CLEVELAND -- All throughout the 2016 season, utility infielder/outfielder Jose Ramirez delivered clutch hit after clutch hit, and that continued to be the case in the first three games of the playoffs, where the Cleveland Indians finished off a sweep of the Boston Red Sox with a 4-3 win at Fenway Park Monday night.
In his first postseason series, Ramirez smacked five hits in 10 at-bats, including one double, and scored four of the Indians’ 15 runs on the way to the sweep and Cleveland’s first trip to the American League Championship Series since 2007.
“In certain situations, and I can really speak to ours, I think the way we're constructed, we need to have versatility because if somebody gets hurt or we need to be able to maximize our roster with guys like Mike Aviles a couple of years ago, and certainly Jose now, it allows us, if there's an injury, to move him,” Indians manager Terry Francona said of Ramirez’s play.
To Francona, Ramirez’s performance helped buoy the Indians, who were plagued by season-long injury battles for outfielder Michael Brantley and catcher Yan Gomes.
A third-place finisher in the race for the American League Most Valuable Player Award in 2014, Brantley was out of the lineup since May 11 and had season-ending surgery late in the summer. Gomes missed nearly two months of action because of a right shoulder injury, and later, suffered a broken bone in his hand while making a rehabilitation appearance in the minor leagues.
“It has helped us enormously,” Francona said. “Without Michael Brantley in the lineup, you're coming out of Spring Training, where are our runs going to come from? Jose stepped in and took Brantley's at-bats, and those are big shoes to fill. He put the ball in play, using the whole field, hitting the clutch, and has given us as big a boost as anybody.”
Although Ramirez filled a void left by Brantley, he proved himself to be much more than that. Instead of a stop-gap, Ramirez proved to be an every-day player at the Major League level, and one good enough to usurp a spot from veteran infielder Juan Uribe in the starting lineup early in the season.
Having never hit over .265 when given at least 235 at-bats in a season, Ramirez smacked 176 hits, including 46 doubles and 11 home runs, with 84 runs scored and 76 RBI in 565 plate appearances. Along with his 44 walks, 22 stolen bases and .312 batting average, Ramirez set single-season highs in every major statistical category.
“He did such a good job with it, not only did it help with the absence of Michael, but also, told us that we have not only an every-day player, but a good one,” Francona said. “That’s what you hope for when somebody gets a chance, but I think he kind of took it to an extreme. He’s a really good player.”