Jose Ramirez started the Home Run Derby a few days early.
The Cleveland Guardians third baseman, picked to compete in the home run fest during All-Star festivities in Los Angeles, practiced hitting the long ball before Saturday’s game in the batting cages.
That extra work paid off as he blasted two home runs and drove in five runs in the Guardians’ 10-0 win over the visiting Detroit Tigers. They have won the first three games of the four-game set, including two shutouts against the lowest-scoring team in the majors.
With one game remaining before the All-Star Game, Ramirez is batting .288 with 19 home runs and 75 RBIs — two behind major league leader Pete Alonso of the New York Mets.
“He’s a very disciplined hitter,” Guardians first baseman Josh Naylor said about Ramirez. “He’s a phenomenal hitter. He’s someone we all look up to. I expect two home runs every day from him. He’s an MVP-type player.”
The home runs came in the first and second innings. He also leads the majors in extra-base hits with 53. It was his fourth game with at least five RBIs in his career. Ramirez joined some elite company, including Babe Ruth, who accomplished the feat five times, according to Bally Sports Great Lakes.
“He’s a really good player,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. “He impacts the game for us, sometimes in a big way.”
Ramirez also had two superb defensive plays on Saturday to support the shutout pitching of winning pitcher Cal Quantrill (6-5, 3.75).
“Jose has led the charge,” Quantrill said. “If he continues to play that way, there’s no excuse for anyone else.”
Cleveland also got a Naylor’s 13th homer of the season and second in the series. He was 2-for-5 on the day.
“He’s a gifted athlete,” Quantrill said of Naylor. “His desire to win is special. All along I thought this is what he can do.”
They were also teammates with the San Diego Padres.
The Tigers were forced to use five relievers Saturday after starter Michael Pineda (2-5) was knocked out of the box after two innings.
That might come into play on Sunday, as Detroit manager A.J. Hinch announced that the final game of the series will be a bullpen game for the Tigers.
Lefty Tyler Alexander (2-3, 4.45 ERA), who started four games for Detroit in April but has made his last nine appearances in relief, will start Sunday. Alexander has made 11 appearances, including two starts, against the Tigers, and is 2-2 with a 4.44 ERA.
He will be opposed by right-hander Shane Bieber (4-5, 3.24). He’s coming off his best start of the season on Tuesday — a complete-game three-hitter against the Chicago White Sox. He struck out seven and didn’t allow a walk in Cleveland’s 4-1 victory.
Bieber is 7-4 with a 2.61 ERA in 11 career starts against the Tigers. However, he has lost two of three starts against Detroit this season, most recently an 8-2 defeat on July 6.
The Tigers activated right-hander Jose Cisnero (shoulder) on Friday from the 60-day injured list. They intended for him to make his season debut in the Cleveland series. However, hours after he was activated, the team placed him on the bereavement list for what Hinch said was a family emergency.
“We’ll obviously respect his privacy,” Hinch said. “But it is heartbreaking for him. I feel for him. This is a serious situation.”
They activated right-hander Angel De Jesus instead from Triple-A Toledo, and he allowed two runs on three hits in 1 2/3 innings on Saturday. It was only his second major league appearance.
–Field Level Media