Cleveland (92.3 the Fan) – There won’t be many arguments against the fact that Francisco Lindor and Corey Kluber have been the driving forces behind the Cleveland Indians’ rise to prominence in the American League.
Perhaps even less arguably, it has been the man with hair that resembles an active flame who has been the spark plug that gets the Wahoo Express going when the engine isn’t firing. Perhaps he is the jumper-cable.
Jose Ramirez jump-started a struggling offense on Saturday with a three-run home run in the bottom of the first that put the Indians on top of former Cy Young winner Justin Verlander and the Tigers, 3-0.
The versatile infielder showed signs of a potential breakout with back-to-back multi-hit games on Thursday and Friday. Ramirez ended up 4-for-4 on Saturday with another three-run shot in the eighth that capped off a big day offensively for the entire team, on the backs of their catalyst’s career-high six RBI.
Ramirez was dismissive of his big day, outside of helping his team win.
“Anything can happen,” he said through team interpreter Anna Bolton. “There are some days when you are going to have the ability to hit pitches better than other days and thankfully they’re throwing me pitches I can dominate well, and that is how I’ve had good luck the last couple of days.”
The spitfire-headed switch-hitter is coming off of a career year in which he split .312/.363/.462 over 152 contests, including 46 doubles, 11 home runs and 76 RBI.
Manager Terry Francona said consistency has been Ramirez’s key.
“And that’s I guess what’s reassuring when a guy has a year like he did, an entire year, like he didn’t just do it in a spurt when he got called up,” the skipper said. “He did it from start to finish and you know its’ there. It’s a really reassuring feeling.”
Ramirez only got better when runners were in scoring position with two outs during the 2016 campaign, splitting .366/.423/.521 in 78 such plate appearances, driving in 31 RBI. It was such the case when he opened the game up with his 1st inning homer, though his second came with just one out.
The 8th inning big-fly was an opposite field job from the left-side, as were his two singles in the 3rd and 5th respectively.
Ramirez has now raised his early-season batting average to .341, and Francona cited the ability to spray the ball around as the reason for the righting of the ship.
“He took good swings all over the ballpark,” he said. “When you drive a ball the opposite way — you hear say me time and time again — when you drive the ball the other way, you’re doing a lot of fundamental things correctly.
“He’s got a lot of (Michael) Brantley in him from the left side. And as he knows the league, not necessarily sure that he’ll get stronger, and he might, but I think you’re going to see him do a little more damage just [with] his familiarity with what they’re trying to do to him. “
Pitch selection also had a lot to do with the big day, as Tigers pitchers worked him down, yet three of his four hits came on mistakes up in the zone.
As the sun set on Saturday’s offensive explosion, the “Jose, Jose, Jose” songs reached their pinnacle after building throughout the weekend.
Ramirez remained humble, saying the relationship with the fans is give-and-take.
“Sometimes it makes me laugh and other times it really motivates me because it feels really good to have their support,” he said. “The fans are really important to us and I want to give them something back for what they’ve given to me.”