Mattingly said as his words were drowned out by the music in the clubhouse.