If Jose Ramirez isn’t an All-Star this year we’ve all failed. Let’s start there.
The Angry Hamster had a rough string of games, as did most of the Cleveland Indians, but his slump was sandwiched between two of the finest pieces of toasted dinger bread you’ve ever tasted.
Ramirez’s big day today — 3-for-5, two home runs, four runs batted in — was just the second multi-homer game of his career. The last time he did it was April against the Detroit Tigers. Curiously, of Ramirez’s three hits against the Minnesota Twins today, only his double was considered a barreled ball by Statcast. The home runs, measuring an estimated 371 feet and 365 feet in the first and sixth innings, respectively both squeaked out of tiny Target Field with exit velocities of under 97 miles per hour, while his double left the bat at 98.8 miles per hour and would have gone an estimated 373 feet if it weren’t for that pesky outfield wall.
There’s no way Ramirez is going to start the All-Star game, and I accept that fact. Manny Machado is just too good of a third baseman with too much star power for voters to overlook, and that’s okay. But if he’s at least not a backup we’ve failed as a species.
The summer of Zimmer is real
As good as Jose Ramirez was today, I really wanted to lead with another player as a snarky “told you so” to anyone who thinks a rookie should be platooned just because he’s a rookie. Bradley Zimmer had the audacity to start against a left-handed pitcher (albeit a bad one), and he provided an offensive spark for the Tribe, going 2-for-3 with a walk and a stolen base. Oh yeah, and he covered center field pretty damn well, too.
Both of Zimmer’s hits came off Twins starting lefty Adam Wilk, while his walk came off a right-handed reliever. One game against a bad journeyman southpaw doesn’t disprove the need to platoon him, but boy there is a lot of evidence that he can be a great everyday player, or at least better than Austin Jackson on his bad days.
Give the kid his due.
O ‘Berto, where art thou?
The game was basically a blowout, despite the score showing a game that might’ve involved a fighting chance from the losing side. Cleveland jumped out to a quick lead in the first, and it could have been even bigger if Roberto Perez was not uncharacteristically aggressive at the plate.
Perez, a catcher who normally swings at just a fifth of the balls he sees outside of the plate, took an ugly hack at a pitch up and away with runners on second and third. Perez was on a 3-1 count with two outs, so maybe he was seeing red no matter what the pitch was, but he could have easily loaded the bases for Gonzalez if he just did his normal routine of not swinging at anything directly over the center of the plate.
Perez has seemingly gotten worse at selecting which pitches to hit this season in general. Last year, when his walk rate was in the 12 percent range, he swung at 18.2 percent of balls outside of the zone and 62.2 percent in the zone, according to PITCHf/x. But this year, his outside swing rate has increased to the aforementioned 20.5 percent, and his zone swing rate has dropped to 56 percent, a career-low. Now his walk rate is struggling to stay in double digits and his on-base percentage is lower than ever.
Roberto is never going to be a great hitter, but he has shown in the past he can be a smart hitter. He hasn’t been that this season.
Ryan Merritt, from ALCS hero to hero of game one of a June doubleheader
“Hero” is a strong term here, but Ryan Merritt did pitch well enough to not let the Twins make a comeback so give him some credit. He cruised through the first two innings, acting as a nice counterbalance to the plodding pace of Adam Wilk while holding the Twins to one hit through the first two innings. His first sign of trouble came in the third, but even that wasn’t too damaging, and it would never have happened with a touch better defense.
In that third frame, Merritt ran to cover first base and complete a double play, but the throw from Erick Gonzalez was too low for Merritt to scoop. The ball bounced to the dugout and allowed Chris Gimenez to advanced to second base, who was then promptly hit home by a Brian Dozier double. Merritt worked his way out of the inning and pitched a rocky fourth before being replaced by Zach McAllister in the fifth.
Not bad for a guy just coming up for a spot start, but it probably feels like a disappointment for Merritt on a pure baseball level. If you count his Triple-A starts this season, this is the first time he has failed to pitch at least five innings since April 23, and only the fourth time this season he hasn’t pitched at least six.
And also, you know, going from pitching your team into the World Series to beating a bad Twins team has to feel like a drop-off in accomplishments.
If you’re still on the fence about how to feel about Merritt, I think realmccoy nailed it in the game thread:
Merritt is such an interesting guy. You know he has the mental makeup. You know he has the command. But with an 87 MPH fastball, you just have to get used to a guy who has to pitch through contact. Like a Josh Tomlin on negative steroids.
Like a Josh Tomlin on negative steroids. The accuracy.
Indians back atop the AL Central
If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. And for a good chunk of the season so far, the Twins have been the best team in the AL Central by record. As of this writing — and it could change it a mere eight hours — the Indians are once again kings of the division if you want to include the head-to-head tiebreaker (and I do).
Both the Indians and Twins 34-31 on the season, but the Indians lead the head-to-head series 6-2 and they’ve outscored Minnesota 37-19 in those eight games. Ramirez hasn’t been great overall against the Twins, but he’s played a huge part in embarrassing the Twins over the past two days. Let’s hope it continues tonight and into tomorrow.
It’s good to be back.