Rodriguez made his case to be the Tribe’s number five starter moving forward with a needed quality start, scattering two walks and three hits over seven innings of work. He left with the Indians leading, 2-1, but Cleveland needed a four-run rally in the bottom of the eighth to claim a win.
Nick Wittgren replaced Rodriguez on the mound to start the eighth and looked good facing his former club, striking out Jon Berti and Curtis Granderson to start the inning. Ahead of Martin Prado 1-2, the veteran utility man got into a fastball and just cleared the wall in left to tie the game at two.
The Indians responded in a big way in the bottom of the inning to knock the Marlins out. Getting their second look in as many days at left-hander Adam Conley, Carlos Gonzalez drew a leadoff walk and moved to second on a single by Jason Kipnis. Kevin Plawecki popped up a bunt attempt, but Jake Bauers delivered in his left-on-left matchup with an RBI-single to center to give Cleveland a 3-2 lead. Conley struck out Max Moroff swinging for the second out and his last of the day. Manager Don Mattingly came to the mound for hard-throwing right-hander Tayron Guerrero, flipping Francisco Lindor to the left side of the plate. The move did not pay off, as Lindor delivered a single to right-center to make it a 4-2 game. Leonys Martin was hit by a pitch to load the bases and Ramirez capped off his three-hit day at the plate with a two-run double to right to blow the game open at 6-2.
The Indians ended their three-game slide and moved to 13-10 on the season. They trail the Minnesota Twins by a half game in the American League Central. The Marlins dropped to 7-17 on the year and 2-6 on the road. They are six full games behind New York and Philadelphia in the National League East.
Cleveland took an early lead against Miami starter Sandy Alcantara with yet another big two-out hit. After outs by Lindor and Martin, Ramirez kicked off his big day at the plate with a big drive to right for his second home run of the season, giving the Indians an early 1-0 edge.
Rodriguez kept the Marlins in check to protect his early lead. After an eight-pitch first inning, he needed just nine to retire the side in the second, working around a leadoff single from Neil Walker. A 20-pitch third led to similar results, as he struck out Isaac Galloway to start the frame and got Berti to fly to right. Granderson doubled to deep right after fouling off three pitches, but Rodriguez stranded his first runner in scoring position by getting Prado to ground to short.
The Indians made it a 2-0 game with a two-out rally against Alcantara in the third. After outs in the air by Mike Freeman and Lindor, Martin reached on an infield single and scampered to second on a throwing error at second by Castro. Ramirez worked the count to 3-1 before sending a single to right-center, scoring Martin from second with Cleveland’s second run of the afternoon. Ramirez stole second but was stranded in scoring position on a groundout by Carlos Santana.
Rodriguez ran into his first real trouble in the fifth, when the Marlins got on the board. Alfaro walked and Rojas singled to put a pair on. Galloway grounded into a fielder’s choice force at second for the first out, but Berti hit a sacrifice fly to right to drive in Miami’s first run of the game. Gonzalez’s throwing error allowed Galloway to tag up to second on the play, but with another runner in scoring position, Granderson struck out looking.
The Indians wasted a scoring opportunity in the bottom of the frame. Freeman walked and Lindor singled to start the inning. Martin sacrificed the pair up with a bunt to third. Ramirez was intentionally walked to load the bases, but Alcantara struck out Santana looking before getting Gonzalez to ground to second.
Rodriguez, who was recalled from Triple-A Columbus prior to the game in exchange for pitcher Cody Anderson, lasted 91 pitches and had worked through seven innings, but Francona opted not to send him back out for an eighth frame. In fact, the team rewarded his efforts with a return trip to Columbus, as he was set to be optioned back to the Clippers club after the game.
“I know it’s out of my hands and I just keep putting in the work and they will have to make the decision,” said Rodriguez. “But so far, just feeling great with what I’m doing.”
He likely did enough to be at the top of the list when the Indians need a fifth starter again on May 7.
Ramirez entered the game hitting .157 on the year with a homer and five RBI, but a 3-for-4 day with a walk and four RBI boosted his average to .184. He came up a triple short of the cycle.
“He’s a great hitter,” said Francona. “Guys go through tough times. You’re going to look up and he’s going to be among the league leaders. It’ll be fun to watch.”
Santana’s sudden hitting slump continued with an 0-for-5 day at the plate with two strikeouts. He was hitless in eight at bats in the series with the Marlins and is 0-for-11 in his last three games. He previously had hit safely in the five games before the current skid.
The Marlins had just five hits on the day, stranding five runners and going 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position.
The Indians will head to Houston for a key four-game series against the Astros club that swept them in last season’s American League Division Series. The Marlins will head east to Philadelphia, where they will play four divisional games with the Phillies. Both series will begin on Thursday night.
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