J-Ram keeping heat on J.D., belts 36th homer

Ramirez goes deep in 3rd straight to pull within one of MLB lead

August 15th, 2018

CINCINNATI -- Every time it looks like Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez is pulling away atop the home run leaderboard, seems to fight his way up the chart. The Indians third baseman was at it again on Tuesday night at Great American Ball Park.

Ramirez powered the Tribe offense in an 8-1 rout of the Reds with three hits, three runs and his 36th home run of the season for the American League Central-leading Indians. That gave Ramirez three homers in his past three games, pulling him one behind Martinez for the Major League lead.

Asked if he has paid attention to Martinez's home run total, Ramirez smirked.

"That's not really in my head," Ramirez said, via team interpreter Will Clements. "Any time that I go to the plate, I try to just get good pitches and put good swings on it, and if the ball goes out, then it goes out. I really hope that J.D. hits 200 home runs this year."

And if that were possible, would Ramirez try to hit 201?

"300," he quipped.

Indians manager Terry Francona joked that the Reds found Ramirez's weakness on Monday night, when utility man took the mound for the first time in his career and struck out the Tribe's powerful slugger. Consider that a momentary lapse for the Indians' MVP candidate.

On Tuesday, the Reds struggled to contain Ramirez, whose homer off Reds reliever in the sixth inning capped off the All-Star's three-hit night. Ramirez also contributed an RBI single in a four-run first inning and pulled off a hustle double in the second to ignite another rally.

Ramirez's performance gave him 31 doubles, 84 runs scored and 89 RBIs through 117 games played this season. With three more stolen bases, the third baseman would join Grady Sizemore (2008) as the only players in franchise history to have at least 30 homers, 30 doubles and 30 steals in a single season.

Ramirez also has 8.2 WAR (per Fangraphs), which leads the Majors and marks the 12th-best single-season total in recorded Indians history. Tuesday's showing moved Ramirez past Tris Speaker (8.0 WAR in 1916) on that all-time leaderboard. Ramirez's mark is the highest by a Cleveland batter in one year since '53, when Al Rosen posted 9.1 WAR.

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The home run dropped jaws on Tuesday, but Ramirez also showed off his elite baserunning as well.

In the second inning, Ramirez sent a pitch from Reds starter into right field for what looked like a sure single. On the play, went from first to third, drawing a throw to second baseman Scooter Gennett from right fielder . As Gennett was catching the ball, Ramirez was diving into second base right behind him for an unlikely double.

That helped set up a two-run inning that knocked Romano out of the contest.

"I don't know how many times I've said it, he sees the field," Francona said. "That was the best example. He literally saw that -- saw Brantley, saw the outfielder. That was incredible. That was a nice piece of baseball."