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Streaking Hanley leading Dodgers' resurgence

Streaking Hanley leading Dodgers' resurgence

Streaking Hanley leading Dodgers' resurgence

LOS ANGELES -- Hanley Ramirez keeps hitting, and the Dodgers keep winning.

Ramirez and the Dodgers head into July on a tear. Entering Tuesday's game vs. the Rockies, the shortstop has a 12-game hit streak and the club has won eight of its last 10 games.

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"We've got a different energy now," Ramirez said. "For me, it's good what I'm doing right now to help this ballclub. It's fun when you put the team in position to win. That's what it's all about."

With Yasiel Puig and Adrian Gonzalez in front, and Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier behind, Ramirez has been a force in the middle of the Dodgers' lineup. The Dodgers are 10-6 when Ramirez bats cleanup.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly compares the heart of the order to the final spots on the Monopoly board.

"It's kind of like going through Boardwalk and Park Place when you get those houses and hotels up," Mattingly said. "You can get hurt there. We're dangerous."

Finally healthy after a lingering hamstring issue, Ramirez has certainly been dangerous during his resurgence over the past two weeks.

The streak began on June 19, when Ramirez went 6-for-8 with a double, a home run and four RBIs in a doubleheader at Yankee Stadium. He continued with a moonshot homer in San Diego three days later, and teamed with Gonzalez for back-to-back homers in the ninth inning to beat the Padres in the following game.

Ramirez collected three more hits on Saturday, including a three-run homer to center that the Dodgers estimated at 439 feet. He started the winning rally in the ninth with a single, and blew past third-base coach Tim Wallach's stop sign to score from second on A.J. Ellis' hit to right field.

"He single-handedly won the game for us," Ellis said.

All told, Ramirez is hitting .477 (21-for-44) with five homers, three doubles, 15 RBIs and 11 runs scored during his streak. The Dodgers are 8-4 in those games.

"Hanley is in the zone," Kemp said. "He's hitting a lot of balls hard. He's driving the ball to right-center. That's the old Hanley I remember back when he was putting up big numbers."

Ramirez also feels like his old self. He wasn't the same after left shoulder surgery in September 2011, and was hitting .246 with the Marlins when the Dodgers traded for him last July.

Now, Ramirez says this is the best his body has felt since 2009, when he led the National League with a .342 batting average.

"I'm feeling normal now," he said. "My swing is starting to come back. You've got to be patient and keep working."

Opponents are also seeing the signs that Ramirez is back to form.

On Thursday against the Phillies, Ramirez pinch-hit in the seventh with runners on second and third and one out. The Dodgers trailed, 4-3, and Philadelphia intentionally walked Ramirez to load the bases. One batter later, Puig rifled a single through the left side to give the Dodgers the lead.

After the game, starting pitcher Zack Greinke was asked who he thought was the toughest player to face in the Dodgers lineup.

"Me," Ramirez quipped from his nearby locker.

"He's probably right," Greinke said.

While Puig turned the baseball world upside down with a historic first month in the Major Leagues, collecting 44 hits in June to set the NL record for the most in a rookie's first calendar month, Ramirez has reminded everyone that he is still a world-class hitter.

"I was born to hit," Ramirez says.

Puig has lightening in his bat, but Ramirez might hit the ball even harder.

Ramirez's two-run shot in the sixth inning on Tuesday against the Giants hit the left-field foul pole at Dodger Stadium in 2.97 seconds, the fastest homer in the Majors this year, according to ESPN.

"We're all going off of Hanley and Puig and what they're doing," Gonzalez said. "Hanley has been doing an incredible job since he came back."

Overlooked by his incredible feats in the batter's box, Ramirez has also improved his defense. He averaged nearly 19 errors per season with the Marlins from 2006-11, but reduced that number to nine in 2012. Ramirez missed 52 games this year because of surgery on his right thumb in March and a strained hamstring in May, but made just one error in June.

"He's worked really hard on his game," Mattingly said. "It's been a rough start to the year. Hopefully it's a good finish."

Austin Laymance 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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