J-Ram creates another birthday memory

September 17th, 2023

CLEVELAND — Who needs a birthday party when you can get yourself your own present?

Guardians designated hitter Jos? Ram?rez celebrated his 31st birthday in style, mashing a Statcast-projected 431-foot homer deep into the left-field bleachers to help lift Cleveland to a 9-2 victory over Texas on Sunday afternoon at Progressive Field.

Ram?rez hardly moved out of the batter’s box. He unleashed on a 91.5 mph heater at the top of the strike zone from Cody Bradford and admired the moonshot he sent well above the 19-foot wall in left. Ram?rez subtly flicked his bat underhanded toward the first-base dugout and began his trot around the basepaths.

At the time, the solo shot tied the game at 1. Little did Ram?rez know that he had opened up the Cleveland floodgates. Six consecutive base hits followed Ram?rez’s blast. After a Cam Gallagher strikeout, Steven Kwan knocked in the sixth run of the frame on a single before Ram?rez had a chance to bat again. This time, the slugger hit a hard ground ball to the pitcher and was thrown out, but not before plating another run. By the end of the inning, Ram?rez’s blast had sparked a nine-run frame — the most scored in an inning by the Guardians all season.

“I mean, seeing our top dog do that and kind of leading the charge, you can’t help but want to join that party,” Kwan said. “So maybe you get a little more confidence, a little more aggressive, but it was a good inning we had.”

Performing on his birthday is nothing new for Ram?rez. Sunday marked his fourth career birthday blast, which is the most by any player on his birthday in franchise history. In eight games played on Sept. 17, he owns a .333 average (11-for-33) with one double, four homers, two stolen bases and six walks.

Ram?rez’s homer landed just a handful of rows below the monstrous scoreboard in left field. It took one hop and bounced to a fan sitting in the top row. The 431 feet it traveled was the farthest homer hit by Ram?rez since Aug. 16, 2020 (434 feet), and it’s tied for his sixth-longest home run of his career.

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“He’s a baller,” Guardians starter Gavin Williams said. “He’s fun to play with, very exciting to play with.”

Ram?rez will always be the key to this offense. He has been the heartbeat of the lineup for the past handful of years, and the Guardians extended his contract because they believe he can continue to be for the foreseeable future. But he can’t do it alone, and that has become obvious this season.

With the protection of first baseman Josh Naylor’s hot bat behind him, Ram?rez sees better pitches. When Naylor is absent, it’s difficult for Ram?rez to get anything to hit. Here’s a breakdown of Ram?rez’s numbers before, during and after Naylor’s month-long stint on the injured list:

103 games before Naylor’s injury: .292 average, .871 OPS, 18 homers, 63 RBIs27 games during Naylor’s injury: .198 average, .636 OPS, three homers, eight RBIs14 games after Naylor’s injury: .321 average, 1.029 OPS, three homers, seven RBIs

This demonstrates that pitchers are becoming equally nervous to face Naylor as they already had been to face Ram?rez. That forces opponents to try to get Ram?rez out rather than pitch around him.

“It’s actually kind of cool when you start thinking, ‘OK, we got to protect Naylor because he’s turned into that kind of hitter,'” Guardians manager Terry Francona said. “He deserves that. That’s pretty cool.”

Ram?rez continues to move up Cleveland’s all-time home run leaderboard. With his tater on Sunday, he has 216 career homers, tying Carlos Santana and Hal Trosky for fifth most in club history.

“You can use any superlative just about you want and he checks that box,” Francona said. “That’s the kind of player he is.”