ST. PETERSBURG -- Jose Ramirez kept his eyes fixed on the ball as it soared deep to left field Wednesday afternoon. The towering drive avoided Tropicana Field's catwalks and kept carrying over the wall for a home run, ending the Tribe slugger's prolonged power outage.
Ramirez's seventh-inning shot also helped the Indians sidestep history.
The blast halted left-hander Blake Snell's bid at the second no-hitter in Rays history, but it was not enough to stop the Indians from absorbing a 3-1 loss to wrap up the three-game series. With the defeat, Cleveland's magic number remains at three, meaning the earliest the club can clinch the American League Central crown is Friday.
"We've all seen it. You know it's there," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Ramirez's power. "And you know he's going to get hot. Especially off a guy like [Snell], that'll do him some good."
Snell, who padded his AL Cy Young Award case by improving to 19-5 with a 2.03 ERA on the year, held the Indians to an 0-for-18 showing before Ramirez broke through in the seventh. The Indians second baseman received a 3-2 curveball over the heart of the plate and subsequently crushed it for his 38th homer of the season.
That marked Ramirez's first homer since Aug. 17, when he went deep in the first inning against the Orioles. Between blasts, the switch-hitter hit .159 (14-for-88) with a .205 slugging percentage in 107 plate appearances.
"That's always good to see," Indians outfielder Brandon Guyer said of Ramirez ending his home-run drought. "You know he's going to come out of whatever he's going through. And to hit a home run off one of the best pitchers in the game, that's always good."
Ramirez's shot was the lone blemish on Snell's line, which included nine strikeouts, two walks and 104 pitches. The lefty entered the afternoon with a 1.54 ERA in his past 18 turns for Tampa Bay and kept that roll going. Snell showed his fastball enough, but focused more on using his curveball (in and out of the zone) and changeup (nine balls in play) to generate swing-and-misses and induce weak contact.
Overall, Snell featured 59 curves and changeups combined, compared to 41 fastballs.
"He mixed it up really good," Guyer said. "If he got behind, really in any count, he could throw his offspeed and throw it for strikes, or for the most part, make it look like strikes and go out of the zone. It's hard to lay off it.
"So, when you have a good fastball like that, obviously, as a hitter you want to hit that pitch if you get it. But, he was mixing it up really well. So, you've just got to tip your cap, man. He was on his game today."
That performance put the magnifying glass over any mistakes made by Indians starter Carlos Carrasco, who worked seven innings and was hung with the loss. The righty allowed three runs, including two on a first-pitch home run by Ji-Man Choi in the first.
"He ends up going seven and giving up three," Francona said. "It just seemed like more, just because of the way their guy was throwing."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Pham's rally-starting scorcher: After Carrasco opened his outing with two quick outs, Tommy Pham got the Rays' offense going by pulling a 2-1 pitch to the left side of the infield. Per Statcast™, the loud grounder had an exit velocity of 109.5 mph, and third baseman Erik Gonzalez was unable to glove the ball cleanly. Pham reached with an infield single and Choi followed with his two-run homer off Carrasco.
Donaldson comes up empty: The Indians emptied their bench in an effort to get something going against reliever Chaz Roe in the eighth. Pinch-hitter Greg Allen was called out on strikes, but then Yonder Alonso (also pinch-hitting) drew a one-out walk. That led to the Tribe sending slugger Josh Donaldson in to pinch-hit for Gonzalez. Donaldson pulled a pitch from Roe to third baseman Joey Wendle, who started a 5-4-3 double play to end the threat.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
With no outs and a runner on first in the fifth, Mallex Smith sent a sharp grounder up the middle. The ball seemed destined for center field, but shortstop Francisco Lindor had other ideas. Lindor ranged to his left and dove to snare the grounder. In one smooth motion, the shortstop then flipped the baseball with his glove to Ramirez, who stepped on second for a highlight-reel forceout.
HE SAID IT
"He's extremely intelligent about how teams are pitching him and what they're trying to do to him. He's just had a little bit of a lull here, but he'll get going again. He can hit any pitch. It's not like he can't hit a certain pitch or he can't get to a fastball. He'll be fine." -- Francona, on Ramirez's recent slump
"He commanded all his pitches. His breaking ball is just almost devastating. And he's throwing his fastball through the glove better -- certainly better than he did before. And it'll continue to get better." -- Francona, on Andrew Miller's scoreless eighth inning
Carrasco has received two runs or fewer of support in all nine of his losses this season. He's received one run or fewer of support in six of those outings. Carrasco has gone 13-0 this season when gifted with at least three runs of support.
Following a team off-day Thursday, Donaldson is expected to return to the Tribe's lineup in the opener of a weekend series against the Tigers at 7:10 p.m. ET on Friday at Progressive Field. Righty Josh Tomlin (1-5, 6.63 ERA) is slated to start for Cleveland. Left-hander Matthew Boyd will start for Detroit.