It was no short feat when the Philadelphia Phillies disposed of CC Sabathia and the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2008 NLDS. After the Brewers acquired Sabathia ahead of the July 31 trade deadline, the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner went on one of the greatest runs in baseball history, going 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA and seven complete games in 17 starts for Milwaukee.
Sabathia, who willed the Brewers to the postseason for the first time since 1982, ran out of gas by the time he took the mound in Game 2 of the NLDS at Citizens Bank Park. For as dominant as he was in the run-up to the postseason, Brett Myers, Shane Victorino and the Phillies tagged him for five runs in just 3 2/3 innings, ending his brief time with the Brewers.
You know what 2008 midseason pickup didn’t run out of gas in the postseason? Los Angeles Dodgers’ left fielder Manny Ramirez.
Following an ugly breakup with the Boston Red Sox, the Dodgers acquired Ramirez on July 31 in a three-team deal that also included the Pittsburgh Pirates.
For whatever shortcomings he may have had in terms of his approach during the first half of the 2008 season, Ramirez still slashed .299/.398/.529 with 20 home runs and 68 RBIs in the 100 games he spent in Boston that season. A year after helping lead the team to their second World Series title in four seasons, Ramirez made the 12th and final All-Star team of his illustrious career.
Still, upon being traded to the Dodgers, the 36-year-old managed to get hotter than he perhaps ever had in his career. When you consider that he drove in a staggering 165 runs for the Cleveland Indians in 1999, that’s saying something. But Ramirez – who, perhaps appropriately, switched to No. 99 upon being traded to the Dodgers – would hit .396 in 53 games for the Dodgers in 2008. Across 187 at-bats, he also homered 17 times and drove in 53 runs. So he drove in a run per game after being traded to the Dodgers, making him one of the greatest mid-season pick-ups in the history of the sport.
For the rest of the 2008 season, Hollywood became “Mannywood.” Ramirez would help Joe Torre and the Dodgers to win a lowly National League West with 84 wins.
The show – and watching Ramirez when he was locked in was a show – went on in the NLDS, as the Dodgers swept the heavily-favored Chicago Cubs. Ramirez homered in Game 1 and Game 2 of the series, and was walked four times in 14 plate appearances:
The Phillies would meet Ramirez and the Dodgers in the NLCS, looking to return to the World Series for the first time since 1993. Given that Phillies manager Charlie Manuel had been Ramirez’s hitting coach in Cleveland for six seasons, there was some thought that he may be able to provide the antidote to halt the incredible run.
In Game 1 of the NLCS, Ramirez plated Dodgers’ right fielder Andre Ethier with a first-inning double to center field off of Cole Hamels. Though the Phillies would eventually come back and win Game 1 by a score of 3-2, Ramirez went 2-4 in the game, despite it being started by Hamels, the eventual series MVP.
In Game 2, Ramirez only had one hit in five plate appearances, but that one hit was a three-run home run off of Brett Myers:
Luckily for the Phillies, Myers and Shane Victorino combined for seven RBIs, and the Phillies still managed to win Game 2, 8-5.
As the series shifted to Los Angeles for Game 3, Jamie Moyer lasted just 1 1/3 innings and gave up six runs. The Phillies held Ramirez relatively in check in Game 3. Of course, he still went 1-2 with an RBI and two walks, so it wasn’t as though he didn’t make an impact. The Dodgers won Game 3, 7-2.
Ramirez was walked three times in Game 4, two of which were intentional. In the two times he got to bat, he reached base both times, including driving in a run off of Joe Blanton with an RBI single in the bottom of the fifth. Fortunately for the Phillies, Shane Victorino and Matt Stairs hit two of the biggest home runs in franchise history in the top of the eighth inning, leading the Phillies to a come-from-behind victory.
Jimmy Rollins led off Game 5 of the series with a home run, symbolically putting a nail in the coffin of the Dodgers, and waiting for his teammates to hammer it in. That would happen, as the Phillies won Game 5 and the clinched the National League pennant with a 5-1 victory. However, the lone run that Hamels gave up in seven strong innings was another home run off the bat of Ramirez:
Though the Phillies would win the series with relative ease, Ramirez finished the NLCS with a .533 batting average, two home runs, seven RBIs and seven walks. If you add his postseason production to what he did after being acquired by the Dodgers, Ramirez hit .410 with 21 home runs, 63 RBIs and 46 walks in just 61 games. It’s one of the greatest offensive stretches in the history of the game.
That the Phillies were able to overcome Sabathia and Ramirez in the National League playoffs was a pretty good indication of just how deep of a team they had in terms of their lineup and relief pitching. In hindsight, it should have been clear evidence that the Phillies were equipped to take down the Tampa Bay Rays in the World Series.
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