It is no secret that rookie Yasiel Puig has been the caffeine for the Los Angeles Dodgers over the last month, bringing a new energy to a team that was sleepwalking through the 2013 season.
But I would argue that shortstop Hanley Ramirez has been the straw that stirs the drink for the Blue Crew, who all of a sudden are back in contention in the National League West thanks to a sweep of the San Francisco Giants and a five-game winnings streak.
Ramirez has tortured opposing pitchers during his current nine-game hitting streak by hitting .485 (16-for-33). He also has an RBI in six consecutive games and is hitting .358 with four home runs in June. He was a big factor during Wednesday’s 4-2 win over the Giants by getting the Dodgers on the board with an RBI single in the third inning. Then in the sixth, his single and stolen base ignited a three-run rally en route to the win.
Enter manager Don Mattingly: “I’m watching (Hanley) tonight, I’m thinking about Manny (Ramirez).”
Remember Mannywood? Maybe it’s time to cut the ribbon and open Hanleywood.
Last weekend, he hit a crushing home run in San Diego up on the third deck. The following day, he hit a home run off the foul pole at Dodger Stadium that was clocked at 115 mph according to ESPN Home Run Tracker. The home run traveled from his bat to the pole in 2.97 seconds, the fastest any home run has cleared the field of play in MLB this season.
Hanley’s play of late is just want the Dodgers envisioned for him when they traded for the former batting champ last summer. They really could have used him in the middle of the lineup this spring, but he has missed 52 games due to injuries to his finger and hamstring. In his absence, the Dodgers’ shortstops provided very little production by hitting .158 with only six extra-base hits. Hanleywood needs to be open until winter.
Three days ago, the Dodgers were nine games out of first place. Now, they are a reachable six games out heading into their four-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies. Yes, Puig has been fantastic, but Hanley has been an extra boost the Dodgers sorely needed.
And with Matt Kemp back in the lineup and Carl Crawford returning next week, it is finally time to say, ‘look out for the Dodgers.’