Originally posted on Fox Sports West  |  Last updated 7/28/12
Hanley Ramirez starred in his first performance in the storied Dodgers-Giants rivalry, crushing a hanging breaking ball from Sergio Romo two rows past the left field wall in the top of the 10th inning with a blast that sent the team's confidence soaring one game into the first of four second half series between the two NL West hopefuls. The 5-3 win snapped a three-game losing streak endured over the latter part of a series against the hot hitting Cardinals in sizzling St. Louis as a thick marine layer and cool Bay Area breezes settled over AT&T Park in a late July game that took on the atmosphere of a pennant race. It also moved the Dodgers to within two games of the first place Giants before the teams quickly regroup and Chad Billingsley takes the hill opposite Barry Zito on a nationally televised FOX game at 1:05 p.m. PT Saturday. The homerun brought the personality out of Ramirez, who returned to the dugout in an interestingly orchestrated celebration that included fingers circling the eyes as mock glasses. "I think we try to have fun with something. We came up with that. 'Do you see me? I see you.' It's going to be fun," Ramirez said on Dodgers Live following the game. With four hits in eleven at bats along with a homerun, three runs scored, three driven in and a stolen base, Ramirez has found an immediate comfort zone during the second half of the team's 10-game roadtrip through New York, St. Louis and San Francisco. The team is 4-4 on the trip thus far. "As soon as I got here, they just told me, You just go play hard and have fun out there. That's all we ask,'" Ramirez said. "It's what I've been doing. It's what I've got to do the rest of the season and as long as I'm here." Ramirez's importance was also felt early in the game when an graceful lunge at third base helped minimize the trouble exacted upon a young Stephen Fife, who through his first two major league starts has done a more effective job of giving his team a chance to win than Roy Halladay and Matt Cain. With runners at first and second and one out in the bottom of the fourth inning with San Francisco leading 1-0, Fife fielded an attempted sacrifice bunt by Cain and threw wildly of third. On a ball that would have been difficult for a third baseman to simply knock down, Ramirez dove across the bag to catch the throw while brushing his foot atop the base in retiring the lead runner. Nate Schierholtz flied out to center one batter later on a ball tracked down by Matt Kemp with a terrific running catch on the verge of the warning track. In the top of the fifth, it was Fife who created something out of nothing by doubling to right center with two outs and nobody on base. He scored on Jerry Hairston's double to deep right field before Mark Ellis' single scored Hairston. Without Ramirez's athletic play that scuttled a potential Giants rally, we might not be speaking of the same "bend-but-don't-break" Stephen Fife. Fife's growing comfort through two starts and the efforts of Luis Cruz who extended his hitting streak to 10 games win an sixth inning single further the unheralded contributions by players recalled from Triple-A Albuquerque whom manager Don Mattingly has continued to squeeze production out of. Fife's run was the first run scored by Los Angeles at AT&T Park since Tony Gwynn's RBI double in the top of the second inning on September 11, 2011. 38 and two-thirds innings later, and after the Dodgers had been outscored 13-0 during a three-game Giants sweep in June, Hairston finally brought him home with an opposite field double. One batter later, the Dodgers had their first lead in San Francisco this season. "I saw all the fans cheering for the Giants," Ramirez said of taking part in his first Dodgers-Giants game. "I think it's a good rivalry. I like it. I like pressure like that." It was a notion clarified by Andre Ethier earlier this month when he spoke on an impending battle for the NL West crown between two traditional rivals. "It's always fun playing those guys, and I guess when you add anything else on top of it, it definitely does add a little bit more reason to watch," Ethier said. "But the games always mean something no matter if both teams are in or both teams are out. We know who we're battling with. We're not going to look ahead. We're not going to look behind us. We're just going to go out there and take care of our thing, our game, and play as a team. What we kind of did the first half is I think the focus that we need to keep doing not worrying about who's chasing us or who we have to chase."
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