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Fans started lining up outside of Progressive Field three hours before first pitch on Saturday afternoon to make sure they scored a Ram?rez bobblehead. Little did they know he’d provide more than just one souvenir. Two Ram?rez blasts helped lead the Guardians to a 10-0 drubbing of the Tigers.
“He’s just a really good player,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said, of Ram?rez. “It doesn’t matter if it’s on the bases, or wherever. He impacts the game everywhere for us. Sometimes, in a really big way.”
Ram?rez hadn’t looked like himself over the past three weeks. Since June 27, he had hit .227 with a .653 OPS, eight RBIs and just one homer entering Saturday. He racked up all seven of those RBIs in his past eight games and had just one in the 21 games prior to that. Maybe it seemed like an odd time to commit to the Derby when the timing of his swing seemed a little bit off. But just as he gives anyone any reason to doubt him, he’s always quick to right the ship.
Ram?rez took his first swings against his Derby pitcher, Junior Betances, prior to Saturday’s matchup to start his preparation for Monday’s showdown. After his batting practice session, he told local media members he was leaning toward hitting right-handed in the Derby, but maybe the two swings he took on Saturday from the other side of the plate will change his mind.
The American League RBI leader did his thing once again. Two swings brought two homers from the left side of the plate against Detroit righty Michael Pineda, and suddenly Ram?rez had logged his 19th career multi-homer game and ninth career contest with at least five RBIs. Only three Cleveland players have had more games with at least five RBIs in franchise history, including Manny Ramirez (17 games), Earl Averill (12) and Hal Trosky (10).
And while we’re talking about RBI records, Ram?rez reached 75 RBIs with one game remaining in the first half of the regular season. He’s already become just the fourth player in club history to log 75 or more RBIs prior to the All-Star break, joining Manny Ramirez (96 RBIs in 1999), Juan Gonzalez (83 RBIs in 2001) and Albert Belle (76 RBIs in 1994).
“He’s one of the most elite players. Fun player, energy, body language, production,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “That’s why they signed him. He’s a problem when you’re on the other side because of how good he is, and he can handle both sides of the plate. We’ve got to figure out getting the guys out in front of him. When we swept them last week, we got the guys out in front of him and left him no opportunity.”
If solidifying his spot in Monday’s slugfest wasn’t enough, Ram?rez did a little extra against the Tigers to prove his well-rounded skill set is more than enough to earn his fourth All-Star Game bid. Ram?rez put on a defensive clinic behind Guardians starter Cal Quantrill. A chopper from Harold Castro down the third-base line became an opportunity for Ram?rez to make a highlight-reel play, backhanding the ball and throwing off-balance to second to end the third inning. Two frames later, he handled a short hop to his backhand with ease as he charged toward the grass and fired across the diamond to throw out Javier B?ez.
“We’re spoiled as a team,” Quantrill said. “Jos? continues to work every day at being a good defender. And again, if he’s willing to do it, then I think everyone’s willing to do it. Today, he made a couple of really good plays. Yeah, I think it’s probably the most underappreciated part of his game, but that’s only because he’s doing everything else so well.”