video thumbnail

CHC@MIA: Hanley crushes a go-ahead, three-run homer

MIAMI -- Hanley Ramirez once again set the home run sculpture in motion and ignited the Marlins to a 5-2 victory over the Cubs on Tuesday night.

Ramirez blasted a three-run homer in the eighth inning off Rafael Dolis, lighting up Marlins Park's 73-foot home run feature, while energizing the 24,544 on hand.

For the second straight game, Ramirez lifted Miami with late-inning heroics. In a 5-4 win over the Astros on Sunday, Ramirez tied the game with a two-run homer and then won it with a walk-off single in the 11th inning.

"It was a good win," the Miami third baseman said. "Back-to-back and I think we deserve it, because we've been playing good. I think as a team we're looking pretty good and everybody has a lot of energy every day."

In the eighth on Tuesday, Jose Reyes started the rally by reaching on Darwin Barney's error.

"It was just a misread," Barney said. "I walked right into an in-between hop. You've got Jose Reyes batting, my mind was, 'If something's chopped, you have to go.'"

After a passed ball, Emilio Bonifacio walked, and on a 3-1 pitch, Ramirez unloaded a laser to left-center.

"I hit it good," Ramirez said. "I was trying to shorten my swing down and hit it hard somewhere up the middle. That's why I hit in the middle of the lineup, to drive in runs."

Ramirez is 8-for-12 in his past three games. The homer provided him with his 49th career game-winning RBI, which is fifth among National League third basemen since 2006.

The hot start comes after Ramirez endured a rough, injury-plagued 2011. Already in 11 games this season, the 28-year-old has three home runs and 10 RBIs. Last April in 23 games, he didn't hit a homer and finished the first month with nine RBIs.

"Hanley is being Hanley," Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said. "When you see Hanley at his best, I don't see any better hitter around baseball. Right now, he's swinging the bat well. He got his swagger back. Early in the season, I think he was trying to do too much, like everybody. He's back in the groove. Hopefully he continues to do that."

The game marked a successful return for Guillen, who served a five-game suspension for remarks he made about Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

As the Guillen story gained steam nationally, many wondered how Miami's Cuban community would react to the manager's return.

"We have nice stuff going on here," said Guillen, who conducted the interview wearing a Miami-Dade Police hat. "I think this is very exciting for the city. I appreciate the way people were today. Not just with me, but for the Marlins, in general, and the baseball club. It's nice to see people still supporting the baseball club and put Ozzie Guillen's problems away from the ballclub and the Marlins' organization."

A large number of national and local media were on hand, but there was little in the form of protests or public outcry. For the most part, it was business as usual on a pleasant South Florida night. The roof was open and the game progressed without incident.

The win was a start to restoring stability to the club that has been in the public eye for reasons other than baseball.

It was an overall team game. Closing out the ninth inning was Heath Bell, who worked a perfect frame, striking out one and picking up his first save as a Marlin. The veteran blew his first two save chances, and he was eager to get on track.

"It was like a huge weight off my back, I'll be honest," said Bell, who joked that fans in the Clevelander poolside area told him not to blow this one. "I went out there and blew my first two. I'm big on trying to get my teammates to trust me in any situation at any given time. This is a good start."

Winning in Guillen's return also was significant.

"It was great to have him in the dugout," Bell said. "We really want to win for him and try to put all that other stuff behind him."

Both starters were effective, minimizing damage, but neither was involved in the decision.

Josh Johnson had dropped his first two decisions, and he was hit hard in those games, carrying an 8.38 ERA into Tuesday's series opener. But the right-hander allowed two runs on seven hits in seven innings, striking out three.

Ryan Dempster worked six innings, striking out eight for Chicago, while allowing two unearned runs.

For Johnson, going deep into the game was a start in returning to his old form.

"I felt really good out there," the right-hander said. "I felt the things we've been working on the timing things that I've always done and kind of gotten away from, we went back to that and it felt good out there.

"Just to get deep into the game was good. There were a couple hard-hit balls, but some just found holes and found ways to get through. I was out there battling and found a way to get through seven."

Guillen called it a relief to get through the day without any major incident.

"From my house to here, it's only 12 minutes, but it seemed like two hours, with all the thinking and how I'd handle this," the manager said. "I told myself one thing: 'Just be honest. Face it like a man.' Thank God this day is over. Next time every time we come here, we're going to talk about Marlins baseball and baseball in general."

MLB.com Comments