J-Ram’s aggressive baserunning evokes Cleveland’s playoff past

12:42 AM UTC

CLEVELAND — When you can only think of a handful of instances that a certain play has occurred in the past, you know it has to take some skill (and speed) to pull it off.

On October 17, 1995, Kenny Lofton scored from second base on a passed ball in Game 6 of the ALCS. Jason Kipnis did it on a wild pitch in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series. Maybe it was only a random June game when José Ramírez did it on Saturday, but in front of a sold-out crowd, you would’ve thought it was a playoff atmosphere.

Ramírez scored from second base on a wild pitch in the third inning, and it ended up being the deciding run in the Guardians’ 3-2 victory over the Nationals at Progressive Field. Cleveland’s winning streak at home is now nine straight games.

A splitter from Nationals starter Mitchell Parker bounced off of catcher Riley Adams and trickled toward Washington’s dugout. Parker took a split second to find the ball and then raced after it.

“There’s a lot of people who see that ball and they just kind of jog over to third, but he was sprinting right [away],” Guardians manager Stephen Vogt said.

Ramírez peeked up just as he got to third base and saw that the ball hadn’t been secured yet.

“Once I was about to step on the base, he was still chasing the ball,” Ramírez said through team interpreter Agustin Rivero. “So that’s when I realized I had a chance to make it.”

As he made the turn around third, half of the eyes in the park were on Ramírez. The other half were watching if the ball would go into the dugout.

“I was surprised how quiet the stadium was,” starter Ben Lively said, “and he’s just running because you anticipate like the, ‘OOH!’ and it was just silent.”

“I was watching the ball to see if it was going to go into the dugout and all of a sudden I see a blur come out of the corner of my eye and it was Josey,” Vogt said.

I was on deck during it,” DH Kyle Manzardo said, “and I was following the ball the whole time, so then I turned and saw the catcher throw it and I was like, ‘What? Like he’s about to score.’”

Ramírez hustled toward the plate and Adams turned to throw the ball to Parker, who was covering home.

“As soon as I’m seeing the pitcher or whoever is covering the base, I start to get an angle to get a better position to touch the plate,” Ramírez said.

From his wide turn in the grass in foul territory, Ramírez made a last-second leaping dive for the top of the plate, toward the pitcher’s mound, to avoid Parker’s tag.

“He just slides and everybody starts cheering and I was like, ‘Wow!’” Lively said with a chuckle.

Yes, Ramírez is a slugger who is leading the Majors in RBIs. But it’s these hustle moments that stand out the most. Over the last few seasons, the perception of Ramírez has been the same: If your best player is playing as hard as Ramírez does, the rest of the guys will follow suit.

“When you have a role model like that that’s mentoring you, that’s showing you the right way to play and work and do the right things, it’s going to rub off on you,” Vogt said. “And Josey does that for all of our players, even our veteran players.”

Ramírez trotted toward his dugout with a smirk on his face, unaware at the time that this run would be the difference in saving Lively’s stellar outing that was almost derailed by a miscue in right field in the fourth inning.

“I wish people could hear the dugout when he does some of the things he does,” Vogt said. “We are all wowed still every day by it. It’s incredible.”

Ramírez said he focused on losing weight this offseason to be faster this year. So far, Baseball Savant has him at the same average sprint speed as ‘23: 27.8 feet per second. But on this play, Ramírez was clocked at 29 feet per second.

“It’s not only instinct. It’s also speed,” Ramírez said. “You have to be fast to be able to do it.”

Just add Ramírez to a short list of Clevelanders who have pulled off this feat. Yet another historical list the Guardians’ All-Star finds his name on.

“I say it to … whoever will listen, I love watching that guy play,” Vogt said. “He never ceases to amaze me.”