J-Ram's All-Star pedigree lifts Guards on and off the field

July 10th, 2024

DETROIT -- Yet again, the Guardians are the youngest team in baseball. It’s a blend of rookie prospects and many players who have just a couple years of experience under their belts. That’s why someone like José Ramírez is essential for this clubhouse.

Ramírez, the 12-year veteran, is not only a leader in the clubhouse or a threat to opposing pitchers in the box, he’s also the person who consistently steps up when his team needs him most. Like a true All-Star does. And he’s paving the way for other All-Stars to develop alongside him.

We saw all of this in front of us in the Guardians’ 9-8, extra-inning victory over the Tigers at Comerica Park on Tuesday night. Ramírez, Josh Naylor and Steven Kwan – three of the players being sent to the All-Star Game next week – each had three-hit nights to help salvage a win on a night that momentum desperately was trying to steer in the opposite direction.

“[Ramírez] got some pitches to hit and didn’t miss them,” Guardians manager Stephen Vogt said. “And Nayls continues to come up clutch in these big moments and Kwanie again at the top getting us going. .. Everybody contributed tonight. These are the best kind of nights.”

So many critical wins come back to Ramírez. This is a game that started with (what seemed to be) a comfortable six-run lead for the Guardians, but was almost one of their worst losses of the season after a shaky sixth inning caused the game to be tied at 7. After a quieter week, going 4-for-28 (.143 batting average) in his last seven games, Ramírez picked up two singles and a double in three at-bats against Detroit.

“It’s funny because he’s done it to himself where if he has a couple games where he struggles, everyone’s saying, ‘What’s going on with Josey?’” Vogt said. “But he looked like himself tonight.”

It doesn’t matter what Ramírez has done in his recent games or at-bats. Opponents know he’s always a threat. That’s why when first base was open in his next three plate appearances, the Tigers decided to intentionally walk him ... all three times. This was the first time a Cleveland batter had been intentionally walked at least three times in a game since Jim Thome in May 1998.

"That's a lot, but that tells you what I think about Ramírez,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “We see them a lot in this division, so it's pretty clear I didn't want José Ramírez to factor in very much."

Hinch was clear in his explanation that the decisions to walk Ramírez had nothing to do with Naylor, who hits after him in the cleanup spot. But if you’re going to have to choose between the two, some nights Naylor seems to be the lesser of two evils. On Tuesday, it was a lose-lose situation.

Naylor hit a homer and was responsible for the go-ahead run in the 10th inning on an RBI single to center field. That single moved Kwan, who recorded his third single of the night to start the 10th, to third base, easily setting up Brayan Rocchio for the deciding sacrifice fly.

“Kwanie getting a base hit there, getting himself on base,” Vogt said, “that’s what really got the inning going and now we got two guys for the heart of our order.”

One of those guys in the heart of the order is Ramírez. He’s in the heart of the order and is the heart of this team. He’s the guy everyone looks up to, to learn how to properly play this game. And he’s always the guy Minor Leaguers talk about being excited to play alongside when they reach the big leagues. Angel Martínez is no different.

Martínez has been hitting in the No. 2 spot, behind Kwan and in front of Ramírez. He, like everyone else, is soaking up everything he can from the 12-year veteran. Martínez certainly showed some power like Ramírez, blasting his first career homer in the first inning before getting celebrated by his teammates postgame in the clubhouse.

Ramírez helps cultivate a culture that allows young players to thrive. He’s the guy the coaching staff relies on to help set the tone for how to be a hard-working Major Leaguer. And every young player in the room knows they’re spoiled by having Ramírez as their teammate.

“One of the best guys I’ve ever seen play,” Guardians starter Ben Lively said. “His energy in the locker room too, especially with the young guys and just leading them. They’re in great hands.”