Sunday, June 1, 2014

The NLDS Hanley makes a return

The Dodgers scored early and often against the Pirates on Saturday night, got strong appearances from Hyun-Jin Ryu and Jamey Wright, and MAYBE got the benefit of a few calls (maybe).  It all resulted in a 12-2 win, snapping a three-game skid.

But, the biggest story of the night was the guy hitting in the cleanup spot.  That was Hanley Ramirez, and a 4-for-4 night with two home runs put him back on the map for the time being.

It's no secret - the Dodgers are a heck of a lot better when HanRam is swinging the bat and mashing the ball.  Two games ago he was hitting .245 and looked to be about as lifeless as one could be.  In only two games that average has shot up to .265.  Of his six hits, two were homers, one was a double, and he's gathered six RBIs (five last night).

All I kept thinking about while watching this game was that this is the version of Hanley we haven't seen since last year's NLDS against the Braves.  In those four games, he hit .500 with four doubles, a triple, a homer, four runs, and six RBIs.  Quite simply, he was unstoppable.  Of course, it would've been nice if he wasn't drilled in the ribs in Game 1 of the NLCS, as he only had two hits that whole series and clearly wasn't the same player.

Fast forward to 2014, and it hasn't been a fun ride to say the least.  His defense at short has been so poor that it's been suggested he slide back over to third while Juan Uribe is healing his hamstring injury.  The Dodgers could probably live with his mediocrity at short if his bat was doing damage, but up until last night, it hasn't.  Sure, he's had a couple of three hit games, including one where he hit two homers against the Giants on April 6.  But this season has mostly been a disappointment of one little groundout after another.

What got him going on Saturday night were a couple of hard hit grounder that found room for RBI singles.  It was a little lucky, but he'll take it.  After that, it was a couple of 412-foot bombs (strangely measured the same exact distance, which seems a little hard to do...) that showed everyone just how good he can be.

If you're Don Mattingly, you keep hitting him at cleanup and hope for the best.  It was in June of last year when the Dodgers started to get healthy and play a little bit better before taking off in July.  A healthy, confident Hanley can be that guy to lead the way again.

Other thoughts from the game:

* If you're wondering how in the world Jamey Wright can pick up a save in a game where his team jumped up 11-1 after four innings, it's because he went the final three innings in relief.  Even I'm not positive what the exact rule is, but I guess no matter what the score, three innings out of the bullpen to finish out a win is a save.  So hey, he'll take it.

* The other guy who DESPERATELY needed to get going was Matt Kemp, and he did by going 2-for-4 with two RBIs.  He also found some luck like Hanley with hard hit grounders that found spots.  He came into this game in a pathetic 0-for-20 slump, so any hit will be a welcome sight.

* Ryu picked up the win with six innings of two-run ball.  He gave up 10 hits, which is high, but didn't walk anybody.  It's probably a little weird pitching in a game where he's up by so much, because let's face it, it rarely happens.  He pitches with leads, but not that big.  He improved to 6-2 with a 3.09 ERA and 1.22 WHIP.

* All in all, it was a season high in runs scored.  Considering they dropped the first couple of games against the Pirates with four runs total, they have to be very happy about this.

Zack Greinke leads the National League with eight wins, so he'll look to increase that by one on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball.  He'll be taking on old friend Edinson Volquez, who made a few starts with the Dodgers last year to so-so results.

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