The Indians were about to be a game under .500 again on Sunday, down five runs to the Astros in the ninth at Progressive Field. Then, Jose Ramirez came to the plate against Ken Giles. The beauty of sports is always that the next moment is the one that changes
The Indians were about to be a game under .500 again on Sunday, down five runs to the Astros in the ninth at Progressive Field. Then, Jose Ramirez came to the plate against Ken Giles. The beauty of sports is always that the next moment is the one that changes everything. The game between the Indians and the Astros was about to change in this moment between Ramirez and Giles. And, who knows, maybe the Indians' season began to change, too.
Giles got ahead of Ramirez, 1-2. Then, he threw ball two. Ramirez then fouled off the next four pitches, three of them fastballs, all thrown over 98 mph.
Giles missed with a slider, and now the count was 3-2.
It was here that Ramirez was able to foul off seven straight two-strike pitches against Giles. Seven. The game still wasn't a great drama. But Giles against Ramirez now was in Cleveland. Nobody knew the Indians were about to come all the way back. This still looked like another losing game for them in what had been a 25-25 season. They were down some pitchers. Had the worst record of any division leader in the sport.
But Ramirez was about to bring the Indians back from five runs down the way they came back from 5-1 down against the White Sox the very next day.
Finally on the 17th pitch he saw from Giles, still the closer for the defending World Series champions, Ramirez doubled.
Tribe manager Terry Francona: "There are so many things that go into that. But without that ... that was an incredible at-bat. It change the whole inning because they ended up having to go [back] to the bullpen just because of the pitch count. There were a lot of things that happened that were incredible, or we don't win."
It is worth mentioning that when Giles got to 17 pitches on Ramirez, it meant he had thrown more pitches to Ramirez than he had thrown in any appearance he had made all season.
Ramirez after the game, through the Indians' interpreter:
"When I first started the at-bat, I was just trying to put the ball in play ... Thank God I was able to put the ball in play."
It wasn't so terribly long ago that the Indians were as much of a favorite to make the 2017 World Series as the Astros were. They had won 22 games in a row at one point in the regular season. So maybe this was their year one year after the Cubs had beaten them in the '16 Series and made it their year. Then, Corey Kluber got hurt and the Indians blew an American League Division Series to the Yankees after leading it 2-0. Now, they were a .500 team, about to go a game under.
Until Ramirez came to the plate against Giles in the bottom of the ninth, the day before Memorial Day. He got a hit and the Indians kept hitting and before long the game was tied at 8.
Ramirez was asked later about waking his team up with his amazing at-bat against Giles: "I looked in the dugout. Everyone was smiling and laughing a little bit. But it was definitely a key part. It motivated all of us and everybody was anxious to get their turn after that, because there were a lot of pitches and it helped get us going."
He was asked if he got tired fouling off all those two-strike pitches and this is what Ramirez said about that:
"I wasn't really tired. I was so concentrated on looking for a pitch that I could drive. Thankfully when I got that pitch, I was able to drive it. But I didn't get tired because I was so focused on that."
Indians right-hander Zach McAllister: "We look up and it's still 17 pitches. We're like, 'Oh man, he doesn't have any outs' or whatever, and [Ramirez] is still hitting. ... We're not going to give up or give up any at-bats, no matter what the score is."
They would get behind later, the Indians would, when Evan Gattis homered for the Astros in the top of the 13th. But then, Yonder Alonso hit one of his own in the bottom of the inning. It was 9-9. Greg Allen hit one for the Indians in the bottom of the 14th. They won a game they had no business winning, 10-9. And maybe, just maybe, turned a season around.
Allen: "[Ramirez] grinding that out, that set the table for the rest to come."
Astros manager AJ Hinch: "It's a big at-bat and it's so rare to have an at-bat that long, and it also takes our closer out of the game."
This season has looked so little like last season for the Indians. They haven't been as good as the Astros, or the Red Sox, or the Yankees, in their league. But they are in an AL Central Division that is softer than soft ice cream. They are being given time to remember who they were last season. They came from behind a lot. They did on Sunday. They did again on Monday. Ramirez got another hit, scored another run. Two games over .500 now. Whatever good is about to happen for them began to happen with Jose Ramirez. Guy had a moment.
Mike Lupica is a columnist for MLB.com. He also writes for the New York Daily News.