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10/11/09 10:03 AM ET

Manny's big game a great sign for LA

Slugger's breakout game portends good things for NLCS

ST. LOUIS -- Debate it all you want. Talk about how he can't do it again, about how he won't succeed this time. But in the end -- as we've all come to learn -- Manny will, in fact, be Manny.

And that means that, yes, he will come through in October.

Held nearly silent in Games 1 and 2 with one hit in eight at-bats, Manny Ramirez re-emerged as a force in the Dodgers' 5-1 National League Division Series-clinching win over the Cardinals on Saturday. And the timing couldn't be better.

The outfielder's three-hit, two-RBI game not only drove the nail into a series sweep that few predicted, but it is also an indication that Los Angeles' much-loved adopted son may have finally realized that the calendar has turned. If so, upcoming opponents need to take heed.

"You're not going to hold Manny down for long," Andre Ethier said, amid a postgame champagne shower. "That's something we knew. Obviously, everyone knows he's the key to our offense."

Ramirez's postseason resume is enough to elicit the utmost respect, even if Saturday's three-hit game was his first noise of the '09 postseason, and even if he had stumbled into the postseason in uncharacteristic fashion, with a 5-for-31 stretch to end the year. The numbers don't lie -- when the stage gets bigger, so, too, does Ramirez.

"You just have to go and perform," Ramirez said. "We just want to win."

Coming into the NLDS, Ramirez boasted a .367 average in the 38 postseason games he has played since 2004. With his two RBIs on Saturday, his postseason total now sits at 76, just four behind the Major League's all-time postseason leader, Bernie Williams.

Ramirez already sits alone atop the record books with 28 playoff homers. He has a hit in 10 of his 11 postseason games with L.A., and astonishingly, he has hit safely in 45 of his past 51 postseason games.

All-time Postseason RBI leaders
With two RBIs on Saturday night, Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez pulled to within four RBIs of breaking the all-time postseason mark, held by Bernie Williams, formerly of the New York Yankees.

Rank Player RBIs PA
1 Bernie Williams 80 545
2 Manny Ramirez* 76 473
3 David Justice 63 471
4 Derek Jeter* 51 572
5 Reggie Jackson 48 318
6-t Chipper Jones* 47 412
6-t David Ortiz* 47 285
8 Jim Edmonds 42 263
9 Mickey Mantle 40 273
10 Paul O'Neill 39 340
* -- Active

Need more? You shouldn't.

"We need him," Randy Wolf said. "Obviously, he's a huge force in the lineup. He really swung the bat great [on Saturday]. It's just a matter of keeping it going."

It's probably no coincidence that two of the most recent three times Ramirez has played in the postseason, he has left with a World Series ring. The only one of those three postseason visits that ended prematurely was last year's, when the Dodgers were beaten by the Phillies in the NLCS. All Ramirez did in that five-game series was hit .533 with two doubles, two homers and seven RBIs. You clearly couldn't blame him for the task left unfinished.

"Certainly, he has the ability to carry this team," Dodgers third baseman Casey Blake said. "He's done it before. He's been a little quiet in this series, but we've been winning without his help. When he comes and does what he does, we're like, 'Hey, there he is.'"

It's worth mentioning, too, that Ramirez's sole presence in the lineup has seemed to benefit the unit as a whole. Ramirez's reputation obviously precedes him, as does Ethier's, in the lineup manager Joe Torre writes out.

Having Ramirez looming in that cleanup spot gave the Cardinals every reason to pitch to Ethier, and the outfielder made St. Louis regret it as he went 6-for-12, collected five extra-base hits and drove in three runs.

"It's our job for the guys around him to pick him up and be a teammate, like we are, and pick up the slack when he's not," Ethier said. "And for him to get hot like he showed this last game means a lot. He's definitely still the heart of that lineup, which if guys produce in front of him or around him and score a lot of runs, we're going to win a lot of games with that happening.

"If he shows up the way he has," added Ethier, "watch out."

Consider that fair warning.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.