08/31/08 12:32 AM ET
Dodgers end eight-game slide
Ramirez homers twice in second straight four-hit performance
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
"Tell Joe Torre thank you for making me cut my hair," Ramirez said, running fingers through dreadlocks that are growing back nicely, dismissing concerns of some that Torre's grooming rules had robbed Ramirez of his run production the way Samson's power vanished with his hair.
Ramirez hasn't seemed to have lost anything. After going 4-for-4 with a pair of doubles and a walk Friday night, he went 4-for-5 with a pair of homers, his 500th career double and three runs scored Saturday night. His eight consecutive hits were one short of Ron Cey's 31-year-old Los Angeles record.
"I go from first to third and I play defense," Ramirez said, still clowning in a postgame clubhouse filled with loud music for the first time in more than a week. "A guy said I look like Dave Roberts."
Russell Martin, after going a tough-luck 0-for-5 in his second start leading off, had a much different description of Ramirez, who has nine homers and 25 RBIs in less than a month.
"He's a 5-A player," said Martin. "You've got 4-A players (between Triple-A and the Major Leagues). He's 5-A -- in his own category. What goes unnoticed is the work that goes into it. He gets up early, works out on his own. He doesn't tell anybody about it, but he goes about his business and works hard. It's not a fluke. There's a reason he's as good as he is."
Chad Billingsley benefited as much as anyone from Ramirez's production. He took the game into the eighth inning, recording a team- and career-high 13th victory and halting the longest Dodgers' road losing streak since 1992.
"Manny really stepped up big today," Billingsley said. "We've been beating ourselves. Tonight, Manny had an unbelievable game."
Ramirez singled in the first inning off Dan Haren, lined a solo homer with two out in the third inning, doubled with one out in the fifth and scored ahead of Matt Kemp's 16th home run and hit the foul pole with one out in the seventh inning for his ninth home run in 29 games as a Dodger before grounding out in the ninth.
Ramirez is batting .419 since he arrived. Just as remarkably, the Dodgers are winning at a barely higher percentage (.429) since he was acquired (12-16) while slipping 1 1/2 games in the standings.
He couldn't prevent the eight-game losing streak, despite going 6-for-13 while the club was swept in Washington, but he kept it from reaching nine. He's 16-for-36 on the trip and for the last game in Washington Thursday night, Torre moved Ramirez back to third in the batting order after batting him fourth since he arrived. In 13 at-bats since, he has three homers and three doubles.
"It's all about rallying behind somebody," Torre said. "Basically, Manny, he doesn't literally say this, but it's basically, 'Just follow me.' We didn't do anything early, all of a sudden he hits the home run and it lightens the mood in the dugout because not only the fact he hit a home run but just his personality when he got back, it's pretty special. It's been really fun watching him from this side."
Especially when an eight-game losing streak needs to be snapped. For Torre, this was his longest losing streak as a manager since the 1982 Atlanta Braves lost 11 straight (eight to the Dodgers) and 19 of 21. Despite that collapse, Torre's Braves actually won the division, a fact that underscores the absurdity of the current NL West race.
"I'm relieved," Torre said. "We do something every day to make sure people understand that it's not really important how bad we've been, it doesn't take much to turn this thing around. I learned in my St. Louis days as a player, as long as there are more games left than you're behind, you tell yourself you can win. Anything can happen. It can turn around very quickly."
Torre praised Billingsley, who enjoyed three double plays by his defense and allowed the two runs in seven-plus innings.
"He has a bellyful of guts," said Torre. "Like a lot of inexperienced players, he tries to do too much at times, but he straightens it out. He reels himself in."
Billingsley left a runner on second base for Hong-Chih Kuo, who had his electric stuff, getting strikeouts for five of his six outs and finishing off the eighth and ninth innings by hopping off the mound while fanning Mark Reynolds and Justin Upton.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.