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Tribe Notes

Commentary: Has the real Jose Ramirez finally arrived?

  • Marlins-Indians-Baseball-6

    Cleveland Indians' Jose Ramirez watches his ball after hitting an RBI single in the third inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, in Cleveland. Leonys Martin scored on the play. Miami Marlins catcher Jorge Alfaro watches.

    TONY DEJAK / AP

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We have a Jose Ramirez sighting!

The “Jose! Jose! Jose!” song has returned to Progressive Field!

Can a .200 batting average be far behind?

The sky’s the limit today after the artist formerly known as Jose Ramirez finally shook free from the slump that refused to die — just in time to lead the Indians to a much-needed victory over the hapless Miami Marlins on Wednesday.

Ramirez ram-rodded the Indians to the victory circle by doing lots of what he’d done very little of the first month of the season — hit.

The cherub of cheers, whose batting average had seeming taken out a second mortgage on a sub-basement, walkdown no-room apartment, was finally able to swing his way to daylight.

In recording his first three-hit game in what has heretofore been mostly a no-hit season, Ramirez came within a triple of hitting for the cycle. He slugged a home run in the first inning, added an RBI single in the third, and then doubled in two runs in the Indians’ four-run eighth inning rally.

The four RBIs are one more than Ramirez had in his previous 12 games. The double was his first since April 12, and the “Jose! Jose! Jose! Jose!” chorus was his first such serenade in too long.

For the first time this season, for the first time since last season, probably for the first time since the first half of last season, Jose Ramirez looked like Jose Ramirez.

That’s great news for the Indians who left after the game for Houston where they will start a four-game series with the Astros on Thursday. The last time the Indians saw the Astros, the Astros were standing on their throat, while completing a non-competitive three-game sweep of Cleveland, in Cleveland, in last year’s Division Series.

The score of that thanks-for-coming-enjoy-your-off-season Astro spanking was a humiliating 11-3 walkover. Ramirez was 0-for-4 in that game, putting the finishing blemishes on his 0-for-11 postseason no-show.

That was the final ignominious chapter of Ramirez’s book of broken dreams, which seemed so bright and promising at the All-Star break.

Since then, however, he had been a shadow of his former MVP-candidate self. Ramirez came into Wednesday’s game hitting under .200 since last year’s All-Star Game.

Even with his 3-for-4 outing Wednesday, with a home run and four RBIs, Ramirez is still hitting just .184. That’s as high as his average has been since April 7, when he was enjoying the rarefied air of a .194 average.

Manager Terry Francona has been patient to a fault, waiting for Jose, and Wednesday he finally was able to exhale.

“I know he’s going to be fine. He’s a great hitter,” Francona said. “Guys go through tough times. He wouldn’t quit on himself. He won’t hang his head. He’ll keep plugging away.”

Captain Plug’s first-inning home run came with two outs and gave the Indians a 1-0 lead. In the second inning he stroked a two-out RBI single, and then stole a base. He hasn’t hit much, but he is running the bases well. He is 6-for-6 in stolen-base attempts, and has six of the Indians’ 14 steals.

In the bottom of the eighth inning, after reliever Nick Wittgren gave up a 2-1 lead by giving up a game-tying two-out solo home run by Martin Prado, Ramirez saved his best for last.

The Indians tied it then took a 3-2 lead on RBI singles by Jake Bauers and Francisco Lindor. Ramirez then put the icing on the cake by pulling a two-run double into the right-field corner, to make the final score 6-2.

It’s only one win, but it felt like a coming out party for the Indians’ most un-pitchable hitter, when he’s hitting right. The problem has been that it’s been not days or weeks, but months since Ramirez has hit like Ramirez hits.

Wednesday it was Ramirez as Ramirez.

“I’m telling you, you’re going to look up (later in the season), and he’ll be among the league leaders,” said Francona. “It will be fun to watch.”

Francona, of course, is not exactly an unbiased observer. He has a dog in this fight, and Wednesday afternoon at Progressive Field, that dog showed some bite.

The win capped a brief, but also shaky 2-3 homestand against two National League opponents. The Indians have managed to keep their heads above water at 13-10, while getting virtually nothing offensively from Ramirez or Lindor, who has missed most of the season with injuries.

But Lindor is back and now, the Indians can only hope, so is Ramirez’s swing.

With Lindor and Ramirez at the top of the lineup, and hitting the way they are supposed to hit, the rest of the order doesn’t look nearly so barren.

For Ramirez, Wednesday was only one game. But that’s one more than he had before Wednesday.

Contact Jim Ingraham at (440) 329-7135 or jingraham4@gmail.com.


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