CLEVELAND -- Two hours before his team was set to face the Miami Marlins, Terry Francona assured a room full of reporters that Jose Ramirez's ongoing slump was just that.
"He's going to be fine," Francona insisted.
Just about five hours later, the Cleveland Indians manager sat inside the same room -- with the same reporters -- vindicated.
It may have just been one game in a season full of 162 of them, but Ramirez's breakthrough performance in Cleveland's 6-2 win over the Marlins on Wednesday was exactly what the Indians -- and especially Ramirez -- needed. It wasn't just that the All-Star third baseman, who entered the game with a .157 batting average, hit the ball, but how he did it that was cause for optimism that Ramirez's cold streak had been thawed.
"I'm just telling you that I know he's going to be fine," Francona reiterated after the game. "He's a great hitter. Guys go through tough times. He won't quit on himself. He won't hang his head."
That was evident in Ramirez's first at-bat on Wednesday, when he launched a solo home run deep to right field in the bottom of the first inning to give the Indians an early 1-0 lead. Two innings later, the 26-year-old doubled Cleveland's lead when he knocked in Leonys Martin with a 2-out single before proceeding to steal his sixth base of the 2019 season.
He wasn't done yet.
After the Indians led through the first seven innings of the game, a Martin Prado home run in the top of the eighth tied the game at two. But a half-inning later, RBI singles by Jake Bauers and Francisco Lindor put Cleveland back on top, before a 2-run double by Ramirez ultimately resecured the lead he had initially built.
"It felt good that the work is showing up," Ramirez said via a translator after the game. "But most importantly, that we won."
If Ramirez can build on his strong showing vs. Miami, the wins will likely follow. Although the Indians lay claim to one of the best pitching staffs in baseball, they entered Wednesday hitting an American League-low .210 average, totaling three or fewer hits four times in 22 games.
That number, however, figures to soon uptick with Lindor, Jason Kipnis and Carlos Gonzalez having each made their 2019 debuts for Cleveland in the last two weeks. The presence of those players not only gives the Indians a more complete lineup, but should provide better protection for Ramirez, who been an American League MVP finalist in each of the last two years.
Time, of course, will tell whether Ramirez's strong showing was the end of his slow start or just a blip in it. But regardless of where his number rank right now, Francona isn't backing down from his pregame proclamation.
"You're going to look up and he'll be among the league leaders," Francona said. "It's going to be fun to watch."