CLEVELAND, Ohio — Cal Quantrill exceeded expectations Tuesday night. Just what Jose Ramirez did, well, that could take a little explaining.
Ramirez hit a three-run homer in the 10th inning to give the Indians a 5-3 victory over the White Sox. The homer put the Indians in the postseason for the fourth time in the last five years.
The Indians were down to their last strike when Ramirez homered over the right field wall. It was his 17th homer of the season and his 12th in the last 24 games. In those 24 games he’s driven in 26 runs and put himself squarely in the AL MVP race.
“Once I saw it going out, given the speed the pitch was thrown at (98 mph), I knew it was going to be out of the park,” said Ramirez, through interpreter Agustin Rivero. “I hit it right on the barrel.”
As for what it felt like to put his team in the postseason, Ramirez said, “It felt good, but it wasn’t only my home run. Francisco Lindor and Cesar Hernandez had good games. So did the pitching staff. It was a team effort.”
Acting manager Sandy Alomar has seen Ramirez since he came to the big leagues in 2013. This is the Ramirez he remembers, who finished third in the AL MVP voting in 2017 and 2018.
“That’s the guy — the clutch guy — that we had seen the last couple of years, who is coming back to life right now,” said Alomar. “You just hope that a few other guys start clicking at the right time because then with the pitching (we have), and a few guys getting hot, it becomes a very dangerous team.”
Alomar is filling in for Terry Francona, who is recovering from surgery. The Indians (31-24) are 23-18 under Alomar.
“It’s an honor to have the opportunity to do this,” said Alomar. “I wasn’t expecting to do it this year. I was just doing my job and this happened. It’s a big responsibility because you’re replacing a Hall of Fame manager. “
The Indians, shuffling their rotation in anticipation of making the postseason, went with a bullpen game Tuesday night while moving Shane Bieber and Zach Plesac back a day from their regular pitching turn. Quantrill started and pitching coach Carl Willis was hopeful that he could go three innings or 55 pitches, whichever came first.
Quantrill did better than that, delivering four scoreless innings on 38 pitches against a powerful Chicago lineup. The four innings followed his relief appearance of two scoreless innings Saturday against the Tigers.
It’s a performance that should pay dividends for Quantrill in the present and the future. He struck out four, walked one and allowed four hits.
But people might already be writing songs about what Ramirez did Tuesday night.
“Jose Ramirez is special, he’s special,” said Quantrill. “I don’t know if you can be underrated as the top five guy in the league, but if there is such a thing, he’s underrated. He’s the whole package.”
Chicago took a 3-1 lead with two runs in the 10th against Phil Maton. Adam Engle tripled home James McCann, the automatic runner, with one out to break a 1-1 tie. Nick Madigral followed with a RBI single. For the second straight night, White Sox manager Rick Renteria was ejected for arguing balls and strikes following Maton’s strikeout of Luis Robert. Shortstop Tim Anderson was also ejected by plate umpire Angel Hernandez.
Francisco Lindor started the Tribe’s two-out rally with a RBI double off the top of the center field fence against Matt Foster (5-1) to score Roberto Perez, the automatic runner. Cesar Hernandez walked and Jose Ruiz relieved to face Ramirez. He hit a 2-2 pitch an estimated 408 feet to give the Indians a chance for postseason glory.
Lindor initially thought his ball was gone for a two-run homer.
“As I was running, I was thinking he got it in a little on me,” said Lindor. “But Josie’s ball definitely went out. I’m glad his went out.”
Maton (3-3), who allowed seven runs in his last three appearances, backed into the win.
When the Indians acquired Quantrill from San Diego in the Mike Clevinger trade, he made it known that he had designs on making it as a starter, while saying he would pitch in any role the Indians needed him. So far he’s made good on both accounts.
Hernandez gave Quantrill an early lead with a first-inning homer off Reynaldo Lopez. It was his third of the season.
Quantrill and Adam Plukto made it stand through five innings. Jose Abreu, MLB’s RBI leader, changed that in the sixth with a two-out off Plutko to make it a 1-1 game. It was the 24th homer Abreu has hit in his career against the Indians.
The White Sox, who clinched their first playoff spot since 2008 on Thursday, couldn’t do much with Quantrill. But they put Plutko in the soup as soon as he started the fifth. Edwin Encarnacion doubled over third base to start the inning. McCann walked and Nomar Mazara singled with one out to load the bases. Plutko, making his first appearance since Sept. 10, escaped when Nick Madrigal sent a bouncer back to the mound and Plutko responded by starting a 1-2-3 double play.
Plutko, who went three innings, retired the last four batters he faced in his first appearance since Sept. 10.
“Plutko just battled,” said Alomar. “He did a great job. He gets the double play with the bases loaded, just awesome. He got us out of that jam. The bullpen kept us in the game.”
The Indians had a chance to extend their 1-0 lead in the fifth. Perez reached on Yoan Moncada’s error at third. Delino DeShields reached on a pretty bunt single to put runners on first and second. Lopez, however, retired Francisco Lindor and Hernandez on fly balls to left.
DeShields had a good night on both sides of the ball. In the eighth, he ranged far into the gap in right center field to rob Mazara of extra bases with a lunging catch to start the inning. Oliver Perez retired the next two batters.
The Indians received their first look at Garret Crochet, Chicago’s No. 1 pick in this year’s draft, in the eighth inning. The 6-6, 218-pound lefty threw two pitches to the backstop while hitting 100 mph on the radar gun like it was a walk in the park. He retired Lindor and Hernandez on grounders, walked Ramirez and struck out Carlos Santana.
The Indians will send RHP Shane Bieber (8-1, 1.74) to the mound against White Sox RHP Lucas Giolito (4-3, 5.53) on Wednesday at 6:10 p.m. SportsTime Ohio, WTAM and WMMS will carry the game.
New Indians face masks for sale: Here’s where you can buy Cleveland Indians-themed face coverings for coronavirus protection, including a single mask ($14.99) and a 3-pack ($24.99). All MLB proceeds donated to charity.
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