Manny Ramirez had a curtain call to take, so he did.
The pitcher was in his windup, but never mind. The ball was on its way to the plate as Ramirez scampered up the dugout steps and onto the field, soaking in the love and applause from the Dodger Stadium crowd.
He had given the crowd something to cheer about, finally. The Dodgers were shut out Saturday, and they had been shut out for the first seven innings Sunday, but Ramirez delivered a pinch-hit, two-run home run in the eighth inning, powering the Dodgers to a 2-1 victory over the San Francisco Giants.
If Manny being Manny means being oblivious to the flow of the game, well, the Dodgers were too giddy to care.
“It’s OK,” Rafael Furcal said. “I’m happy too.”
Furcal, who followed Ramirez to the plate and took the next pitch as he pranced onto the field, said he did not see Ramirez coming. Neither did Russell Martin, in the on-deck circle.
“Any time the crowd goes wild, it’s a good feeling,” Martin said. “That means we’re doing something good.”
The Dodgers concluded their first homestand of the season with a 4-2 record, so that is something good. They went 2-4 on their first trip, and now they return to the road, in the hope of fattening up against the Cincinnati Reds, Washington Nationals and New York Mets.
In fact, based on the standings after Sunday’s games, the Dodgers play one series from now to May 21 against a team with a winning record.
That team is — no kidding — the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“We have to play hard against every team we face,” Furcal said. “When you get comfortable, that’s when they take advantage.”
The example he cited was — no kidding — the Pirates. The Dodgers played four games against the last-place Pirates last September, needing to win two to clinch the National League West. The Dodgers won one.
“Everybody,” Furcal said, “is a big leaguer.”
Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw and Giants starter Barry Zito matched zeroes through six innings. In the seventh, Kershaw shook off Martin’s sign for a fastball to Juan Uribe. Kershaw threw a change, and Uribe hit a home run.
“If I would do it all over again, I’d probably throw the fastball,” Kershaw said.
Zito took that 1-0 lead into the eighth inning, six outs from what would have been his first shutout in seven years. He retired Reed Johnson on a fly ball, but he walked pinch-hitter Garret Anderson, and his day was done.
The Giants turned to reliever Sergio Romo. The Dodgers countered with Ramirez, who did not start because of a tight right calf.
Ramirez looked at the first pitch, and the second, and the third. He deposited the fourth into the left-field bleachers, watching the ball sail away before hopping into his trot, raising his right hand and proceeding around the bases.
The home run was the 548th of Ramirez’s career, tying Mike Schmidt for 14th on the all-time list. Ramirez did not stick around to discuss it, sending reporters in search of a quote scrambling to Anderson, who appeared bemused at all the attention.
“You’re talking to the wrong guy,” Anderson said. “I didn’t hit it.”