LOS ANGELES -- One of the strengths shared by the Dodgers and Braves is great play from the shortstop position, even if Hanley Ramirez and Andrelton Simmons make their mark on the National League Division Series in different ways.
Ramirez has enjoyed his first taste of postseason so far, going 4-for-9 (.444) with three doubles and a home run in two games. He tied a Dodgers record with three extra-base hits on Friday, accomplished eight times. The home run was a pop fly down the left field line that somehow stayed fair, and brought the Dodgers to within one run in the eighth inning of Game 2.
"He hit that one-handed, both feet up in the air. That's how talented this guy is," said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, who manged Ramirez in Miami from 2007-10. "And he kept it fair, and created enough bat speed to hit the ball out of the ballpark. It's scary how good this guy is."
Ramirez in his last 16 starts, dating back to Sept. 4, is hitting .407 (24-for-59) with six home runs, six doubles and 14 runs batted in.
"Hanley is a different animal really," said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly. "Most of the time you don't look at shortstop as the kind of offensive player he is, a middle-of-the-order hitter with power."
Despite playing only 86 games this season, Ramirez is second among major league shortstops in Wins Above Replacement, using either the Baseball-Reference or FanGraphs versions. In first place in the B-R version is Simmons (he's fourth in FanGraphs), who is a wizard with the glove, constantly making highlight-reel plays.
"The one that really stands out was that double play, with first and third, one out," Gonzalez said. "We've seen those balls get thrown into center field, but Avi gave him a pretty good through and he turned it."
Gonzalez referred to the double play in the seventh inning of Game 2, started by a great stab on the mound by Avilan, who had great awareness to try to get a double play on the speedy Carl Crawford. The twin killing was successful for Atlanta, thanks to the lightning-quick hands of Simmons on the turn at second base.
"He's just a special guy defensively. Here's a guy who somebody asked me 'What's the best play you've seen him make?' and my patent answer is the next one, because you just never know," Gonzalez said. "He has a knack, a clock, a court awareness for the game or whatever you want to call it."
Simmons hit 17 home runs in his first full season this year, but also hit .248 with a .296 on-base percentage. He is 2-for-5 (.400) with a game-tying RBI double to the opposite field in the second inning of Game 2 against Zack Greinke. But the bulk of his value lies in his defense, which Mattingly praised.
"You always talking about being solid up the middle," Mattingly said. "Their guy is young, some of the plays he makes are tremendous. Some of the plays he makes are off the charts. But looking at our guy, I think he's off the charts from the standpoint of what he does offensively. I don't care what position he's playing. He's got to be one of the top guys out there."