CLEVELAND -- For the first time this season, the Indians got a glimpse of their lineup without José Ramírez's name penciled into it. Unsurprisingly, the results weren’t favorable, as they fell to the Tigers, 7-1, in the nightcap of Wednesday’s seven-inning doubleheader.
“I was a little nervous coming into the second game because [Tigers starter Wily Peralta] is really tough on right-handed hitters,” manager Terry Francona said, “and without José’s presence, that’s a big difference for us and he kind of put a hurting on our right-handed hitters. I think we only had, the whole day, like, eight hits.”
Ramírez has been the heartbeat of Cleveland’s lineup all year, despite his recent offensive skid. His bat has started to show signs of heating up after his five-RBI game on Monday and his 18th homer of the year in Game 1 on Wednesday before he was pulled. And when Ramírez gets hot, the offense usually follows suit.
He’s homered in each of his past four home games, and he boasted a .375 average (15-for-40) with four homers and 17 RBIs in his previous 10 games at Progressive Field entering the twin bill. The first game of the doubleheader marked the Indians’ first loss of the year in a game in which Ramírez launched a homer and just the fourth defeat of 26 games in which he’s logged at least one RBI.
Needless to say, the Indians can’t afford to lose his bat. The offense followed his first-inning solo shot in the matinee, as Cesar Hernandez and Bobby Bradley each launched solo homers of their own (well, Bradley hit two). But the bats couldn’t overcome a five-run deficit. And without Ramírez in the lineup in Game 2, the offense was limited to just three hits and one run.
Although we were given a quick glimpse of this offense without Ramírez and Franmil Reyes (who should be activated from the injured list this weekend), the concern that this could be a trend at least was diminished when Ramírez popped back into Cleveland’s dugout in the middle of the second game. After fouling the pitch off his face in the matinee, he was looked at by the team’s medical staff on the field and remained in the game shortly before he was removed.
“It was super scary, especially in the moment,” Bradley said. “We didn't know if it hit the bat or if it went straight to his face or things like that. So we're just sitting there hoping for the best. Fortunately, he's OK.”
Ramírez was taken to Lutheran Hospital after the first game to be thoroughly evaluated and was cleared to return to the ballpark shortly after.
“He’s unbelievable,” Francona said. “He went over to Lutheran and got checked out and they said he was fine, which we thought, but we just needed to get him checked out. He got back about halfway through the game and he said, ‘I’m ready to go in.’”
The good news is the Indians were comfortable with letting him go back in. Francona explained the team was prepared to pinch-hit Ramírez for third baseman Yu Chang in the fourth inning with runners on first and second and René Rivera at the plate. If Rivera wouldn’t have made the last out of the inning, Ramírez would’ve come up to hit next.
“The kid’s unbelievable, man,” Francona reiterated.
The Indians will still likely need to see how Ramírez arrives at the ballpark on Thursday prior to the series opener against the Astros to make sure he’s progressing well, but with everyday players like Reyes, Shane Bieber, Zach Plesac, Aaron Civale and Roberto Pérez already on the injured list, it’s a positive sign that he appears to have avoided a serious injury for a team that cannot lose another star.
“We can't keep him away from the field,” Bradley said. “He wants to play and we love it.”