Reporting from San Francisco — Interleague play might have cost the Dodgers their place atop the National League West, but that segment of the schedule produced one significant benefit in hitting coach Don Mattingly's view.
The Dodgers' stops in Boston and Anaheim this month helped Manny Ramirez regain his stroke.
"I think that the DH helped him out a lot," Mattingly said. "Just being able to concentrate on his hitting. You could see his bat coming back, his confidence coming back."
Ramirez had a season-long eight-game hitting streak until he went 0 for 3 in the Dodgers' 8-6 loss to the New York Yankees on Sunday. He went into the opening game of the Dodgers' three-game series in San Francisco on Monday batting .413 with three home runs and 10 runs batted in over his last 13 games, increasing his average from .271 to .307 during that span.
Mattingly said he sensed that Ramirez was starting to regain his rhythm before the Dodgers opened a three-game series in Cincinnati on June 15.
Ramirez, who went into Cincinnati batting .229 since his May 8 activation from the disabled list, was four for nine with two home runs against the Reds. He was nine for 25 (.360) as the Dodgers' designated hitter over the next six games, in Boston and Anaheim.
Manager Joe Torre intimated that Ramirez might have been motivated by his return to Boston on June 18.
"To me, when he started in Cincinnati, whether he was getting himself psyched for [the Red Sox] or whatever it was, I think his at-bats have been very high quality," Torre said. "He's such a good hitter. He has such good balance. That stuff doesn't leave you."
Torre pointed to the three walks Ramirez drew against the Yankees on Saturday as evidence of his return to form.
"They didn't want to pitch to him," he said. "You'd rather pitch to somebody else."
Like James Loney.
Loney, who hits a spot or two behind Ramirez in the lineup, went into San Francisco with 15 RBIs in his previous 13 games.
Torre said he hopes to make a decision about whether he will return next season to the Dodgers by sometime in September.
"Just so I don't hamstring this organization," Torre said. "I have to. It's not fair to them if I don't do that."
Torre, in the final year of his three-year contract, broke off extension talks with the Dodgers during spring training, in part because he didn't want to be locked into a front-office role in 2012.
The Dodgers finished interleague play with a 4-11 record, the worst mark in their division. San Diego and Colorado were 9-6; San Francisco was 7-8.
The Dodgers' interleague record was partly a reflection of the quality of teams they faced: the Angels, Yankees, Red Sox and Detroit Tigers. The only team with a comparable interleague schedule was last-place Arizona, which went 6-9.
With Jonathan Broxton having pitched in four of the Dodgers' last five games, Torre said he would rest his closer Monday and Tuesday. . . . The Dodgers signed journeyman left-handed reliever Jack Taschner and assigned him to triple-A Albuquerque. Taschner, 32, recently declined an outright assignment by the Pittsburgh Pirates and became a free agent.
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