Photo credit: USA Today

Tuesday night in Denver, the Cleveland Guardians played their first game at Coors Field since 2017, and thanks to three RBI from the leaguer leader José Ramírez, Cleveland was able to pick up its first win in Denver since June 16, 2002, that’s 7,303 days, and pick up their 12th win in their last 16 games.

Guardians (30-27) 4 – Rockies (27-35) 3. WP: Bryan Shaw (2-0), LP: Robert Stephenson (0-1), SV: Emmanuel Clase (12)

 José. Enough Said

Every game it seems like José Ramírez manages to one-up himself. Well, he did it again Tuesday night, this time a mile high in the air with the Rocky Mountains in the distance. Ramírez had a huge game, going 2-4 with a double, a stolen base and three RBI. He attributed for 75% of the Guardians runs on the night. Ramírez opened up the scoring in the third inning when singled into left field that brought home Steven Kwan and Amed Rosario to make it 2-0. With those two RBI, Ramírez became the first player in the MLB to reach 60 RBI on the season, and in just 57 games, the fewest amount for a league leader since Miguel Cabrera did it in 53 games in 2013. He also picked up his 61st on that same hit just for good measure and to put a two RBI difference between himself and Pete Alonso of the New York Mets. Later on, in the 6th inning, Ramírez walked and then stole his 10th base of the season. That gave him 164 for his career, tying Brett Butler for fourth in franchise history for stolen bases. When the game went into extra innings, Ramírez was the leadoff hitter with Rosario automatically put at second base. Instead of intentionally walking him like teams had been doing lately, Rockies reliever Robert Stephenson decided to pitch to Ramírez. He made a bad mistake as Ramírez smoked a hard liner 104.2 mph off his bat, that first baseman C.J. Cron had trouble handling and got past him into the outfield. Ramírez hustled to second for a double as Rosario crossed home plate to give the Guardians a 4-3 lead. Once again, Ramírez came through big time for Cleveland and picked up his 62nd RBI of the season.

 “He brings it every day,” Manager Terry Francona said of Ramírez. “He doesn’t take days off. He just does everything.”

Bullpen Comes Through

The other factor that played an important role in Cleveland getting the win was the performance by its bullpen down the stretch. After starter Shane Bieber was pulled with one out in the seventh inning and the game tied at three, in came Eli Morgan, who had not given up an earned run in 11 consecutive appearances. He was able to extend it to 12 as he went 1.1 innings, giving up no runs, no hits and striking out two batters and got the Guardians out of a tough seventh inning. Bryan Shaw came on in relief of Morgan in the bottom of the ninth and faced four batters. He struck out one, walked one and got the other two to ground out, allowing no runs and no hits as well. 

With a 4-3 lead in the 10th, Emmanuel Clase came on for the save opportunity. After a fielding error by Andrés Giménez, there were runners on the corners with no outs. The next batter, Brendan Rodgers made weak contact with the ball, and that baded Charlie Blackmon a little off of third base and the Guardians were eventually able to tag him out to get the first out, getting the lead runner. With a runner on first and second, C.J. Cron grounded into a game ending 6-4-3 double play to give the Guardians the win and Clase his 12th save of the year. Francona talked about the calm and collected nature of his closer in the 10th inning.

“Last year there were a few times you could tell he’s young,” Francona explained. “Now he’s got a lot of reps under his belt, especially for a young kid. He’s been damn good.”

If you added up correctly, that is 3.1 no-hit innings by the Guardians bullpen down the stretch of the game, can’t really ask for anything better than that if you’re a manager. 

Bieber’s Pitching Performance 

For six innings, Shane Bieber looked great, he had seven strikeouts and had only allowed one run on six hits. Knowing he was doing well, he was sent back out for the seventh inning. He got Randal Grichuk to line out to start the inning, then Brian Serven got a hit, but was able to get Sam Hilliard to ground out. Then came up Charlie Blackmon, the Rockies best hitter and always a tough out. On a 1-1 pitch, Blackmon smoked a bullet 105.1 mph 437 feet to right center field for a long gone home run to tie the game at three apiece. The next batter, Yonathan Daza singled up the middle, prompting Manager Terry Francona to turn to his bullpen to finish the job. 

“I thought he was so good to the point where I probably managed with my heart a little bit and not my head,” Francona admitted. “I was kicking myself, when we have Eli (Morgan) out there rested.”

Bieber finished the night going 6.2 innings, giving up three runs on nine hits, a home run, while striking out seven and walking one. His velocity was low as it has been accustomed to this season with his four-seam fastball averaging just 90.8 miles per hour, just 0.1 mph faster than his yearly average. The high elevation proved to add some vertical break to his pitches as on three of the four pitches he threw, he averaged a break of 4.0 inches higher than his average this season.

He Wants All the Smoke 

While José Ramírez got player of the game props and rightfully so as he had three of the four runs on the night for the Guardians offense, that fourth one came from someone who had quite the night. That player was Josh Naylor. Naylor tied a career-high with two doubles on the night, picking up his 39th and 40th double as a major leaguer in the process and went 3-4 with an RBI. His RBI single in the 6th inning was the one that scored Ramírez after he got a stolen base and gave the Guardians a 3-1 lead. Naylor also drew a walk during the game as well. With the three hits in the game, Naylor now has seven hits over his last five games. 

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