CLEVELAND -- By the time Jose Ramirez grabbed a bat and found his way to the batter's box on Friday night, it was too late for the Indians. He came off the bench, rolled over a pitch for a game-ending groundout and that was that. The only fireworks that followed
CLEVELAND -- By the time Jose Ramirez grabbed a bat and found his way to the batter's box on Friday night, it was too late for the Indians. He came off the bench, rolled over a pitch for a game-ending groundout and that was that. The only fireworks that followed were of the planned postgame variety.
Long before the Indians' 5-0 loss to the Twins, Indians manager Terry Francona decided to give Ramirez the night off. The third baseman had certainly earned some time off his feet, but his absence -- combined with Michael Brantley sidelined while recovering from an ankle issue -- left Cleveland's lineup depleted against the team chasing the Tribe in the American League Central.
"You could tell he was dragging," Francona said of Ramirez before Friday's loss. "The kid has been on the bases a lot. The last couple days, I think he knew he probably needed one, but he was swinging the bat so well."
In the Tribe's previous 10 games, Ramirez churned out 24 hits, including 15 extra-base hits, posting a .522 average and 1.582 OPS in that span. He was one of the few Indians players to play all four games in a three-day span in Minneapolis last weekend, and Francona hesitated to remove his bat from the lineup given how locked in the switch-hitter was at the plate.
Francona felt Friday was an opportunistic time with the Twins sending lefty Adalberto Mejia to the mound. Utility man Erik Gonzalez -- a right-handed hitter -- filled in at third base and slotted into the No. 2 spot in the order. Ramirez was available off the bench, giving Twins manager Paul Molitor something to think about when making bullpen moves.
The results did not fall in line with Francona's reasoning.
Cleveland's offense, which averaged 7.6 runs per game over a recent 8-1 stretch, finished 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and 0-for-13 with runners on base in the defeat. Twice within the first four innings, Gonzalez struck out with the bases loaded. Overall, the Indians stranded 11 runners, including nine within the first four innings.
Beyond the absence of Ramirez and Brantley -- a pair of high-contact hitters -- Francona sat standout rookie outfielder Bradley Zimmer with the lefty starting. Outfielder Daniel Robertson (mired in an 0-for-24 slump prior to a single in the fourth) got the nod in left, pushing Austin Jackson to center. Like Ramirez, Zimmer entered the game late as a pinch-hitter, but those moves went for naught.
"When we got the runners on, we just weren't able to do anything," Francona said. "We started either chasing out of the zone or getting ourselves in a hole and weren't able to capitalize."
While the lineup did catch fire over the past nine games, hitting with runners in scoring position has been an issue for the Indians for most of the season. Heading into Friday's game, Cleveland ranked 23rd in baseball with RISP in weighted Runs Created Plus (90) and 24th in OPS (.740) and batting average (.242).
That said, the Indians hit .333 with a .975 OPS in 122 plate appearances with RISP over the last nine games.
"Our offense has been hitting the ball really well," Indians starter Trevor Bauer said. "It was just one of those nights where we couldn't come through."
And it was, in Francona's view -- a view that includes keeping the next four months of baseball in mind -- a good time to give Ramirez a breather.
"It's a good day to do it for him," said the manager. "It'll let him kind of get his legs back under him."
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.