Manny Ramirez, held out of the starting lineup for precautionary reasons with a sore left hand after being hit by a pitch a night earlier, pinch-hit in the sixth inning with the score tied and hit the first pitch offered him into Mannywood, giving the Dodgers a 6-2 lead and raising the decibel level to Code Red in Southern California.
Fans at the sold-out on the Manny Ramirez bobblehead night game chanted “Manny! Manny!” when they saw him putting on his pine-tar encrusted batting helmet.
The old line, "there was style in Casey's manner and a smile on Casey's lips" come to mind.
The anticipation increased as the Reds changed pitchers, removing starter Bronson Arroyo, who had walked James Loney and Matt Kemp and had allowed a stinging single to left field by Russell Martin to load the bases. Nick Masset took over, a pitcher Ramirez had never seen before.
Ignoring the script that called for him to run the count to 3-2 before driving in the lead runs, Manny didn't even take a practice swing, crushing the first pitch he saw, a 96-mph fastball, into the lower left field seats designated "Mannywood" where fans received a tee-shirt and the privilege to be near their tarnished hero.
The dramatic shot was his 21st career grand slam, trailing only Lou Gehrig's 23 on that list, and his fourth home run since returning July 3 from a 50-game suspension for violating baseball’s drug rules. He’s now batting .347 with four homers and 17 RBI in 16 games since July.
The remarkable turn of events put the crowd into a frenzy, the sound breaking windows -- and some hearts -- as far away as San Francisco.
The noise level rivaled the thunder that was generated by Kirk Gibson's memorial home run in the last of the ninth off Rollie Fingers in the first game of the 1988 World Series.
“Just the way he was sort of stalking around the dugout, I could feel something would happen if he had the opportunity,” Dodgers manager Joe Torre said.
And manager Dusty Baker, in the other dugout, noted with no little irony, “I guess Manny’s hand wasn’t as bad as we thought. It doesn’t get more dramatic than that—a grand slam on your own bobblehead night. That’s the stuff that I’d seen out of Barry Bonds and Hank Aaron.
Ramirez had hit for Billingsley, who was in the eighth spot in the lineup because Torre likes to bat Pierre, who had replaced Ramirez this night, in the ninth spot so the pitcher didn't follow him.
It was the fifth straight win over the Reds and moved the Dodgers 27 games above .500 for the first time since Gibson's 1988 team. They've now overcome the Reds in 20 of their last 23 games and the last 12 in Dodger Stadium.
The Dodgers shoved Ramirez out of the dugout for a curtain call in appreciation of his first career pinch-hit grand slam.
“I was just trying to get a good pitch to hit,” said Ramirez after the game. “Now can I go home?” he said, drawing laughter from the media.
The win moved the Dodgers 27 games over .500 for the first time since the magical 1988 season and put them nine games in front of second-place Colorado and 10.5 over the Giants to lost to Atlanta earlier,
Ramirez pinch-hit for Chad Billingsley (10-6)who won for the first time in seven starts. The young right-hander allowed two runs and seven hits in six innings, struck out seven and walked one.
Billingsley allowed a run in the first on a pair of doubles and another in a wild pitch in the sixth.
Andre Ethier homered in the bottom of the first to tie the game to tie things up 1-1 and James Loney tripled in a run in the fourth inning to put the Dodgers in front. Ethier is the first Dodgers outfielder with back-to-back 20-homer seasons since Shawn Green in 2001-02.
Guillermo Mota added two scoreless innings in relief of Billingsley and Jonathan Broxton added a third zero on the board in the top of the ninth.
"It was great, one of the best moments of my career," said Ramirez. "It was kind of crazy, but I loved it I'm just happy it happened here in LA.” So are the 56,000+ Dodger fans who were in attendance, a number that will grow to five times that high as years go by.
The beat goes on tonight as the Dodgers send LHP Clayton Kershaw (8-5, 2.95 ERA) to the mound. The 21-year-old is 5-0 with an 0.63 earned run average over his last seven starts, all of which the Dodgers have won.
The Florida Marlins counter with RHP Josh Johnson (8-2, 2.74 ERA), the Marlins ace, who has not faced the Dodgers yet this season.
Score by Innings
Cincinnati 100 001 000-2
Los Angeles 100 104 00x-6
Los Angeles ab r h bi ave
Furcal ss 4 0 1 0 .255
Hudson 2b 4 0 0 0 .288
Ethier rf 3 2 1 1 .257
Blake 3b 4 0 0 0 .276
Loney 1b 3 1 1 1 .283
Kemp cf 3 1 0 0 .320
Martin c 3 1 1 0 .262
Billingsley p 2 0 0 0 .222
Ramirez ph 1 1 1 4 .348
Mota p 0 0 0 0 .000
Loretta ph 1 0 0 0 .237
Broxton p 0 0 0 0 .000
Pierre lf 3 0 1 0 .315
Totals 31 6 6 6
Cincinnati 31 2 7 1
3B- Loney (2). HR- Ethier (20), Ramirez (11).
RBI- Ethier (59), Loney (58), Ramirez 4 (57).
LOB- Los Angeles 5, Cincinnati 4. DP- Loney,
Furcal and Loney.
Los Angeles in h r-er bb so era
Billingsley (10-5) 6.0 7 2-2 1 7 3.72
Mota 2.0 0 0-0 0 0 3.13
Broxton 1.0 0 0-0 0 1 2.82
WP- Billingsley. T- 2:46. Att- 56,000.