09/22/08 12:00 AM ET
Aaron nomination for Cubs' 'Mr. Clutch'
Ramirez stays cool under pressure to earn chance at award
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
The third baseman ranks among the National League leaders in RBIs, having reached 100 for the sixth time in his career. Ramirez's offensive skills have earned him the spot as the Cubs' nominee for the MLB Hank Aaron Award, presented by Sharp.
This coveted honor is awarded annually to the best overall offensive performer in each league, with each club having a nominee. Fans can vote until Sunday, Oct. 12, to select the winner in each league.
The winners will be announced prior to Game 4 of the World Series on Sunday, Oct. 26. Last year's winners were Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez and Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder. Originally introduced in 1999 to honor the 25th anniversary of Hank Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's all-time home run record, the Hank Aaron Award was the first major award to be introduced in 30 years.
The other nominees from the National League Central include St. Louis' Albert Pujols, Milwaukee's Ryan Braun, Cincinnati's Joey Votto, Houston's Lance Berkman and Pittsburgh's Nate McLouth.
In a season in which the Cubs could finish with six players with 20 home runs and already have four with 80 RBIs, Ramirez has shined. Take the Aug. 28 game against Philadelphia, for example. Ramirez belted his eighth career grand slam to highlight a five-run eighth inning and power the Cubs to a 6-4 win over the Phillies.
"He likes to be up there in big situations," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said of his No. 4 hitter. "He knows how to hit, and he rises to the occasion. He takes it to another level, and the good ones do that."
Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino didn't move as Ramirez's ball sailed into the bleachers at Wrigley Field.
"Close game, you just want to put the ball in play," Ramirez said. "I just put a pretty good swing on it."
Ramirez tipped his cap to the frenzied and very loud crowd of 40,362 after his homer. Cubs starter Ryan Dempster was in the clubhouse when he heard the fans roar.
"I've said it to many people many a time, Aramis Ramirez is probably ... as clutch a hitter as I've ever seen," Dempster said. "I would say he smells RBIs, especially later in the game. It's something remarkable. It takes a special person to be able to do that, and he does it on a pretty consistent basis, especially if you give him anything to hit."
Ramirez was the first Cubs player to reach 100 RBIs before September since Sammy Sosa did so in 2001. He leads the NL in batting average with two strikes and ranks among the NL leaders in "close and late situations," hitting .412 through Sept. 18.
"I've been able to do that since I was in the Minor Leagues," Ramirez said of his ability to drive runners in. "It's something I'm proud of, and I like being in those situations late in the game."
Ramirez picked up Dempster on Aug. 23 in a 9-2 win over the Washington Nationals. He belted a pair of three-run homers for what was his 21st career multi-homer game. But he deflected any praise.
"It starts with pitching," Ramirez said. "We've got great pitching."
And some pretty good hitting.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.