Ramirez Swinging Hot Bat, Making All-Star Case

On Thursday night, a hot streak the likes no current Indians fan can really claim to have ever seen or honestly remember came an end. Tribe third baseman Jose Ramirez was held to one measly triple in four at bats.

For many baseball players, that would be considered a pretty good night. Hit a triple, get a walk, and score a pair of runs. That is actually a strong night by any standard. However, for Ramirez, it marked the end of a run of nine straight games in which he had two or more hits. In five of those outings, he had three hits.

No player wearing a Tribe uniform had had such a run of multi-hit games since Roy Hughes in 1936 – 81 years. Someone would have to be in his or her 90s to truly be able to say he or she remembers that happening. There have been a lot of players, may great ones, to have gone in and out of the Indians organization since. None put up a hot stretch of hitting like Hughes until Cleveland’s 24-year-old did so from June 14th through the 21st.

Even in a very good showing Thursday evening, it was a bit disappointing to see Ramirez’s historic run come to an end. He was two games away from tying Shoeless Joe Jackson‘s club record of 11 games in row with two or more hits. That streak came all the way back in 1911, or 106 years ago. It is pretty safe to say that not one person in Cleveland remembers that.

At 5-foot-9, Ramirez may be a bit diminutive in size, but he sure has been swinging a tall bat. His torrid hitting streak got his overall numbers healthy and helped to get the Tribe, as a team, going in the right direction for the first time this season.

After an 0-for-4 day against the Dodgers on June 13, Ramirez was hitting .279. While not bad, that was quite a bit down from his breakout 2016 campaign in which he hit .312 in playing a starring role in Cleveland’s march to an American League Central Division crown and subsequent trip to the World Series.

After Thursday’s game in Baltimore, when he at least extended his hitting streak to ten games, he had raised his batting average all the way to .321. In those ten contests, he went 24-for-46, an absurd .522 batting average. He had three home runs and seven RBI, raising those season totals to 11 bombs and 34 driven in.

The streak for Ramirez coincided with the Indians best stretch of the season, so far. The club won eight of 10 during the hitting streak. The club moved from two games out of first place in the division to 2.5 games up on the now second-place Twins.

Ramirez, the only player on the club to not get a day off during the Tribe’s recently wrapped up eight-game road trip, where the team was 7-1, got a day off on Friday night. His hitting streak ended as he failed to get a hit in his lone pinch-hit at-bat in the ninth inning. Cleveland’s run of good play ended in a 5-0 whimper of a home loss to Minnesota.

Ramirez, much like last year, is proving to be an important cog in the Tribe’s hopes to get back to the playoffs. Without Ramirez a season ago, Cleveland probably does not win the AL Central and certainly would not have found itself in the Fall Classic, where the team came one run away from winning the World Series for the first time since 1948.

Ramirez may also be proving himself to be All-Star worthy. When voting was last announced, he was second among American League third basemen to the Twins’ Miguel Sano. If that holds up, he will need to be added by the A.L. manager as a reserve.

It may not be too hard to impress this summer’s manager of the Junior Circuit. Thanks to Cleveland’s inclusion in the 2016 World Series, manager Terry Francona will be managing this year’s A.L. stars in Miami. He will get to pick the backups. Ramirez gets a chance to impress his manager on a daily basis and has been doing just that. Francona told reporters on Friday that Ramirez was an All-Star, in his opinion, and that, “if he isn’t, I don’t know who is.”

Ramirez, with his offensive numbers that also include seven stolen bases, probably does deserve to be in the dugout at Marlins Park with Francona and several other Tribe players on July 11. It would be his first trip to the Mid-Summer Classic.

In 2016, Ramirez came out of nowhere to help the Tribe overcome the loss of Michael Brantley, for nearly the entire season, due to a shoulder injury. This year, J-Ram is not coming out of nowhere but is having an impressive season so far, nonetheless. Just two years ago, Ramirez was struggling to stay in the big leagues and it was hard to say if he had much of a future in the majors, beyond a part-time utility role.

Now Ramirez is in Year 2 of what is starting to look like a very bright future. He has become one of Cleveland’s more indispensable players and an All-Star candidate. He may have had a major hot streak end this past week, but could get hot again at any moment. If he can stay hot his bat can go a long way toward ending another streak. A streak of 69 years without a World Series championship trophy is not quite as long as the streak of years without a player collecting multiple hits in nine games or more. It is another long streak, and the most important one, that the Indians and their fans would like to see come to an end this year.

Few would remember the last time someone in a Cleveland uniform had been as hot as Ramirez recently had been. If Ramirez can play another starring role in anther memorable Indians summer, few will ever forget the hot-hitting third baseman decades from now.

Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images

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