Manny’s game-winning slam proves he’s The Man

Manny Ramirez lost a lot on May 7, the day his 50-game suspension was announced.

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His status as a surefire Hall of Famer. His image as a mercurial-yet-innocent slugger. His reasonable chance at making a 12th consecutive All-Star team.

But we were reminded on Wednesday that, for Ramirez, what was true with the Indians, what was true with the Red Sox, what was true with the Dodgers (pre-PED), remains true today.

When the moment is big, Manny often rises to it.

Out of the starting lineup with a tender left hand, Ramirez appeared at Joe Torre’s beckoning with the bases loaded and score tied in the sixth. He rarely pinch hits, but, with starter Chad Billingsley due up, the stage belonged to Ramirez — on his own bobblehead night.

And we all know how entertaining Manny can be …

So, sure enough, he walloped Nick Masset’s first pitch, a 96-mph fastball, over the left-field wall, for a rub-your-eyes grand slam.

At the moment the ball touched down — just above the MANNYWOOD sign, of all places — the Dodgers took a 6-2 lead over the Cincinnati Reds, who are contenders no more. And that’s how it ended, with Los Angeles winning its fourth straight game and Manny a hero again.

Didn’t we figure something like this would happen?

Chemically enhanced or not, we knew Ramirez could hit. We also knew that, when he hit, the fans at Dodger Stadium would go bonkers. And that has happened with some frequency during his maiden homestand, post-suspension.

Though the aftereffects of a hit-by-pitch kept him from starting Wednesday, Ramirez has played well before the still-adoring home crowds over the last several days. He’s hitting .300 with two home runs and eight RBIs in seven games. Who’s going to boo production like that?

For the month, including road games, he’s slugging .688. That’s even better than before the suspension. And he’s already hit five home runs since coming back.

At this point, we can safely say that Ramirez seems to be making a very successful return. The Dodgers, who were admittedly doing fine without him, haven’t lost a series since he returned July 3. They’re the safest bet in baseball to make the postseason.

In this regard, at least, Ramirez is fortunate that we live in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately society. Most recently, of course, he has helped his team win some ballgames. And now he’s starting to add memorable moments to the numbers.

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  • At least, that was certainly the case Wednesday. As Ramirez rounded the bases before a roaring crowd, Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully didn’t say a word on the air.

    Scully waited before Ramirez descended into the dugout mob — and took a curtain call — before finding the perfect words to describe it.

    “Well,” he started, “that didn’t take long.”

    No, it hasn’t.