LOS ANGELES -- In his first incarnation with the Pirates, Aramis Ramirez shared their cellar. Between May 26, 1998, when he first put on the Pittsburgh uniform, and July 22, 2003, when he was told to take it off, the Buccos lost 484 games, including 100 in 2001.
Ramirez could do little to help the club and the city his first time around, before he was dealt to the Chicago Cubs. His 'Burgh rebirth comes under dramatically different circumstances, so Ramirez has waited 17 years for the hit that gave the Pirates a huge 3-2 win Saturday night over the Dodgers.
"It's a good fit for both of us," Clint Hurdle said about Ramirez, who was brought back by the Bucs on July 23, amid the crises created by injuries to infielders Jordy Mercer and Josh Harrison. "The experience he has … the ability to stay in that box and hunt RBIs."
Ramirez bagged his quarry in the eighth inning. The game was tied at 2. Gregory Polanco, whose leadoff double had knocked out Clayton Kershaw, was on third after Neil Walker's grounder off reliever Chris Hatcher. Andrew McCutchen was on first, with the intentional walk that created Ramirez's opportunity.
Ramirez took one pitch for a ball -- and drilled the next up against the wall in left-center, to give the Bucs a permanent lead and himself a feel-good moment.
"To have the chance to come back here and help the Pirates in a playoff push -- that really means a lot to me," said Ramirez, who had declared this would be his final season long before rejoining the Pirates, when he was still in Milwaukee.
"I know he's happy to be back," Hurdle said. "I like the fact that this guy wants to close things out in a place where he started, and in meaningful games. He has poured everything he's got into every minute that he's on the field. You want that from a veteran player."
Something else you want: Taking over as the Bucs' regular cleanup hitter, Ramirez has driven in 28 runs in 40 games in the four-hole, better production than what the Pirates were getting from the host of people tried there before him (54 RBIs in 107 games).
Ramirez's eighth-inning game-winner was timely in another manner: It reminded folks not to panic over the loss of Jung Ho Kang.
Ramirez and Kang had both become principal players during the injured absences of Mercer and Harrison. When the latter two came back, the big issue facing Hurdle was being able to find enough playing time for all these infielders.
So Kang's injury merely re-establishes Mercer as the everyday shortstop and Ramirez, who had begun a shuffle between first and third, again drops anchor at the hot corner.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer and on his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.