Hanley Ramirez’s season had been so strange, so inconsistent, that it had started to prompt questions about his postseason role. Scouts following the Red Sox in anticipation of a potential October matchup with Boston had started to wonder whether the enigmatic slugger might cede playoff playing time to Eduardo Nunez, who is trying to work back from a knee injury, or wounded teammates who might struggle to play in the field.
On Wednesday night, in the Red Sox’ 10-7 victory over the Blue Jays, Ramirez offered a majestic rebuttal. With the game tied, 4-4, in the bottom of the third inning, Ramirez blasted a 451-foot homer that seemingly waved to the Fenway Park left field light tower as it zoomed past it at a height of 136 feet and an exit velocity of 109 mph.
“A bomb,” beamed Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts.
“Oh, man – that was a moonshot from my view,” added outfielder Rajai Davis. “Kind of wish I would have done that.”
Ramirez’s 23rd homer was the signature moment of a 2-for-4 performance that also featured a double and that continued some recent signs that his sometimes dormant bat could awaken in timely fashion. In his last six contests, Ramirez is 6-for-19 with four extra-base hits while driving in six.
Yet beyond those accruing performances, Ramirez’s launch – his 23rd of the season in a year where he’s posting a modest .241/.319/.430 line – offered a reminder of raw power that is unrivaled on the Red Sox. While it shows up inconsistently, it does show up.
There have been eight Sox homers of 440 feet or more this year; Ramirez has five of those. That raw strength means that his hot streaks look different from those of his teammates. For a team that has been starved for a power threat for much of the year, Ramirez represents their best shot at one. He comes with no guarantees – after all, prior to Wednesday, he hadn’t homered since Sept. 1 – but as lottery tickets go, he offers a Powerball-sized jackpot.
“We’re a different team with his presence in the middle of the order,” said Sox manager John Farrell. “There’s history there. There’s extra-base capability. A proven big-league hitter. It’s good to see him with the two extra-base hits here tonight. That’s a big boost.”
Certainly, the impact on the Sox would be considerable if Ramirez can emerge from a second-half in which he’s struggled to produce while dealing with soreness in his shoulders and biceps. It is worth recalling that Ramirez possesses a strong playoff resume.
In 16 playoff contests, he’s hit .333 with a .415 OBP and .544 slugging mark fueled by nine extra-base hits. Red Sox reliever Joe Kelly recalls the conversations that he had as a member of the Cardinals prior to facing Ramirez and the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2013 NLCS, coming off a postseason series in which he’d gone 8-for-16.
“Don’t let him beat us,” Kelly recalled the Cardinals saying in advance of that series. “Obviously he was the best player on that team. It was one of those things where, if there was any chance to pitch around him in situations, you’d try not to give him anything to hit because he was hitting the ball so well.
“When he’s feeling good and confident, body feels good, seeing the ball, everything lines up, he turns into a really, really dangerous weapon — obviously back then and obviously for us right now,” Kelly added. “It would be huge to get half of anything. It doesn’t have to be an 800-foot homer — it can be a 400-foot homer after that ball he hit tonight. If we get a .500 hitter in the playoffs like he was in ’13, it would be fun to watch.”
That appears to be a sentiment felt throughout the Red Sox, who remain hopeful that the playoffs may offer the slugger an opportunity to salvage his season.