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J-Ram ties JD with 33rd HR, lifts Tribe to win

MLB.com @MLBastian

CLEVELAND -- Jose Ramirez spent the first five pitches of his first-inning at-bat on Sunday afternoon watching what Angels starter Deck McGuire had to offer. On the sixth, the Indians slugger finally swung, and he did damage in the process.

Ramirez crushed a full-count pitch from McGuire out to right field for his 33rd home run of the season, giving the Indians a lead that they would not relinquish in a 4-3 win at Progressive Field. The blast pulled Ramirez even with Boston's J.D. Martinez for the Major League lead in homers and gave him an MLB-leading 12 big flies in the first inning this year.

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CLEVELAND -- Jose Ramirez spent the first five pitches of his first-inning at-bat on Sunday afternoon watching what Angels starter Deck McGuire had to offer. On the sixth, the Indians slugger finally swung, and he did damage in the process.

Ramirez crushed a full-count pitch from McGuire out to right field for his 33rd home run of the season, giving the Indians a lead that they would not relinquish in a 4-3 win at Progressive Field. The blast pulled Ramirez even with Boston's J.D. Martinez for the Major League lead in homers and gave him an MLB-leading 12 big flies in the first inning this year.

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"He's a special hitter," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "Some guys kind of warm into the game. He's dangerous right from the very first pitch."

The three-run shot by Ramirez gave rookie starter Shane Bieber the support he needed in helping guide the American League Central-leading Indians (61-49) to the win column. Cleveland took two out of three in the series against Los Angeles, improving to 34-22 at home in the process.

Video: LAA@CLE: Francona on Bieber's outing in 4-3 victory

Ramirez's 12 first-inning home runs are the most in one campaign in Indians history, surpassing the 11 first-inning blasts by Al Rosen in 1953. On the season, Ramirez now has an MLB-high 30 RBIs and a .684 slugging percentage in the first frame for the Indians, whose 81 first-inning runs are the most in the American League.

McGuire -- promoted from Triple-A Salt Lake before Sunday's game as a replacement starter for Tyler Skaggs -- worked to an 0-2 count on Ramirez with a curveball and slider. The Tribe's All-Star third baseman then spit on a pair of curveballs in the dirt and took an inside fastball. McGuire's 3-2 offering was a four-seamer that stayed over the heart of the plate, where it found Ramirez's barrel.

Video: LAA@CLE: Indians on 4-3 win against the Angels

Prior to Ramirez's blast, which had a 103.8-mph exit velocity and traveled a projected 423 feet per Statcast™, McGuire allowed a leadoff single to Francisco Lindor and walked Michael Brantley. Following Ramirez's homer, McGuire hit two batters, allowed a single and recorded one out before being pulled from the game by Angels manager Mike Scioscia.

Cleveland managed one more offensive breakthrough -- Jason Kipnis delivered an RBI double in the sixth -- and Bieber and the bullpen took care of the rest.

Video: LAA@CLE: Kipnis knocks in Guyer on double to left

"It helps a ton," Bieber said of the early runs. "They've been doing that a lot for me."

Over 5 2/3 innings, Bieber limited the Angels to two runs on seven hits, finishing with seven strikeouts and one walk in the victory. Both runs came in the fifth inning, when Kole Calhoun connected for an RBI triple off the wall in left-center field and came around to score on a single by Shohei Ohtani.

The Cleveland relief corps navigated around some traffic across the seventh and eighth innings, but it halted the Halos at each turn. In the ninth, newly acquired closer Brad Hand allowed one run, but held on to pick up his 27th save (third with the Indians).

Video: LAA@CLE: Hand K's Fletcher to secure the 4-3 win

"The fact that we got that many guys and put that much pressure on them was good," Scioscia said. "We had some opportunities to get back early in the game and couldn't do it."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Melk man delivers: Tribe right fielder Melky Cabrera had the Cleveland crowd on its feet in the third inning, when he made a pair of impressive catches. First, Cabrera made a lunging grab at his shoetops to rob Jefry Marte of a would-be single. Then, the right fielder used a sliding catch to take a hit away from Calhoun. After that second defensive gem, his home audience offered a rousing standing ovation.

Cabrera wasn't done, either. In the fourth, he chased down a deep drive by Ohtani for a leaping catch on the warning track in right-center.

"He was all over the place," Francona said with a chuckle. "That was kind of cool to hear the way they responded to it, too. He did a good job."

Video: LAA@CLE: Cabrera makes 3 flashy plays against Angels

Cabrera said his teammates were joking around with him about how he landed on the catches in the third inning.

"Yeah, they were messing around with me a little bit, because of the way that I fell," Cabrera said via team translator Will Clements. "But they were all congratulating me. We've got a good team makeup in that sense, and we were happy to get the win."

Allen's escape: Cleveland's bullpen slipped into a bases-loaded jam in the seventh, which began with sidearmer Adam Cimber hitting Jose Briceno with a pitch. Lefty Andrew Miller took over and recorded an out, but then he allowed a single and hit a batter of his own (Ohtani) to load them up. At that juncture, Francona turned to Cody Allen, who induced an infield flyout (Andrelton Simmons) and generated a groundout (David Fletcher) to preserve the Tribe's 4-2 lead.

Video: LAA@CLE: Allen escapes jam in 7th, hurls clean 8th

"It wasn't exactly like we drew it up," Allen said. "But I felt like the way their lineup shook out and the guys we have down there, it fit perfectly to kind of go in that order. I was able to come in, make a couple pitches and get out of that inning and then get through the eighth, set it up perfectly for Brad right there."

SOUND SMART
Bieber improved to 6-2 with the win over the Angels, making him the sixth pitcher in Indians history with at least six victories in his first 10 career appearances. The others on that list include Luis Tiant (seven), Herb Score (six), CC Sabathia (six), Vean Gregg (six) and Gene Bearden (six).

Video: LAA@CLE: Bieber punches out Cowart to strand 2

Ramirez's 65 extra-base hits are the most through 110 games for a Cleveland batter since 1995 (Albert Belle, 72). Ramirez's 33 homers are the most through 110 games for a Tribe batter since 2006 (Travis Hafner, 33).

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
With runners on the corners and one out in the second, Edwin Encarnacion drove a pitch from reliever Taylor Cole on a sharp line to center fielder Eric Young Jr. Lindor tagged up at third and tried to score on the play, but Ramirez strayed too far from first. After making the catch, Young fired the ball to first base to double up Ramirez.

Video: LAA@CLE: Young Jr. prevents run on overturned call

Initially, it was ruled that Lindor crossed the plate before the third out was recorded. The Angels challenged that call, which was overturned after a replay review, removing a run from the board for Cleveland.

UP NEXT
Right-hander Trevor Bauer (10-6, 2.34 ERA) is scheduled to start on Monday, when the Indians host the Twins in the opener of a four-game set at 7:10 p.m. ET at Progressive Field. Bauer has spun a 2.02 ERA in his past 15 turns for the Tribe. Minnesota will counter with righty Kyle Gibson (5-8, 3.47 ERA).

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.

Cleveland Indians, Shane Bieber, Jason Kipnis, Jose Ramirez