CLEVELAND — With team schedules shortened to 60 games, there have been less memorable moments than usual throughout the 2020 MLB season.
But on Tuesday night, Jose Ramirez provided one of the biggest.
Trailing the Chicago White Sox 3-1 with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning, it appeared the Cleveland Indians would have to wait to clinch their spot in the 2020 MLB Playoffs. A Francisco Lindor RBI double, however, gave the Indians newfound life, with a Cesar Hernandez walk bringing Jose Ramirez to the plate as the potential game-winning run.
Six pitches later, Cleveland had punched its postseason ticket, with Ramirez sending a 408-foot home run over the right-centerfield fence at Progressive Field. Indians players poured onto the field to celebrate Ramirez's extra-innings heroics, which came against the team they're currently slated to face in next week's Wild Card round.
Ramirez's walk-off home run was dramatic enough, considering the circumstances, the opponent and the unique nature of the 2020 season.
This has been an especially unusual campaign for Cleveland, with manager Terry Francona missing the bulk of the team's games due to health issues and the Indians less than a week removed from an eight-game losing streak that put their quest for the playoffs in question.
But that it was Ramirez who played hero on Tuesday night made the moment extra special -- and also less of a surprise. Coming off a stretch in which he had hit five home runs and five games, the 2-time All-Star had already entered the 2020 American League MVP conversation. Tuesday's walk-off -- his sixth homer in six games -- may have established his status as the front-runner.
"I consider myself a guy that works a lot. Everything I achieve in this game is through hard work," Ramirez told Fox Sports Ohio's Andre Knott on the Indians postgame broadcast. "I've been a [A.L. MVP] finalist for two years. If it happens, it happens. I don't think about it. What I focus on is having a blast every time I'm on the field. And if it happens, it would be a great blessing from God, but in the meantime, I just want to keep having a blast, like I do on the field."
Over the course of the past week, Ramirez's MVP case has begun to crystalize.
While White Sox first baseman Jose Abreau and shortstop Tim Anderson have both posted better traditional numbers for a better team, the reality remains that their presence -- as well as the play of Eloy Jimenez -- in the same lineup has helped each other. Meanwhile, Ramirez has been the most consistent contributor in Cleveland's lineup, with Lindor enduring an uneven season and 2019 All-Star Carlos Santana's batting average slipping below .200.
Many have begun to take note of Ramirez's value to the Indians, with ESPN's Jeff Passan noting that the 28-year-old ranks first in baseball in FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement. As of Wednesday, Ramirez ranks sixth in the American League in traditional WAR among position players and thrid in offensive WAR, trailing New York Yankees second baseman D.J. LeMahieu and Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout.
Whether Ramirez can ultimately secure what would be Cleveland's first A.L. MVP award since Al Rosen in 1953 will likely come down to the five days that remain the 2020 season. But when it comes to voting, it won't be hard to find a moment that defines his case.