Healthy Hanley feasting on October pitching
In his first postseason, Ramirez ties Division Series mark with six extra-base hits
LOS ANGELES -- Despite an ongoing sciatic-nerve issue in his back, Hanley Ramirez wanted to play every game down the stretch. Manager Don Mattingly refused to let that happen.
As it turns out, the Dodgers' skipper had a pretty good reason.
"I'm glad, again, when we were going down the stretch and he was wanting to play some of those games and we were trying to hold him off," Mattingly said. "I just kept telling him, 'I want the whole world to see you. I want the whole world to see how good you are.' I want him to show everybody how good he is. And it's been good so far."
Ramirez ultimately missed 11 games in the final month of the regular season and, though he fought it every step of the way in September, it's taken just one week into October for him to come around on Mattingly's theory.
"I think those guys -- those trainers, they're keeping me on the field," Ramirez said. "I've been feeling great. What Donnie did at the end of the regular season, gave me those days off, that helped me a lot."
The Dodgers' shortstop on Sunday night turned in his second straight three-hit, multi-RBI performance, helping the Dodgers to an 13-6 rout in Game 3 and, in turn, a 2-1 series lead. Ramirez is now hitting .538 (7-for-13) with a home run, a triple, four doubles and six RBIs in the National League Division Series.
"You can just see it. He's so driven right now," hitting coach Mark McGwire said. "I know what that's like when you get in that mindset and nothing else matters except for what your goals are. It's almost like he has blinders on. You see a little bit right now, and if we get to the next level and the next level, we'll see what he's all about."
After Ramirez flied out in his first at-bat Sunday, the Braves were unable to retire him again over his final four plate appearances.
His offensive onslaught this time around started in the third inning. An inning after the Dodgers had tagged starter Julio Teheran for four runs, Ramirez wasted no time starting another rally. He roped a leadoff double to left field, then came around to score on Adrian Gonzalez's RBI single, putting Los Angeles ahead for good -- but Ramirez was only getting started.
One inning later, he came through yet again as the Dodgers piled on. With Carl Crawford on first base and one out, Ramirez connected for a run-scoring triple, his first three-base hit since July 7.
"He's been incredible all year," Gonzalez said. "He's the reason we turned it around. Every time he's in the lineup for us, he has big hits. For us, it's just about having him in the lineup."
And for Ramirez, that has been the biggest issue over the past couple of seasons. He has battled countless injuries, and this season has been no different.
It all began before the regular season started with Ramirez injuring his right wrist in the World Baseball Classic and missing almost the entire month of April. In just his fourth game back, he strained his left hamstring, costing him another full month of playing time.
Midway through September, Ramirez again tweaked the hamstring, all the while battling the sciatic-nerve issue in his back.
"He is as tough a ballplayer as I've ever been around, for what he goes through physically to get ready to play," catcher A.J. Ellis said. "He puts his body out there. He plays so hard. He plays with such passion, such energy. The work that he does to get ready to play every night is remarkable, just so he can be on the field for us."
For Ramirez, this chance to play on baseball's biggest stage has been the driving force through it all. After spending the first eight years of his big league career watching the postseason on television at home in Miami with his family, Ramirez is finally getting his chance in October.
"I remember telling them last year that I want to be there. It's a different feeling, you know, the fans, the energy, it's unbelievable. It makes you pumped," Ramirez said. "My family got my back and said, 'Next year, you're going to be there,' and they were right. We're here now."
Not only is Ramirez here, but he is seemingly unstoppable right now. Through just three games, he has tied the Dodgers' postseason record for extra-base hits in a single series with six and also matched the Major League record for a Division Series.
Though Ramirez said he does not like to talk about himself and instead wants to divert the attention to the other 24 players on the roster, his teammates had no trouble expressing the impact he's having on this series.
"There's no way to pitch him. There's no way to game plan for him," Ellis said. "He hits all different types of pitches. He hits all different speeds. He hits all different types of pitchers. He's locked in and he's been locked in the entire season, unlike anyone I've ever been around. I'm so happy I get to watch him hit and not sit back and call pitches against him. It's dangerous what he's doing at the plate right now."