Giménez perfect at plate as Guardians set tone early

Ramírez battles wind to hit 217th career HR, fifth-most for Cleveland all-time

March 30th, 2024

OAKLAND -- There’s been one mantra the Guardians’ offense has heard since the start of Spring Training: Impact the baseball.

From the outside, it’s a painfully obvious concept. But for an offense that was wired to put the bat on the ball and refuse to strike out, it’s an idea that was unintentionally shifted to the back burner. Instead of focusing so much on not whiffing -- and as a result, putting a ball in play weakly -- take a healthy hack at a pitch. Maybe that can push more runs across the plate in 2024.

For this to be the new standard, the Guardians need players to set this tone early and that’s exactly what did on Friday night by logging a 3-for-3 performance with two doubles, two RBIs and two walks in the Guardians’ 6-4 victory over the A’s at the Coliseum. It marks the first time Cleveland has started a season 2-0 since 2017.

“Gimé just continues to put together good at-bats,” Guardians manager Stephen Vogt said. “I know it’s been two games, but he had a great spring, as well. Gimé was the catalyst tonight.”

Five hours and one minute of baseball over the past two nights against one of the 29 other MLB teams is not enough to make any declarations about the offense. But still, the Guardians’ bats were impressive in the first two contests. The offense was the biggest question mark coming into the season. Now, there are a few reasons to be optimistic.

He is key to this offense’s success. In 2022, he was unstoppable in the first half of the season, easily earning his first All-Star Game appearance. With a hot Giménez, and in the heart of this lineup, the Guardians got to see just how far they could go. But as Naylor got hotter in 2023 and Ramírez delivered his typical performance, Giménez faded -- and the team’s results followed suit.

This is the smallest of all sample sizes so far, but seeing both of his doubles explode off the bat faster than 101 mph after having a season in which he ranked in the bottom 1 percent of the league in average exit velocity is certainly a strong foundation to build off of in 2024.

“He just looks balanced to me,” Vogt said. “He doesn’t look like he’s over-swinging at all. … He’s swinging at the right pitches right now and I think that’s the biggest thing.”

The big bats
There aren’t many power bats in this lineup, so when the Guardians have Ramírez and Naylor in the heart of the order, the pair are going to have to do a lot of the heavy lifting. They’ve proven over the past two years that it’s attainable, and in the first glance at 2024, nothing has changed.

After a double and a walk on Opening Day, Naylor went 2-for-5 with another two-base hit on Friday night. Ramírez started his season off with a triple on Thursday before setting the tone early in Game 2.

The wind was blowing in aggressively from right field. It seemed nearly impossible for anyone to muscle a ball through the gusts enough to creep over the fence. That was, until Ramírez did so in the first inning to move into sole possession of fifth place on Cleveland’s all-time home run list (217).

“Obviously, in that weather, it’s tough. It’s tough to see the ball. It’s tough to pick up spin,” Vogt said. “Josey is Josey, and I’m just thankful he’s hitting it.”

It’s not just the top of the order
The Guardians needed to see other hitters than just Naylor or Ramírez delivering out of the gate. So far, it’s been a collective effort. On Opening Day, eight of the nine starters logged at least one hit and the offense was carried by David Fry and Tyler Freeman, who is now getting everyday at-bats in center field.

“They hit left-handed pitching, and I think for us, that’s gonna be a big part of our game this year,” Vogt said. “To see us continue to put a rally together, scraping it together however we needed to and then getting some big hits at big times is what we’re going to need to do.”

The Guardians have given Cleveland reasons to be optimistic. They’ve shown they can impact the baseball. Now, they have to prove it’s sustainable.