Although it will be Hanley Ramirez’s two-run home run in the 10th inning that will forever be remembered as the reason why the Dodgers won a nail-biter against the Giants on July 27, 2012 at AT&T Park, it was the at bat just prior to Ramirez’s that was the real game changer.
With two outs and nobody on in the top of the 10th, Andre Ethier took six straight pitches from Giants closer Sergio Romo, including a 3-2 slider that was called ball four by home plate umpire Ed Hickox. Although TV replays of the pitch showed that it could have been called either way (taking into account that the center field camera angle is slightly off-center), the call went the Dodgers’ way (for a change), thus extending the inning and allowing Ramirez to come to the plate.
Another game changer that will undoubtedly be forgotten was the 5th inning RBI double by Dodgers starter Stephen Fife – forgotten by everyone except Fife, that is. It was Fife’s first Major League hit and snapped a dubious 38 consecutive scoreless innings streak against the Giants dating back to September 11 of last season. Pitching into and out of jams almost every inning, Fife certainly pitched well enough to win and was taken out of the game in the 7th inning by Dodgers manager Don Mattingly with one out and the bases empty and a 3-1 lead, having thrown 93 pitches on the night. (I still haven’t quite wrapped myself around Mattingly’s thinking on this one). Unfortunately, an 8-inning meltdown by usually automatic set-up man Ronald Belisario allowed the Giants to score two runs to tie the game, thus denying Fife of his well-deserved first MLB win (visions of Nathan Eovaldi come to mind). The blown save was the second for Belisario in the past 10 days.
Giving credit where due, Ramirez’s game winning home run was unquestionably a much needed shot in the arm for the Dodgers and could prove to be the boost that the struggling team has so desperately needed to turn things around heading into the stretch run. The frequently controversial Ramirez was quite gracious in his post-game interview giving Dodgers legend and hitting instructor Manny Mota credit for helping him. Ramirez said that he has known Mota since he was a teenager and that Mota has already taken him under his wing. “He spoke to me, told me not to try to do too much,” said Ramirez of Mota. “Do what you know how to do. I give credit to him. He’s a great guy. He’s been here many years… I’ve got a lot to learn from him.” If Ramirez maintains this attitude instead of the one that led to him being traded by the Marlins, this could be among the best trades in Dodgers history.