The Cleveland offense desperately needed a hero Wednesday afternoon and José Ramírez rose to the occasion not once but twice in a much-needed 4-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals.
Ramírez was responsible for all four of the team’s runs, slugging a pair of two-run homers to back a strong outing from starting pitcher Shane Bieber. Kansas City nearly outdueled Bieber in what was supposed to be a bullpen game for the Royals, with Jakob Junis serving as the “opener.” Cleveland had other plans, helping Junis get through five scoreless innings by mustering all of one hit and two walks and striking out six times against the right-hander.
Center fielder Ben Gamel led the way, continuing to lend credence to the belief that manager Terry Francona is batting him leadoff as either a cry for help or an act of self-sabotage. Gamel is still searching for his first hit with the club, going 0-for-3 Wednesday afternoon to maintain a pristine .000 batting average. Half of the lineup is batting below the Mendoza line, but at least Josh Naylor boosted his stock with a pair of singles, including one that had an exit velocity of 114.7 mph.
But no one stood taller than the 5’9” Ramírez. His two-run shot off Jesse Hahn in the sixth inning erased the Royals’ 1-0 lead, and the score was knotted at 2-2 in the eighth when he converted a 3-2 slider from Greg Holland into a home run pitch.
Shane Bieber notched 12 strikeouts in his second straight start to open the season, matching a feat he also accomplished last year. Though he walked four batters, Bieber had both his slider and knuckle curve working, as the Royals whiffed 75 percent of the time against the former.
The solo shot surrendered to Salvador Perez in the fourth inning looked to be the lone blemish of the afternoon for Bieber until he ran into trouble in the seventh. After issuing a one-out walk to Kyle Isbel and a sharp single to Michael Taylor, Bieber got the hook in favor of James Karinchak. Unfortunately all it took was one pitch for Karinchak to cough up the lead, as the Royals pulled even on an RBI single courtesy of Nicky Lopez.
Emmanuel Clase and Nick Wittgren pitched the eighth and ninth, respectively, to keep the Royals off the board and secure the victory for Cleveland.