LOS ANGELES — It was just another typical 2013 game for Hanley Ramirez on Sunday night when the Dodgers trounced the Braves 13-6, moving within a single win of a trip to the National League Championship Series.
Ramirez went 3-for-4 with a triple, double, walk and three runs scored. He’s 7 of 13 in the series and is now tied with Steve Garvey (1978) and Duke Snider (1952) for the Dodgers’ record of six extra base postseason hits.
Ramirez had already put together one of the best regular seasons in Dodger history, hitting .345 with 20 home runs and 57 RBI in just 86 games. Had he stayed injury-free, he no doubt would have been a leading candidate for the NL MVP Award.
How great of a season he would have had if he’d been able to stay healthy is a question that will never be answered. However, you can be assured it would have been one of the greatest ever in Dodgers history and certainly the greatest ever for a Dodgers shortstop.
But in Ramirez’s mind, it almost didn’t happen, injuries being the culprit that turned a batting champion into a .250 hitter, and threatened to derail a Hall of Fame career.
“Two years ago I had major surgery on my shoulders, and I didn’t feel right since then,” an emotional Ramirez said. “It was tough — really tough — when I think about those (years before the trade) and where I am now.
“My teammates helped change everything about me from the minute I got here. When I went into (Don Mattingly’s) office that first day in St. Louis, he told me to just be (me), and that there would be 24 other guys out there playing hard and having fun. And that’s what he wanted from me. And that’s what I’ve tried to do ever since.”
Ramirez has been healthy so far in the NLDS and the Atlanta Braves have surely wondered which direction Hurricane Hanley came from.
One more win gives the Dodgers a chance to play for a spot in the World Series for the first time since 1988, and if there were an MVP award given for this round of playoffs, Ramirez would be the top candidate to walk away with the trophy.
Making Ramirez’ accomplishment even more remarkable is the fact that he had never played in a postseason game after playing in more than 1,000 regular season games since 2006.
“It’s amazing to watch Hanley right now,” said third baseman Juan Uribe, who hammered a two-run homer off Alex Wood in the fourth inning. “He’s hitting great and he’s got a beautiful attitude that is really helping the team.”
Left-fielder Carl Crawford, who blasted a three-run homer and made a spectacular catch falling into the stands, echoed Uribe’s thoughts.
“He’s always been a great player,” said Crawford, who had to rebound from his own set of injuries to resuscitate his career, “and I’m glad he’s doing it for us now. I just hope he keeps it up and we get to the World Series.”
So does Ramirez, who used to spend October at home in the Dominican, watching the playoffs with his family.
“I just wanted to be there,” he said. “Just get a chance to play in the playoffs.” Now that he has?