Jose Ramirez might be swinging the hottest bat in the majors, and he looks to conclude his stellar month in style when the Cleveland Guardians visit the Oakland Athletics on Saturday afternoon.
Ramirez leads the majors with 28 RBIs and is batting .360 with seven homers. He already has 15 extra-base hits and is slugging .760.
The 29-year-old third baseman helped the Guardians end a seven-game losing streak on Friday in the opener of the three-game series. He went 2-for-3 with a homer, three RBIS, three runs and two walks while playing his 1,000th game for Cleveland.
“He’s incredible. My opinion, he’s the best player in baseball,” teammate Josh Naylor said after the Guardians’ 9-8 victory. “He’s unbelievable. He’s a great teammate and an even better player. He helps everyone out daily and we all learn from him. He’s a great leader.”
Ramirez’s 28 RBIs rank third before the start of May in franchise history. Manny Ramirez set the record of 30 in 1999 after David Justice had 29 one season earlier.
The win on Friday was the Guardians’ first on a 10-game road trip that concludes Sunday in Oakland.
Naylor hit the go-ahead two-run homer in the seventh inning and Andres Gimenez smacked the first grand slam of his career as Cleveland won for the first time since beating the Chicago White Sox on April 21.
Oakland put the tying run on third with one out in the ninth but came up empty.
“Ultimately, I thought it was an exciting game,” Athletics manager Mark Kotsay said. “Unfortunately, we ended up on the wrong end. That’s a team that fights. I wouldn’t expect anything less from a Terry Francona team.”
Right-hander Shane Bieber (1-1, 2.82 ERA), the 2020 American League Cy Young Award winner, will look to help the Guardians notch another win on Saturday.
Bieber has seen fastball velocity drop a few miles per hour into the 90-91 range, but he maintains he isn’t concerned. Pitchers had less time to ramp up due to the shortened spring training that followed the labor stoppage.
“I feel good,” Bieber told The Athletic. “I’m getting good results. Do I want to throw harder? Yeah. It’ll come. That’s how I feel. I wish I could give you more, but to give you more, I’d have to be tripping about it and I’m not really tripping about it.”
Bieber tossed a season-high 100 pitches while losing to the Los Angeles Angels on Monday in his most recent outing. He gave up three runs and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings.
His lone win in four starts this year came against the White Sox on April 20, when he allowed one run and four hits over six innings.
Bieber lost his lone career start against Oakland, giving up four runs and eight hits in six innings on July 8, 2018.
Left-hander Cole Irvin (2-1, 3.32 ERA) will make his fifth start of the season for the Athletics.
Irvin allowed just one hit over five innings in a 2-0 home win over the Texas Rangers last Sunday. He has given up just one run in 10 innings over his past two outings.
The 28-year-old had faced Cleveland just once, on Sept. 22, 2019, when he was a member of the Philadelphia Phillies. He pitched in relief and gave up one run, one hit and recorded a strikeout for his lone out.
Cleveland’s Myles Straw is 2-for-6 against Irvin from the center fielder’s time with the Houston Astros. Straw had three hits on Friday.
Guardians shortstop Amed Rosario (left wrist tightness) wasn’t in the lineup for the series opener. Francona said the move was precautionary.
Oakland activated infielder Jed Lowrie from the COVID-19 list prior to the Friday game. He served as the designated hitter and went 0-for-4 with a walk and a run.
A’s second baseman Tony Kemp (triceps) departed the game after the seventh inning, one frame after being hit by a pitch. Kotsay hoped Kemp would be available Saturday.
–Field Level Media