BOSTON -- In a lineup that includes Dustin Pedroia, Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Andrew Benintendi and dangerous rookie Rafael Devers, the player who might swing the balance for the Red Sox in the postseason is Hanley Ramirez.Over the past two seasons, Boston's offense has been its best when Ramirez is
BOSTON -- In a lineup that includes Dustin Pedroia, Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Andrew Benintendi and dangerous rookie Rafael Devers, the player who might swing the balance for the Red Sox in the postseason is Hanley Ramirez.
Over the past two seasons, Boston's offense has been its best when Ramirez is on one of his hot streaks.
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Last year, Ramirez stayed hot for pretty much the entire second half, but he had only three hits in the American League Division Series vs. the Indians and the Red Sox were swept in three games.
This year, Boston essentially needs the opposite to happen. This has been a sub-par regular season for Ramirez, as he's continually battled injuries and inconsistency. So maybe he will perform at his best in the postseason this time.
That would be a huge boost for Boston, because Ramirez is the Red Sox's most experienced run-producer. When he is going right, he can drive in runs by going deep or raking a ball to either gap.
"I've said it many times, we're a different team when his presence is felt in the middle of the order," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "There's history there. There's extra-base capability. He is a proven big league hitter."
Though Ramirez has experienced discomfort in both of his shoulders throughout the season, he might at last be getting healthy.
On Wednesday, Ramirez hit a moonshot that Statcast™ measured with a projected distance of 451 feet. That doesn't happen without functional shoulders.
The reason Ramirez is so important is because he hits behind all the table-setters.
If Pedroia, Bogaerts, Benintendi and Betts do their jobs, Ramirez will have to do his for the Red Sox to be the productive offensive unit they need to be this October.
And if some of the top-of-the-order hitters go cold, Ramirez could become even more important because of his ability to smash the baseball over the wall.
October success wouldn't be anything new for Ramirez. In his career, he has slashed .333/.415/.544 with a homer, seven doubles and 11 RBIs in 57 postseason at-bats.
"It doesn't matter what's happened up to now, with my shoulders or my numbers or anything," Ramirez said. "We're in the playoffs for the second year in a row. That's all that matters now."
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.