Manny Ramirez's 50-game doping suspension was immediately felt on the ballpark as the Los Angeles Dodgers lost their first home game in 14 outings going down 11-9 to the lowly Washington Nationals.
|Ramirez will miss a third of the season while he sits out his ban [GALLO/GETTY]
The Dodgers (21-9) blew an early 6-0 lead to end their seven-game winning streak, leaving their coach and players scrambling to downplay the impact of an absent Ramirez, suspended earlier on Thursday after testing positive for a performance enhancing drug.
"It really didn't bother us too much, we knew what we had to do today," Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp said.
"We have to stay consistent and keep putting runs on the board. We have the confidence and we're all backing each other up."
Ramirez, who had helped the Dodgers to a league-best 21-8 record for the season and a Major League Baseball record 13 successive home wins, will be ineligible to play until July 3.
"Obviously it's an emotional time here but I had a sense they'd be ready to play and we came out and battled," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said.
"We're not pleased with what transpired, and we feel bad for Manny but these guys know what they're doing."
After clawing back to 6-4, bottom-ranked Washington (8-18) exploded with six runs in the eighth inning, Austin Kearns and Nick Johnson each belting two-run doubles.
Trailing 11-7 in the ninth, the Dodgers rallied with two late runs but Nationals reliever Kip Wills snuffed out the fightback by forcing Casey Blake to pop out and end the game.
Starter Randy Wolf pitched six innings to leave the Dodgers 6-1 up, while Matt Kemp, who went 3-for-5 with five RBIs, scored a grand slam in the first inning as the Dodgers leaped to an early 6-0 lead.