For Los Angeles to advance past the Braves and into National League Championship Series, Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, and Yasiel Puig will have to key the offense. The big three in the Dodger lineup offer plenty of production with contrasting styles.
With the Rookie of the Year award, a batting championship, and two Silver Slugger Awards, Ramirez is the most decorated of the three.
After breaking in as a 21-year old in 2005, Ramirez played in 1,095 big league games before getting his first taste of the post season.
In the first two divisional series games, Ramirez has taken full advantage of the opportunity, going 4-for-9 with three doubles and a homer. That’s ten total bases in nine at bats.
In Game 2, Ramirez drove in all three Dodger runs, doubling home a run in the first and driving in the other two with an eighth inning homerun. The ball Ramirez hit out of the yard was more than just a homer, it was display of strength and athleticism.
“He one-handed it, both feet up in the air,” Fredi Gonzalez said. “That’s how talented the guy is. He created enough bat speed to hit the ball out of the ballpark. It’s scary how good this guy is.”
As good as Ramirez has been, giving him an intentional pass to get to the next hitter isn’t a great option.
“You have to pick your poison, because the guy behind him is not chopped liver either,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
The guy behind him is first baseman Adrian Gonzalez who has a silver slugger and four All Star appearances to his credit. AGone paced the Dodgers with 100 runs batted in during the regular season. Just as important, he provided veteran leadership early on as the team struggled.
“Adrian at this point, he’s played a lot of baseball and doesn’t seem overwhelmed by where we’re at,” Dodger manager Don Mattingly said.
Mattingly likes the steady manner in which Gonzalez goes about his business.
“He’s such a pro the way he does everything,” Mattingly said. “The way he’s trying to help the other guys, the way he’s preparing himself, the way he takes a loss and the way he handles wins, all of that is such a solid approach for a big league player.”
While Gonzalez and Ramirez are known quantities, Puig’s ceiling is unknown.
Called up June 3rd, he injected immediate energy into the club, collecting 42 extra base hits and a .391 on-base percentage in his 104 games. The man nicknamed “The Wild Horse” plays with an unbridled enthusiasm.
Mattingly is still learning to appreciate and direct Puig’s many talents.
“We see him when he’s really patient, we see him when he’s more aggressive. I think he’s showing us how he kind of impacts the game. We’re looking at a 22-year old kid playing in the playoffs for the first time, and I think it’s better off just to look at him as a great talent, and a great player.”
If Ramirez, Gonzalez, and Puig continue to produce in the postseason, they’ll give the Braves skipper plenty of headaches. No expert on new age statistics like Walks plus Hits per Innings Pitched, the Braves manager still knows what he’s up against.
“That ‘WHIP’ that people talk about, I think it stands for ulcers for managers instead of people on base. You’ve got to be careful with those three guys because they’ll put up some big numbers.”
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