|David Ortiz jumps for joy at Manny Ramírez's homer, which set a career postseason record. (BILL GREENE/GLOBE STAFF)|
Ramírez HR is over the top
He sets playoff record with one more October blast
Manny Ramírez last night became the greatest home run hitter ever in the postseason.
We would never diminish "Mr. October" Reggie Jackson, or Mickey Mantle, but it's fair to call Ramírez "Señor October."
Ramírez's amazing home run into the Red Sox bullpen in right-center in the fifth inning of last night's Game 2 of the American League Championship Series against the Indians gave him 23 career homers in the postseason, breaking a tie at the top of the list with the Yankees' Bernie Williams. The Indians, however, exerted their power and won, 13-6, in 11 innings.
Ramírez has hit more than Jackson and Mantle, who both swatted 18, and even though there are more playoff rounds these days, this is no small feat. Considering that these home runs are hit in the most crucial situations and usually against the toughest pitchers, Ramírez's blast, which tied the score at 5-5, was remarkable.
Ramírez has struck them against some of the greatest pitchers. He's hit three against David Wells, and two against Mike Mussina and Freddy Garcia. He's homered against Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley, and very good hurlers such as Barry Zito, Bret Saberhagen, Andy Pettitte, Jimmy Key, Livan Hernandez, Jeff Suppan, and Jered Weaver. He's taken Scot Shields, Mark Wohlers, Francisco Rodriguez, Tim Belcher, Scott Erickson, Tony Saunders, Bobby Ayala, and now Rafael Perez yard.
After hitting into a double play to end a huge chance for the Red Sox in the first inning, Ramírez walked with the bases loaded, in the third, for the third time in this series. Ramírez had reached base five consecutive times in Game 1, and along with Ortiz has been a terror in the middle of the order.
His exploits in the postseason are set up by his tremendous consistency in the regular season. Ramírez has hit .313 at his home parks (Cleveland and Boston) and .313 on the road. He's hit 131 homers at Jacobs Field and 133 at Fenway Park. He's batted .311 over the first half of his seasons and .313 in the second half. He's hit .312 in April, .316 in May, .301 in June, .306 in July, .326 in August, and .316 in September.
Through the seventh inning last night, Ramírez was 6 for 13 with three homers, 10 RBIs, six runs, and nine walks in the postseason. Ramírez's homer was also his ninth in LCS play, tying him with George Brett and Williams for most in a career.
One of the great things about Ramírez's early at-bats was his patience against Indians starter Fausto Carmona. Many undisciplined hitters offer at Carmona's stuff, some of which winds up out of the strike zone. But Ramírez's eye is so acute he's able to stay back, using his tremendous hand-eye coordination.
He rarely offers at split-fingered pitches or sliders that end up out of the zone, which is what makes him such a great hitter. He did strike out when he was overpowered by a Rafael Betancourt fastball in the seventh.
Though he didn't have quite the regular season he has had in the past (.296 batting average, 20 HRs, 88 RBIs), Ramírez, who missed 24 games with a left oblique strain, has put it together precisely at the right time. The Red Sox have entertained deals for Ramírez the past three years, at least, and management tried to deal him to Texas for Alex Rodriguez after the 2003 season. It was a deal that was almost made, if not for the Players' Association ruling that Rodriguez could not take a pay cut to accept the deal.
The Giants were Ramírez's biggest suitors last season when they were toying with the idea of not re-signing Barry Bonds. Pressure on the Giants to keep Bonds because he was so close to breaking the home run record outweighed all, so they didn't go all-out on Ramírez. But the Sox pursued deals for him at the winter meetings in Orlando, Fla., and then when the right package was not offered back, the Red Sox elected to keep him.
The Sox likely will get offers once again this offseason. It'll be interesting to see whether they entertain them, or simply tell suitors he's no longer available. With 490 career homers, Ramírez will reach the 500-homer plateau early next season.
And then there's his transcendent 2007 postseason.
Nick Cafardo can be reached at email@example.com.