Ramírez scoffs at 9% win chance, sparks Cleveland rally

June 11th, 2022

CLEVELAND -- The one thing this Guardians team has learned so far this season is that they can never be counted out of any game. And José Ramírez made sure that trend continued on Friday night.

According to Baseball Savant, the Guardians entered the bottom of the ninth with just a 9% chance of walking away victorious. But Ramírez sparked a comeback with a leadoff homer before Luke Maile became the hero, knocking in the game-winning run on a walk-off sacrifice fly to hand the Guardians a 3-2 win over the A’s at Progressive Field.

“He’s not bad, is he?” Guardians manager Terry Francona joked when asked about Ramírez. “He’s dangerous every time he gets up there.”

Ramírez’s efforts created an outcome that the team has gotten used to over the last few months. Their 96 runs scored in the seventh inning or later ranked the fourth most in the Majors (behind the Yankees, Mets and Red Sox) at the time Friday’s game finished.

Let’s break down the three moments in the ninth inning that allowed them to secure their ninth win of their last 11 contests:

1. Josey being Josey

It’s the bottom of the ninth with a two-run deficit and there’s no one the Guardians would rather have at the plate to start the inning than Ramírez. And not only did he spark a rally, he was able to give the team a feeling of a fresh start, having just a one-run deficit after one swing of the bat and no outs on the scoreboard. He rounded the bases for the 16th time this season, as he watched his home run total match his strikeout total (both 16) on the season. The last hitter in the Majors to have more home runs than strikeouts in a season? Barry Bonds, who had 45 homers and 41 strikeouts in 2004.

“Definitely the best hitter by far I've ever watched or played with,” Guardians infielder Owen Miller said. “It's just cool to see how he is at the plate and how calm he is and how confident. The swings that he puts on balls are unbelievable.”

There aren’t many words left to describe what Ramírez is able to do at the plate. There’s a reason he’s outpacing everyone in the Majors with 56 RBIs -- the second most RBIs by a Cleveland hitter through his first 54 games of a season, trailing only Manny Ramirez (68 RBIs in 1999).

“I'm really happy he's on our team,” Maile said. “Really, really happy. Get that guy up as many times as possible.”

2. Giménez’s hustle
After Ramírez got the Guardians on the board and injected an enormous dose of energy throughout the dugout, the team immediately loaded the bases without recording an out, allowing Miller to bring home the game-tying run with a sacrifice fly. With Oscar Gonzalez on second and Andrés Giménez on first, Steven Kwan chopped a ground ball to shortstop.

What looked like a routine forceout at second base was quickly turned into a single for Kwan after Giménez’s tremendous hustle from first beat shortstop Elvis Andrus’ throw to second base. And even after a replay review, the safe call at second was upheld, allowing the Guardians to have just one out (rather than two), leaving the possibility for a sacrifice fly to win the game.

“We’ve been preaching since the first day of Spring Training: Just push,” Francona said. “Push. You never know. Push. And [Giménez’s] quad hasn’t been feeling great. He’s done a good job of managing it. That’s a game-winner right there for us.”

3. Maile’s walk-off
Now, with just one out and the bases loaded thanks to Giménez, the bottom of the Guardians’ order had a chance to save the day. Maile was able to get enough behind a 2-2 slider to lift it just deep enough into right field to allow Gonzalez to tag up and score the winning run from third base, as the dugout emptied and chased Maile down the first-base line in celebration. It marked Maile’s fourth career walk-off plate appearance and first since June 9, 2018 as a member of the Blue Jays.

“There's nothing like it,” Maile said. “There's no better feeling. It's awesome.”

Since 2016, the Guardians’ 45 walk-off wins are tied for the second most in the Majors, behind Oakland’s 57 walk-off victories. And even though this roster entered the year with low expectations, it’s continually proved that it has more fight than most projected. 

“They’re young, they’re having fun, they’re playing,” Francona said of his team. “We’re going up against some men. We got some kids and they’re doing OK.”