Without Ram?rez, Guardians held to 2 hits

51 minutes ago

LOS ANGELES — Guardians manager Terry Francona summed this situation up perfectly before Saturday’s matchup against the Dodgers: “When [Jos? Ram?rez] isn’t in there, our lineup, obviously, doesn’t look as good.”

There’s nothing surprising about his statement. Ram?rez has been one of the best hitters in the Majors and for the first time this year, the Guardians had to navigate a game without him in the lineup due to right thumb soreness. And without his bat — or at the very least, the threat of his bat — in the order, the offense failed to pick up any steam, resulting in a 7-1 loss to Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium.

It didn’t help that Guardians starter Cal Quantrill had his rockiest outing of the season, giving up five runs on 10 hits in five frames, as his struggles against the Dodgers continued (a career 7.79 ERA against them). But even if he would’ve had a stellar start, it would’ve been difficult for Cleveland’s offense to pick him up. The bats were limited to just an infield single from Oscar Gonzalez and a double by Amed Rosario — the fewest number of hits the Guardians have recorded in a game this season.

No matter how much of an impact player Ram?rez has proven to be over the last few seasons, there’s no saying that his presence on Saturday would’ve created a different outcome. But having the threat of him in the lineup causes pitchers to have to strategize differently. Guys who hit around him would’ve seen different pitches because opponents don’t want to give Ram?rez anything good to hit. And from there, the domino effect can occur. But maybe, Dodgers starter Julio Ur?as would’ve been just as impressive regardless of who he faced.

“I mean, don’t get me wrong, Josey is Josey,” Francona said. “But I mean, the Dodgers are missing bats. That guy pitched really well. That’s what it was. That’s more what it was.”

But let’s take a second to recognize the void that Ram?rez leaves in this lineup – even if he’s out for just one game. He currently boasts a nine-game hitting streak, hitting .432 (16-for-37) with 10 extra-base hits, nine RBIs and eight runs scored during that span. Not to mention the fact that he still leads the American League in RBIs (62) this season. On top of his skillset, the Guardians are missing one of the few veterans on the active roster, making it difficult to find the spark plug to lead the offense.

“I mean, that’s a huge guy to not have in the lineup,” Guardians infielder Owen Miller said. “Guys got to pick up some of the slack there and just really focus on that. But yeah, it’s tough obviously when he’s not in there because he means a lot to our lineup. And a lot of times, the way he’s going, that’s kind of how our lineup is going. If he’s hitting well, a lot of other guys are hitting well and getting on base and scoring runs.”

If Ram?rez is only out for a game, it’s not detrimental to the hot streak the Guardians have found themselves in. Even after Saturday’s loss, the team has won 14 of its last 18 contests, dating back to May 30. Without Ram?rez, it’s going to be harder for Cleveland to lock up its sixth consecutive series win on Sunday. But that’s not the biggest problem the Guardians have to worry about.

The club didn’t have high expectations to be a playoff contender in 2022. But the youngest team in baseball has started to catch some unexpected attention, racking up wins with its scrappy, small-ball approach. The fear becomes whether this right thumb contusion will be a lingering problem for the Guardians’ star player, who will undoubtedly be the biggest producer for this lineup if they continue to climb the division and Wild Card rankings.

“Yeah, his presence in the lineup itself makes everyone better,” Guardians backstop Austin Hedges said. “But we have confidence in every single guy, whether with him or not, and I thought we definitely could’ve done a better job against Ur?as today. But just a game and we have an opportunity to win the series [on Sunday] against a really good team.”

“If we don’t have [Ram?rez on Sunday],” Miller said, “we’re just going to have to bear down and have good at-bats and try to figure out ways to score runs.”