CHICAGO -- Over the weekend, Indians manager Terry Francona talked about the possibility of José Ramírez returning to the Tribe’s lineup on Tuesday at Guaranteed Rate Field: “He says right now, he feels better than he did when he got checked in New York. They gave him some kind of
CHICAGO -- Over the weekend, Indians manager Terry Francona talked about the possibility of José Ramírez returning to the Tribe’s lineup on Tuesday at Guaranteed Rate Field: “He says right now, he feels better than he did when he got checked in New York. They gave him some kind of a little splint, and he hit two home runs that day.”
Ramírez wasn’t lying about just how good he felt.
On Aug. 24, Ramírez fractured his right hamate bone and was expected to be sidelined until at least a potential American League Wild Card Game. On Sept. 24, he was activated off the injured list to face the White Sox and launched a grand slam in his first at-bat before hitting a three-run shot in the third to propel the Indians to an 11-0 victory at Guaranteed Rate Field.
• Box score
“Unbelievable,” Francona said. “I can’t tell you what I told [bench coach Brad Mills] before the second one, but he hit that ball like … that’s unbelievable. I mean seven RBIs in his first two at-bats, and he had surgery and hasn’t played in a month, that’s unbelievable.”
All concerns that a month off would cause Ramírez to be rusty were eliminated with two swings of the bat. The Indians loaded the bases with two outs in the first inning, and Ramírez delivered with a grand slam down the right-field line off White Sox right-hander Carson Fulmer to give the Tribe an early 4-0 lead.
“Super, super happy,” Ramírez said through interpreter Agustin Rivero. “It was great to be back with the guys and helping in any way I can, and I was really happy to be there.”
• Grand slam means 30% off pizza
Roberto Pérez hit a solo homer in the second, and Ramírez flexed his muscles yet again -- this time, right-handed -- in the third, hitting a 416-foot long ball against left-hander Hector Santiago to extend Cleveland’s lead to 8-0. It was the fourth time in his career he’s homered from both sides of the plate, and his seven RBIs are a career high.
“I couldn’t believe it, because we’ve been playing for a month and [I haven’t] hit a home run, and he’s coming in hitting two homers, one to the left side and one to the right side,” outfielder Yasiel Puig said. “Seven RBIs, that’s amazing and I’m happy for him.”
Ramírez became the fifth member of the Tribe in club history to hit a grand slam and a three-run homer in the same game, joining teammate Francisco Lindor (July 2, 2018), Manny Ramirez (Sept. 24, 1999), Vic Wertz (Sept. 14, 1957) and Pat Seerey (July 13, 1945).
According to STATS, the 27-year-old also became the first Indians player with at least seven RBIs in the first three innings of a game since Wertz in 1957.
"He's probably one of the better players in the American League, if not in the game,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “Came back rather quickly from that [hamate], maybe three or four weeks. Shows you how special he is. He's a really good player and obviously took advantage of a couple of at-bats there that hurt us. I'm sure they're glad to have him back."
After checking off all the necessary boxes to return to action, Ramírez picked up right where he left off in August after hitting .325 with a 1.045 OPS over his previous 53 games before the injury with a slightly altered bat.
“It’s the same model I was using before,” Ramírez said. “They just made a little adjustment with the handle just to make it a little easier on my hand.”
Ramírez said before the game that his wrist doesn’t quite feel perfect yet just four weeks after having surgery, but it didn’t seem to affect his performance. When he returned to the dugout after each homer, he told his teammates to “be nice” and “be kind” when giving him high fives.
“It’s a reality, I’m not 100 percent yet,” Ramirez said, “but when I go there, I don’t think about anything and I try to do my best, and that’s what I tried to do tonight.”
Despite recording their 16th shutout of the season and winning their seventh in their last eight games, the Indians were unable to gain ground in the American League Wild Card standings due to the Rays’ 2-1 walk-off win over the Yankees in 12 innings. Cleveland remained a half-game behind Tampa Bay. Oakland lost on Tuesday, though, so the Indians are within one game of the top Wild Card spot.
• Wild Card standings
“Well, I think they know the importance of these games,” Francona said. “We have to win. I mean, there’s no getting around that. You know, nobody is ready to go home yet, so we got to keep winning.”
Mandy Bell covers the Indians for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MandyBell02.