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Hanley Ramirez Reintroduces Himself To The Dozens Of Fans In Miami With A Game-Winning Two-Run Double In The 13th

Boston Red Sox v Miami Marlins

I wish there was a statistic to look at what Hanley Ramirez’s numbers are when he’s invested versus when he’s out to lunch. When the Red Sox signed Ramirez to a four-year, $88 million contract to play left field, none of us could have foreseen just how disastrous that experiment was going to be. He was uncomfortable out there, but nothing could compare to how painful it was for Red Sox fans to watch that debacle on a nightly basis, as Hanley became statistically one of the worst left fielders in baseball history. Not hyperbole.

The following season, we would catch our first glimpse at the first base experiment. Hand up — I didn’t think it would work out prior to spring training. Because of his shoulder issues, he wouldn’t dive out in left field. With that information in mind, I figured, how the hell is he going to work out at first base if he’s not going to lay out when necessary? I retracted that stance in mid-March when I saw Hanley lay out for a ball for the first time that was headed up the right field line until his glove got in the way. I had seen all I needed to see. I was in.

That year, Hanley broke out for 30 homers, 28 doubles and 111 RBI with an .866 OPS. After David Ortiz retired, most figured that his transition to being a full-time designated hitter was a no-brainer. It was not. After finishing last in the American League in homers as a team, the Red Sox knew that they needed some thump in the middle of the order, which is how JD Martinez ended up in Boston, forcing Hanley back out to first base.

We’re going to be dealing with small sample sizes for a little while here, folks, but it is hard to dislike what you’ve seen from Hanley thus far. The theory was out there that Hanley’s excellent 2016 campaign was largely a result of it being Ortiz’s last season, providing the motivation that the former batting champion would need to dig deep in order to reach his full potential. It appears as though it’s simply a matter of being engaged. When Hanley is playing first base, he’s engaged. And when he’s engaged, we’ve all seen what kind of damage he can do at the plate.

Tied 1-1 in the top of the 11th, Andrew Benintendi knocked an RBI base hit into right field to give the Red Sox a 2-1 lead. It was a lead that Matt Barnes could not hold, as the right-hander recorded the first two outs of the bottom half and then walked the next two batters he faced before allowing a game-tying two-bagger to Cameron Maybin. Luckily for Barnes, Justin Bour is slow as shit and was cut down at the plate to preserve the tie instead of allowing a crushing walk-off loss in extras.

Two innings later, with two out and two on, Hanley came to the plate and delivered once again, ripping a two-run double to left-center to put Boston on top. For those who are unaware, a motivated and focused Hanley Ramirez is one of the scariest and most dangerous hitters in the league.

He knows that he’s gotta hit that mark of 497 plate appearances in order for his $22 million option to vest for next season. The only way that’s going to happen is if he forces Sox skipper Alex Cora’s hand to keep him in the lineup every day with his hot bat, especially with a fully capable first baseman in Mitch Moreland right behind him who’s patiently waiting for his everyday opportunity. Hanley’s been making that lineup card choice quite simple for Cora in the early going.

By the way, Chris Sale kept the streak alive. That’s six straight starts to open the season of a Red Sox starter allowing one earned run or fewer. In Red Sox team history, it had never been done more than four consecutive starts to begin a season. Gonna be really weird when the entire Boston rotation gets presented with the Cy Young award as a group.

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Final score: Red Sox 4, Marlins 2