The Dodgers danced in their dugout Tuesday, as they did the day before, and the day before that. Only this time, they danced in a cloud of soap bubbles that flowed out of a machine sitting on the helmet rack.
Then, suddenly, the party stopped.
Hanley Ramirez was injured.
Ramirez was struck on his right hand by Corey Dickerson’s sharply hit bouncer, resulting in his seventh-inning departure from the Dodgers’ 4-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium.
The worst-case scenario was averted, as X-rays taken of Ramirez’s hand were negative, according to the Dodgers.
The team said Ramirez bruised his ring finger and listed him as day-to-day. However, that timetable is probably meaningless, considering the Dodgers’ lack of credibility on these matters.
Until Ramirez walked off the field with trainer Stan Conte by his side, the game was turning into another celebration for the Dodgers, who were about to reduce their deficit to the division-leading San Francisco Giants to five games. The Dodgers have made up 31/2 games on the Giants over the last five days.
The Dodgers danced along their bench when Ramirez launched a two-run home run in the third inning and again when Matt Kemp hit a solo blast in the fourth.
Before the game, Ramirez spoke at length about how the atmosphere in the clubhouse had changed.
“About time, huh?” Ramirez said. He smiled.
“We need to start having fun and thinking less,” Ramirez said. “I think we’ve been thinking too much. Everybody has to be like me.”
As Ramirez spoke, Yasiel Puig walked by.
“Puig, you’re lucky I’m not the manager,” Ramirez called out.
Pointing to the bench, Ramirez added, “You would be sitting here at seven o’clock, watching me.”
The two players shared a laugh.
Ramirez traced the team’s turnaround to when Manager Don Mattingly criticized the team at the end of the previous homestand. Mattingly used an expletive to describe the Dodgers and said the players lacked a common objective.
In the days that followed, Mattingly reiterated the message in a team meeting.
“Everybody saw that what Donnie was saying was right,” Ramirez said.
Told of what Ramirez said, Mattingly replied, “You’d like to think your words have something to do with it, but I really don’t.”
Whatever the case, Mattingly said he, too, has a noticed a change on the Dodgers.
Their at-bats are more competitive. The bench players are more emotionally invested in the game.
“The whole last road trip, I feel the energy was good,” Mattingly said. “The energy’s been good this homestand, even in the game we lost. You could feel that mentality, that fight. It feels pretty good right now. Just being able to pick up a little bit of ground makes you feel a little better. Hopefully, we’re at the point where we’ll be consistent now.”
In Mattingly’s view, the improved atmosphere is largely a byproduct of the team playing better.
“We’re swinging the bats good, we’re pitching good and we’ve been playing pretty good defense,” he said. “Other than the other day, we’ve been solid catching the ball and not hurting ourselves. What it really comes down to is they’re playing well.”