CLEVELAND (AP)Jose Ramirez looks more than ready to swing for the All-Star fences.
Ramirez tuned up for next week’s Home Run Derby by homering in his first two at-bats and driving in five runs – on his bobblehead giveaway day – to power the Cleveland Guardians to a 10-0 rout of the Detroit Tigers on Saturday.
Ramirez practiced his home-run swing before the game, and it looked perfect against the Tigers as he hit a three-run shot off Michael Pineda (2-5) in the first inning and connected for a two-run homer in the second.
It was the 19th career multi-homer game for Ramirez, who leads the AL with 75 RBIs and with little fanfare has become one of baseball’s best players.
”Just a really good player,” said Guardians manager Terry Francona, who has run out of superlatives to describe his third baseman. ”It doesn’t matter if it’s on the bases, or wherever. He impacts the game everywhere for us. Sometimes in a really big way.”
The four-time All-Star will show off his prodigious, compact swing in Monday’s homer-hitting contest at Dodger Stadium, where Ramirez will be matched up against Washington’s Juan Soto in the opening round.
Tigers manager A.J. Hinch intentionally walked Ramirez once Friday, and probably should have reverted to that strategy.
”He’s one of the most elite players,” Hinch said. ”Fun player. Energy. Body language. Production. That’s why they signed him. He’s a problem when you’re on the other side because of how good he is and he can handle both sides of the plate.”
Cal Quantrill (6-5) gave the Guardians another quality start, allowing just four hits in six scoreless innings to improve to 10-0 in 25 career starts at Progressive Field.
And, Cleveland’s bullpen had three more shutout innings, extending its run to 9 1/3 innings over the past three games.
Josh Naylor also homered the Guardians, who will try to return the favor and complete a four-game sweep Sunday. The Tigers took four from the Guardians earlier this month at Comerica Park.
Ramirez helped the Guardians jump on an ineffective Pineda by connecting for his 18th homer in the first. After Steven Kwan and Amed Rosario singled, Ramirez pulled a 1-0 pitch from Pineda over the wall in right.
Cleveland added five in the second when Myles Straw and Rosario hit RBI doubles ahead of Ramirez’s second homer – on his second swing of the game.
An unheralded free agent signee in 2009, the 5-foot-9 Ramirez has spent his career proving he belongs. It will be no different in the Derby, where he’ll be among some of baseball’s heavyweight swingers.
Ramirez wants to show little guys can belt with the big boys.
”We’re humans,” he said through a translator. ”We all have two arms and it’s a matter of being there in the competition and enjoying it and if the results don’t come out, it’s just the satisfaction that you were there.”
Ramirez is the fourth Cleveland player to drive in at least 75 runs before the All-Star break, joining Manny Ramirez (96 in 1999), Juan Gonzalez (83, 2001) and Albert Belle (76, 1994).
Pineda was tagged for eight runs in just two innings, the first Detroit pitcher to give up that many that quickly since David Price in 2014.
”He just didn’t have it,” Hinch said. ”It looked like from the beginning that he was battling himself. He threw some fastballs in fastball counts. He couldn’t’ quite land the pitches he wanted to. He had an off day against an offense that puts the ball in play.”
One of baseball’s top switch-hitters, Ramirez said he won’t decide until he gets to Los Angeles whether he’ll bat right-or left-handed. Of his 19 homers, 16 have been from the left side.
Ramirez chose Double-A Akron coach Junior Betances as his pitcher in Los Angeles. Betances was his hitting coach in rookie ball.
”It feels like kind of a little reward to him for everything he helped me through my career in the minors,” Ramirez said through a translator.
Betances said he’s not nervous about pitching on such a big stage.
”It’s the same as throwing BP,” he said. ”He’s the guy who has to put on the show.”
Guardians second baseman Andres Gimenez will start in his first All-Star Game, replacing Houston’s Jose Altuve, who had to bow out after being hit with a pitch on the left knee Thursday.
”For me it means a lot, all the sacrifice, all the work that me and my family, that we’ve put in together,” Gimenez said. ”It’s a very proud moment for me and my family. It means a lot.”
Gimenez has been clutch, batting .384 with runners in scoring position.
Tigers: RHP Kyle Funkhouser (shoulder strain) has had another setback. He’s been shut down from throwing after experiencing pain in his side and shoulder. He had recently resumed his rehab program after spending two months strengthening his shoulder.
Guardians: Rookie OF Oscar Gonzalez (abdominal strain) did fielding drills in center as he continues to recover. Gonzalez is scheduled to go to Arizona during the All-Star break and will likely be sent on a rehab assignment before rejoining the team.
Cleveland RHP Shane Bieber (4-5, 3.24 ERA) starts the final game before the All-Star break while the Tigers will turn to their bullpen with LHP Tyler Alexander (2-3, 4.45) opening.
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