CLEVELAND - Manny Ramírez crushed a batting practice ball, sending it up about 12 rows into the seats in left-center field. He sent the next one a handful of rows into the seats in left. Then, on the final ball in his set, Ramírez decimated the pitch, his swing propelling it near the spot where his 451-foot home run had landed Tuesday night, out to dead center.
And as he watched it sail out of Jacobs Field, Ramírez dropped his bat, raised his arms, and a grin dominated his face.
Though it wasn't his three-run home run to win Game 2 of the American League Division Series against the Angels, or even his solo shot Tuesday to finish off the back-to-back-to-back homers by the Red Sox in their 7-3 loss to the Indians in Game 4 of the AL Championship Series, Ramírez was clearly playing off his reputation for styling, appearing to repeatedly show up the pitchers whose offerings he has sent out of the park.
"Man, I'm just happy to do something special like that," Ramírez said yesterday. "I'm not trying to show up anybody out there. I'm just trying to go have fun. If somebody strikes me out and shows me up, that's part of the game. I love it. I like that. I like to compete, and when people strike me out or whatever and they show me up, it's all good. There's no hard feelings. I'm not trying to show anybody up."
Ramírez, who spoke to the media for the second time this postseason, again breaking a silence that had stood since spring training, seemed eager to share his opinions at this point in the ALCS with his team down, 3-1, in the best-of-seven series. He spoke by his locker, then on the field, venturing over to a group of Japanese reporters and talking some more.
"We're just going to go have fun and play the game," he said. "That's it. If we go play hard and the thing doesn't come like it's supposed to come, we'll move on. We'll come next year. Why should we panic? We've got a great team. If it doesn't happen, good. We'll come next year and try to do it again.
"We're confident every day. It doesn't matter how things go for you. We're not going to give up. We're just going to go and play the game, like I've said, and move on. If it doesn't happen, so who cares? There's always next year. It's not like the end of the world or something."
Ramírez, unlike some of his teammates, hasn't slowed this postseason. He started hot in the ALDS and continued hot in the ALCS. He has been on base in 19 of his 31 postseason plate appearances. He has hit four home runs, tying David Ortiz for the most by a member of the Red Sox in one postseason. He is hitting .429 with a .613 on-base percentage and a 1.000 slugging percentage. He has 10 walks. He is patient, taking pitches, and at the same time, he is mashing the ball.
And talking, apparently.
Asked whether he likes hitting in Jacobs Field, his home before Fenway, Ramírez drew a laugh from the crowd, stating matter-of-factly, "I like hitting everywhere."
He added, "I enjoy it, but once you've been playing in Boston for eight years and you come back, you don't feel the same." Plus, if you're Ramírez, you get booed.
But those records, the ones he has been setting for the Sox, and for all of baseball, becoming the all-time leader in postseason home runs with 24, aren't exactly at the forefront of his mind. They're nice. Not everything, though.
"It's good, but if I would have known that I was going to be in the World Series and not have those records, I'd trade them in a heartbeat," he said. "Who cares about the records, man? We just want to go out, have fun, and win."
That was the theme in his remarks. Having fun. Winning. Having a chance, a la 2004, to come back and take this series.
"We're not thinking that much about '04, but anything's possible," Ramírez said. "We're just going to think about [tonight] and move on. We'll go have fun and play the game like we've played all year round. We'll see what the future is going to bring for us.
"We've got a great team over here and the other side is playing great. They're pitching the way they should and they're coming through with big hits. What can you do? You just think about [tonight] and you just try to come and play hard and have fun. It's not over yet."
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.