CLEVELAND -- José Ramírez strode into the clubhouse and declared himself good to go. His right shin was bruised, not broken, and he had no intention of sitting out the Cleveland Guardians’ game on Friday night.
The Tigers likely wish he had.
Ramírez belted a three-run homer off Jacob Barnes in the sixth inning -- completing a four-pitch sequence that featured four hits and four runs -- as the Guardians defeated Detroit 6-1 in the series opener at Progressive Field.
The three-time All-Star also tripled in the first and recorded an unassisted double play at third base, just one day after fouling a ball directly off his shin and exiting early in a home loss to Cincinnati.
“It was real concerning at first because there was a lot of pain,” Ramírez said through interpreter Agustin Rivero. “But after the [clean] MRI, I felt like I was OK to play. During the game, I didn’t even think about it.”
Ramírez’s homer to right field had an exit velocity of 106.5 mph and ignited the crowd of 23,874, the second-highest attendance of the season in Cleveland.
“It’s real exciting to hear their cheers and noises,” he said of the "José" chants. “It was electric in the ballpark tonight.”
The game had been scoreless until the bottom of the sixth, when the Guardians plated four runs on consecutive pitches against reliever Barnes.
Austin Hedges doubled to center, Myles Straw beat out an infield hit that withstood a Detroit challenge, and Amed Rosario singled home Hedges before Ramírez’s game-changing blast.
“It’s real comforting, knowing you have the speed ahead of me and the power behind me with José,” Rosario said.
Ramírez reclaimed the MLB lead with 37 RBIs and moved into first place in the American League with his third triple. The latter saw him drive the ball over the head of center fielder Derek Hill, then slide head-first into third to beat the relay throw.
In the second, Ramírez sprinted into foul territory in pursuit of a pop-up by Jeimer Candelario, but was unable to make the catch despite running under it.
If there were any doubts about the health of his right leg, they quickly disappeared from Cleveland acting manager DeMarlo Hale's mind.
“José gave me the thumb’s up, so I never worried about him the rest of the time,” Hale said, chuckling. “He was tested early, for sure, but he was true to his word. When he says he’s good to go before a game, he’s good to go.”
Ramírez also snared a 95.8 mph liner off the bat of Jonathan Schoop in the second, turning it into an inning-ending double play when Candelario was caught off third.
“There was a chance I couldn’t go when I arrived at the ballpark, but I found a way to play,” Ramírez said. “It was a great night for our team and our fans.”
The sixth-inning eruption rewarded Guardians right-hander Aaron Civale, who allowed one unearned run in 6 1/3 innings before experiencing a gluteal cramp while falling in pursuit of Candelario’s grounder to the right of the mound.
It was Civale’s longest outing since before he sprained his right middle finger against the Cubs last June 21 at Wrigley Field. In his previous nine starts, dating to Sept. 23, 2021, he was 2-4 with a 9.08 ERA over 37 2/3 innings.
“I know José will be the first to tell you that he should have caught that foul ball, but he comes back and makes that double play, huge,” Civale said. “And in classic José fashion, he hits a home run late in the game. That’s just the type of player he is.”