Manny Ramirez asks out of Dodgers’ lineup
Dodger Stadium was probably never louder this season.
But the roar of the capacity crowd turned into something that pierced eardrums the moment Manny Ramirez drove the only pitch thrown to him on Wednesday night and sent it screaming into the section of seats named in his honor.
The four runs Ramirez drove in with that single stroke in his pinch-hit at-bat did more than break a sixth-inning tie and send the Dodgers on their way to a 6-2, sweep-sealing victory over the Cincinnati Reds.
The home run off reliever Nick Masset, the first long ball ever hit by a Dodger on his bobblehead night, turned the ballpark into a madhouse.
Fans lured to Chavez Ravine by the promotional Ramirez dolls held the boxes containing the prized toys high above their heads. Others violently tugged at their replica No. 99 jerseys.
“Kind of crazy,” said Ramirez, who wasn’t expected to play because he was struck by a pitch on his left hand the previous night.
Then Ramirez came out for a curtain call.
More noise, more madness.
“I guess Manny’s hand wasn’t as bad as we thought,” Reds Manager Dusty Baker said.
Juan Pierre stepped into the batter’s box next, but fans were still standing and screaming. Pierre missed a fastball, but that did nothing to decrease the decibel level.
The crowd erupted again when Ramirez took a curtain call at the end of the inning. And again when Ramirez emerged to conduct a postgame television interview.
With the interview played over the stadium’s public-address system, Ramirez said, “It was an unbelievable moment for me in my career. I’m just happy it happened here. I’m just happy to be a part of all this.”
Baker was left shaking his head.
“That’s the stuff you see out of Barry Bonds and Hank Aaron,” Baker said. “You go home seeing what you came to see.”
The pinch-hit home run was the first of Ramirez’s 17-season career. The grand slam was his 21st, second all-time behind Lou Gehrig’s 23.
“It was a perfect situation, obviously,” Manager Joe Torre said. “They couldn’t walk him.”
Not everyone was pleased.
Reds starter Bronson Arroyo, who set the stage for Ramirez by loading the bases on a single he gave up to Russell Martin, didn’t want to hand the ball to Baker. Arroyo was a teammate of Ramirez in Boston.
“I played with the guy long enough,” Arroyo said. “I probably have a better insight of his mind than anybody else here.”
Of Baker, he said, “that’s his call, that’s his job, not mine.”
For the player for whom Ramirez pinch hit, the line-drive shot was the difference between earning his long-awaited 10th victory and extending his winless streak to seven starts.
“I wasn’t really expecting a home run,” Chad Billingsley said. “A double or something, maybe. That’s just Manny being Manny.”
Billingsley, who was 0-2 with a 6.55 earned-run average in his last six starts, was charged with two runs and seven hits over six innings. But he talked more about the atmosphere in the ballpark than he did about the way he pitched.
“We were so into that crowd,” he said. “After that ball that he hit, it was electrifying. Everyone in the dugout went crazy. The crowd went crazy.”
The Dodgers improved to a season-best 27 games over .500 and maintained their nine-game lead over second-place Colorado in the NL West.
Times staff writers Bill Shaikin and Kevin Baxter contributed to this report.