Manny Ramirez has been on the winning team in two of the last four World Series. The Los Angeles Dodgers acquired the future Hall of Famer hoping he can help them win their first championship in 20 years.
In one of the biggest trades in baseball in recent memory, the Dodgers (54-54) acquired Ramirez from Boston as part of a three-team deal that sent third baseman Andy LaRoche and pitcher Bryan Morris to Pittsburgh.
Ramirez has been one of the best players in the majors over the past decade, but his relationship with the Red Sox became increasingly strained over the last few months. On Wednesday in an interview with ESPNdeportes.com, he said, “The Red Sox don’t deserve a player like me.”
Boston will pay the estimated $7 million owed to Ramirez through the end of the season, at which time he can become a free agent.
The 36-year-old Ramirez joins a crowded outfield with Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Andruw Jones and Juan Pierre, but the 12-time All-Star brings his 20 homers and 68 RBIs to a club that has hit the second-fewest home runs in the majors (74).
“He’s going to bring another element to our offense,” said Derek Lowe, who lost 2-1 to Arizona (56-52) in Thursday’s series opener. “It’s going to be a great addition. I think everyone’s looking forward to getting him out there and letting him do his thing.”
The Dodgers lost for the second time in seven games Thursday, while the Diamondbacks won their sixth in the last seven to take a two-game lead atop the division.
Los Angeles is expected to be in the thick of the division chase over the final two months of the season, and hopes Ramirez can bring some playoff experience to a franchise that is 1-12 in the postseason since defeating Oakland in the 1988 World Series.
Ramirez, the MVP of the 2004 World Series, hit .348 (16-for-46) with four home runs and 16 RBIs in 14 playoff games for the championship Red Sox last season. His 24 career postseason homers are the most in baseball history.
“We’re focused on winning the division and going as deep as we can into October,” Dodgers chairman Frank McCourt told the team’s official Web site. “We want to win right here and right now, and that’s why we made this trade.”
This will be Ramirez’s first game at Dodger Stadium, and he gets to face Randy Johnson (8-7, 4.58 ERA). Ramirez is batting .244 (11-for-45) with five home runs and 14 strikeouts lifetime versus the left-hander.
Johnson has a 15-inning scoreless streak over his last three starts - his longest since 19 straight in September 2002 - and has a 1.71 ERA in winning his last four starts. This run came after he posted a 7.94 ERA in losing his previous six outings.
On Sunday, the 44-year-old allowed nine hits in seven innings of a 7-2 win over San Francisco, the 292nd victory of his career.
“It was frustrating to go through what I did in June. I was searching and wondering even as I knew it was still there,” said Johnson, who has not won five straight starts since reeling off six in a row May 18-June 13, 2004.
“For me it’s all about mechanics. I feel a lot more comfortable now and I’m making pitches when I need to make them.”
Johnson hasn’t faced the Dodgers since June 28, 2007, his final start that season before undergoing back surgery. He is 7-6 with a 2.83 ERA in 22 starts against Los Angeles, including a 6-0 mark and 2.21 ERA in 10 outings at Dodger Stadium.
Los Angeles counters with Clayton Kershaw (1-3, 4.53), who was less than six months old when Johnson made his major league debut in 1988.
Kershaw gave up four hits and struck out five in six innings of a 2-0 victory over Washington on Sunday to win his first career game in his 10th start.
“I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time. It’s a relief to get it out of the way,” said the 20-year-old left-hander, the seventh overall pick in the 2006 draft. “It’s a great feeling to get one under my belt, and hopefully there’s more to come.”