'Elite' J-Ram ends epic 10-pitch AB with go-ahead blast

May 5th, 2024

CLEVELAND -- The José Ramírez theorem is simple: The more pitches he sees in an at-bat, the more likely he is to hit a home run.

Just 10 days ago, Ramírez stole every headline after ending a 10-pitch at-bat with a grand slam. At the time, the hope was that the big blast would finally get the All-Star third baseman to see better results at the plate. Instead, it was the last extra-base hit he enjoyed until the sixth inning on Sunday.

Ramírez may have gone through an 0-for-19 stretch in that time, but this moment was well worth the wait. After trailing by one through the first five and a half innings, he beat Angels righty Griffin Canning on the 10th pitch of the at-bat by launching a go-ahead two-run homer that helped lift Cleveland to a 4-1 victory over Los Angeles in the rubber game at Progressive Field.

“He's one of the best hitters in baseball,” Angels manager Ron Washington said. “That’s American League and National League. And he got us. They got us the last two games with balls leaving the ballpark.”

Ramírez now has five homers in plate appearances with at least 10 pitches. Only one other Cleveland player has even two such homers since pitch counts began being tracked in 1988: Casey Blake. Only three Major League players have more than four of these home runs: Todd Helton (eight), Paul Konerko (seven) and Paul Goldschmidt (six).

“He does everything extremely well,” said Guardians first baseman Josh Naylor, who added a two-run homer of his own in the eighth. “We’re blessed to have him as a teammate, all of us. We appreciate his game and we all try to learn from him a lot and use little parts of his game and add to ours as individuals.”

Ramírez’s teammates are trying to help him learn, too. Guardians starter Carlos Carrasco saw tendencies with Canning.

“I told him that pretty much that guy was attacking every pitch with the slider, up a little bit in the zone,” Carrasco said.

That’s exactly what Ramírez saw. He fell behind 0-1 in the count on a slider in the dirt. A changeup out of the zone evened the count, 1-1. But Ramírez was prepared for that slider and fouled off two of those offerings in the next two pitches.

“Even with the at-bat with Hosey, it didn’t start off very pretty,” Guardians manager Stephen Vogt said, “but he battled and battled and battled, gained information and then got a mistake and didn’t miss it. That’s what elite players do.”

Pitch No. 5 was a fastball that Ramírez fouled off before he sat on two sliders out of the zone to force a 3-2 count. Ramírez fouled off a changeup and a slider before he got a heater over the outside corner of the plate that he sent into the right-center-field seats.

“He was fouling off sliders and he was fouling off changeups,” Canning said. “So I just felt like I needed to show him something different.”

“He never misses that fastball,” Carrasco said.

The homer was exactly what Ramírez needed to try to bust out of the bad-luck slump he’s fallen into. He’s had hard-hit balls in the last handful of games, but has walked away with nothing to show for it. But it was an even bigger moment for the Guardians, who were hoping to take the series after falling to Atlanta and Houston.

These are the moments that Ramírez has always been built for, regardless of how he’s done in his recent contests. Sunday's home run marked his 86th career go-ahead blast, which tied him with Larry Doby for the most in franchise history (since 1912) ahead of Jim Thome’s 85.

“It's tough,” Angels catcher Matt Thaiss said. “I mean, I think he's like a top three hitter in the game. He’s really, really good from both sides of the plate. He knows what he's doing. You just have to keep battling with him and Griff did that for 10 pitches. He got us there and won that one.”

When Ramírez walked back to the dugout, he didn’t forget about his conversation with Carrasco before the at-bat.

“After the homer, he just came to me and [said], ‘I did that for you,’” Carrasco said with a grin. “I was so glad. Those guys, they play hard. Every time when we go out there, they just play hard and it’s fun to watch.”