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Manny trade pays off for Dodgers

Manny trade pays off for Dodgers

LOS ANGELES -- Hours before the July 31 Trade Deadline, the Dodgers were a struggling ballclub dealing with injuries, just one game out of the National League West race, but just one game over .500.

Then, general manager Ned Colletti found a way to swing a deal for 12-time All-Star Manny Ramirez, and suddenly, a Dodgers offense lacking punch featured one of the top right-handed-hitters of all-time smack dab in the middle of its lineup.

"If we didn't have him, I don't know what our chances would have been," said third baseman Casey Blake, acquired five days earlier.

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With Ramirez, the Dodgers went on an 18-5 tear to clinch the NL West and put Ramirez in the postseason for the 10th time in his illustrious career.

"It obviously was enough to get us where we wanted to be," said Nomar Garciaparra. "Where we are right now."

It's not tough to quantify the impact Ramirez has made for the Dodgers at the plate, leading the Majors with a .398 batting average, 53 RBIs, a .491 on-base percentage and a .757 slugging percentage since the trade entering Thursday, while his 17 homers tie Ryan Howard and Miguel Cabrera for first place in that time.

After driving in 68 runs in Boston before the trade, Ramirez joined Carlos Beltran as the only players in baseball history to drive in 50 runs in both leagues in the same season.

"I just came here to play," Ramirez said. "I wasn't expecting anything out of myself. I wanted to show people that I could play the outfield, that was it."

Ramirez has played a capable left field -- aside from a few lapses -- but more importantly, he has been at his best when the Dodgers have needed him most, with no performance bigger than his 4-for-4, two-homer outing on Aug. 30 in Arizona to almost single-handedly snap an eight-game losing streak and start an eight-game winning streak.

One week later, his three-run homer and two-run double against Brandon Webb and the D-backs pushed the Dodgers into first place for the first time since April 4, a lead Los Angeles would never relinquish.

Such performances mean Ramirez will be heading to postseason play with his third club after taking the Indians and Red Sox to the playoffs earlier in his career.

"Not a lot of players get a chance to go to the playoffs, and I'm just blessed to go with Boston and go with the Indians," Ramirez said. "You want to win it all. That's when it counts. That's when you get the big feeling that you can't even describe when you win the World Series like we did in Boston.

"I think every time you get to the playoffs, you want to win it all because you don't know when you're going to go back. You don't know when will be the last time."

On top of the stellar statistics Ramirez has compiled, it would be impossible to measure the impact he has had on his teammates.

From Day 1, Ramirez made it a point to connect with his fellow players, and he's lightened the mood in the clubhouse with his constant joking and pregame Latin music.

Jeff Kent seemed to turn back the clock to his MVP days hitting in front of Ramirez -- although he denied that was the reason -- and Andre Ethier went on an extra-base-hit binge when placed in front of Ramirez, twice almost hitting for the cycle.

"He added that confidence, that swagger that we needed when he came over, and we added his punch and then the guys around got extra confidence to go out and do the job that they're capable of doing," Ethier said. "That's what he's done for me, and I welcome it."

But with two championships to his name, Ramirez is not satisfied to just reach the playoffs with a franchise that has won one postseason contest in the past 20 years.

"This is the first step," Ramirez said. "We're happy, but we're not going to go too crazy about it because the goal is to go to the big game, the World Series. We're proud because not a lot of players get that kind of chance to go to the playoffs, but the main goal is going to the championship."

Dodgers' Offense: Before and After Manny

Dodgers' Offense AVG Runs/G HR/G SLG
Before Manny (7/31) .255 4.16 0.68 .375
After Manny (8/1) .282 4.74 1.16 .444

Andre Ethier: Before and After Manny

Andre Ethier AVG HR RBI SLG
Before Manny (94 gms) .274 11 46 .442
After Manny (41 gms) .361 9 29 .645

Michael Schwartz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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