It’s only mid-August, but this weekend’s series against the Toronto Blue Jays had all the trappings of October baseball and some up-and-coming youngsters on the Indians did not disappoint in the big moments.
This Sunday afternoon it was Jose Ramirez, again, with the game-changing hit – a two run home run in the bottom of the 8th to give the Indians a 3-2 lead that they would not relinquish. In a matchup of American League division leaders the Indians took two of three this weekend from the Blue Jays and all three games were decided by just one run. Imagine this every day for a week and you have the 1997 ALCS against the Baltimore Orioles all over again.
Corey Kluber did his job today, limiting a tough Toronto line-up to two runs into the seventh inning before starter-turned-reliever Mike Clevinger got four big outs, three via the strike out, to keep the Tribe in it until the late inning fireworks could get going once again.
The Indians offense, quiet all day save for a sixth inning single by Francisco Lindor to plate Carlos Santana, were happy to see Marcus Stroman give way to Brett Cecil with one out in the eighth and took quick advantage.
After a Jason Kipnis line-out, Lindor kept the inning alive with a two strike, two out single off of the glove of shortstop Ryan Goins, bringing Ramirez to the plate against the lefty Cecil. Ramirez, a switch-hitter with no platoon disadvantage (.820 OPS against righties, .825 OPS against lefties), jumped on the first pitch and jerked an 86 mph sinker sharply down the line and into the home run porch turning a one run deficit into another thrilling come-from-behind victory.
Ramirez has been nothing short of amazing in August, batting .383 with five home runs (half of his season’s total) along with seven doubles and 15 RBI in 20 games. Ramirez, batting cleanup today while Mike Napoli got a rare day off, has been as clutch as any hitter in baseball this season. Including today’s game, Ramirez is hitting .356 with two outs this season and .381 with runners in scoring position.
Cody Allen worked around some trouble in the ninth and put two runners aboard before getting Russell Martin to line out to end the game. This was a heck of a series against one of the best teams in the American League. And while we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves with 40 games yet to go this season, it’s hard not to look forward with immense anticipation at the prospect of postseason baseball played at this caliber.