‘He’s a menace’: J-Ram’s 20th multi-HR game keys win

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SAN DIEGO — The Guardians are MLB’s youngest team and are in the middle of a playoff race. That generally is a combination for a lot of high-stress games.

So a fairly stress-free afternoon delivered by the cornerstone of the franchise is a welcome thing, indeed.

Veteran third baseman Jos? Ram?rez set the tone Wednesday afternoon with his 20th career multi-homer game as Cleveland cruised to a 7-0 victory at Petco Park, completing a two-game Interleague sweep of the Padres.

“I’m glad he’s in our uniform every day because he plays the game right,” manager Terry Francona said. “He’s not always going to hit two home runs, but he shows up every day and gives you an honest effort.”

Ram?rez provided the Guardians’ first two runs with a solo homer in the first inning and another to lead off the fourth. Both came off former AL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell — the Padres’ hottest pitcher, who had his start bumped up after Yu Darvish hit the paternity list.

Ram?rez also logged a sacrifice fly in the seventh to cap a three-RBI game, boosting his season total to 103. His second homer sparked a five-run fourth inning, which gave starting pitcher Cal Quantrill a comfortable cushion against the team that traded him to Cleveland in 2020.

Consider Quantrill appreciative that Ram?rez is playing behind him rather than facing him at the plate.

“He’s a menace,” Quantrill said. “I don’t know how else to say it. He’s such an issue to deal with. There’s no clear scouting report on him. … For me, so much focus is going into getting a guy like him out that inevitably, the people around start to get better and better pitches to succeed.

“He’s just such a threat. You take your foot off the pedal, he hits two home runs. If he doesn’t hit home runs, he’s walking and stealing bases. He’s a complete player. I don’t have enough praise. He’s a top-five player in this sport. He’s a good leader on this team, and we’re happy to have him.”

Quantrill cruised through seven scoreless innings, allowing five hits and one walk while striking out six. Quantrill faced one serious threat — the Padres loaded the bases against him with two outs in the seventh inning — and he ended it by striking out Jorge Alfaro on an 0-2 curveball with his 99th and final pitch.

Quantrill said he didn’t think about pitching against his former club for the second time — or in Petco Park for the first time since the trade — but he punctuated that final out with a series of three fist pumps on his way to the dugout.

“Apparently, I really did care a lot,” Quantrill quipped.

In his fourth MLB season and 27 years old, Quantrill qualifies as a sage veteran on this ballclub. The Guardians have had 14 players make their MLB debut in 2022, and they are baseball’s youngest club among both position players (26.0 years old) and pitchers (26.4 years old), according to Baseball-Reference.com. Yet they lead the AL Central.

“I like the way we’re playing against playoff-caliber teams,” Quantrill said. “That’s a really good team over there. … That’s a team that’s in the playoff race, and we’re playing really good baseball against teams like that. That’s important.”

It is notable that both of Ram?rez’s homers came off the tough left-hander Snell. Before Wednesday, Ram?rez’s power swing had come mostly from the left side. He had 19 homers batting left-handed, one every 20 plate appearances. He had four batting right-handed, one for every 31 PAs.

But Ram?rez had an answer for each challenge presented by Snell, who had a 1.60 ERA in six second-half starts entering Wednesday. Snell told reporters he might have been tipping his pitches — and the Guardians saw plenty of them in a 43-pitch fourth inning.

With two outs in the first inning, Ram?rez took a fastball for a strike and swung through a second one. When Snell tried to bury another fastball inside, Ram?rez jumped on the 0-2 pitch and drove it 371 feet to left field, his 24th homer of the season.

To start the fourth, Ram?rez took a fastball for a strike, then saw two sliders as the count ran to 1-2. When Snell again showed Ram?rez the same pitch for the third straight time, the third baseman delivered the same result. Ram?rez golfed the low slider to left-center, clearing the wall with a 407-foot drive for home run No. 25.

“He’s smart, man,” Francona said. “His baseball intelligence is off the charts.”

Oscar Gonzalez went back to back with Ram?rez in the fourth, giving the Guardians five homers in the two-game series. It marked only the third time this year the Guardians — who rank 29th among all 30 MLB teams with 99 home runs — have hit at least five homers in a two-game span.