Red Sox rookie Noe Ramirez has come a long way from East L.A.

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TORONTO -- It was a mismatch, really. A sellout crowd at Rogers Centre was clamoring for a Red Sox rookie reliever, Noe Ramirez, to succumb Sunday to the late-inning pressure of a playoff race against the Toronto Blue Jays and three of the most dangerous hitters in baseball -- Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.

But what the Blue Jays and their fans could not have known were the scores of people who have had Ramirez's back in Ramona Gardens, the East Los Angeles housing project where the 25-year-old Ramirez grew up, ever since they first embraced the exhilarating possibility that one of their own could make it to the big leagues.

Ramona Gardens is right off the Santa Monica Freeway, close enough to Dodger Stadium that Ramirez could see it when he stepped outside the apartment in which Mexican immigrants Rafael and Maria Ramirez raised their six children. The area long has been known as one of the most dangerous in L.A., described by the L.A. Times as a “bleak bastion of crime” controlled by the Hazard Grande, a notorious gang said to have ties to the Mexican mafia.

Just last December, a small army of federal agents and local law enforcement officials 800 strong swooped down on the project and arrested 38 alleged gang members indicted on a variety of federal racketeering charges alleging drug deals, acts of intimidation and violence, and illegal weapons sales.

“That fear and intimidation is right below the surface, and the community feels it," Los Angeles Police deputy chief Kirk Albanese told the Times. "Even though it may not be as outward as it was 15 years ago, the fear is inside of people, and we're trying to prevent that. This is a war. Today was a battle, and we're going to continue until we win the war."

This is where Ramirez, who learned the game from his father and older brother, Jovan, is composing an alternative narrative, one in which he draws sustenance from family, friends and neighbors who gathered to celebrate the day four years ago that he signed with the Red Sox, a fourth-round draft choice out of Cal State-Fullerton. Ramirez, whose first name is pronounced “No-A” and is the Spanish version of Noah, is the first player from the project to sign a pro contract, and every time he comes back he is swarmed by the kids who now play on the same dirt field he did.

“It’s awesome," Ramirez said after safely navigating the eighth inning Sunday, striking out MVP candidate Donaldson, and protecting a one-run lead in Boston’s 4-3 win, their second straight come-from-behind victory over the first-place Jays. “They support me like no other. That community, I don’t know if I’d be there without them, man. They drive me."

Ramirez, who spent the summer pitching in relief for Triple-A Pawtucket, was a September callup who figured to get some work out of an overtaxed Boston bullpen. But when Junichi Tazawa was shut down for the rest of the season, Ramirez found himself being used by interim manager Torey Lovullo much like Tazawa was, in the late innings of close games.

That was the case Saturday, when Ramirez entered in the eighth inning of a 2-2 tie against the exact same three hitters, and faltered. He walked Donaldson and Bautista, then shattered Encarnacion’s bat, but not before the Toronto strongman muscled an RBI single through the left side of the infield.

Afterward, Lovullo said he thought that Ramirez would profit from the experience. He could not have anticipated that the exact same situation would arise, one day later.

Ramirez was not intimidated. Maybe because he’d dealt with far worse.

“I was prepared," he said. “[Pitching coach] Carl Willis and Torey came up to me before the game and asked, 'Ready to rock?' I said, ‘Yeah, of course.’ They have confidence in me, which is something I don’t take for granted, something I’m pretty proud of. Just try to go out there and make pitches, challenge hitters."

Ramirez got ahead of Donaldson and struck him out, only to see Bautista follow with a vicious drive that caromed off the face of the third deck.

“That was a 'yikes' moment," Ramirez said. “Definitely not where I wanted to put it. I was trying to stay low in the zone, and he put a really good swing on it. Fortunately, it was foul. The same thing happened with Donaldson yesterday.

“I kind of got away with one, but it’s a strike, and move on from there. You’re going to get those a lot. These are the best hitters in the world. It’s just about moving forward, man."

Ramirez moved on with a slider that Bautista grounded harmlessly to third. “Great call by Sandy [Leon]," Ramirez said, crediting his catcher. “He saw what my slider was doing, it was moving a ton. He had me aim it inside, a perfect spot."

Encarnacion followed with a two-out base hit to left, but Ramirez appeared to have escaped when he cleanly picked off pinch runner Dalton Pompey. But the ball got stuck in the webbing of first baseman Travis Shaw's glove, then skipped away, Pompey hustling to second.

“You know what?” Ramirez said. “I kind of took it as the game testing me: How am I going to respond there? I went after [Chris] Colabello. I tried to stick with our plan, not back down from it. You can’t start shying away from what you’re trying to do, get him to touch the ball. I’m not out there trying to strike out guys. I’m trying to disrupt their timing."

Colabello hit a ground ball to third. Another rookie, Deven Marrero, who had replaced Pablo Sandoval at the start of the inning, fielded it and threw to first. Ramirez walked off the mound, punching his glove, and when Robbie Ross Jr. safely negotiated the ninth, the Sox were winners.

“This is special," Ramirez said. “Fifty thousand people screaming at you, wanting you to fail. OK, let’s battle then, let’s go."

He could almost hear the cheers from Ramona Gardens, 2,100 miles away.

“They’ll text or call my brother Jovan," Ramirez said. “He’s like the manager of the family. He works for yellowpages.com, has got a pretty good gig there. That guy is amazing, man. Every time there is any kind of problem in the family, there he is, to handle everything. He’s one of the people, along with my parents, I work really hard for. He deserves a lot out of life."

Last week, when the Sox were back in Boston, Ramirez arranged for Jovan and his parents to come for a visit. At least that was the plan. But they all came -- Jovan, his parents, his other brother, Beto, his sisters Martha, Elsie and Denise. A little piece of Ramona Gardens, coming to share the love.

“This is unbelievable," he said. “I’m living the dream right now. I take pride in this. I work hard to succeed in these situations. I’m with a pretty damn good, historic baseball team, where all the fans expect us to win.

“I think I fit their mold pretty well. We’re on the same page there. It’s something I definitely enjoy."