Wrist injury forces Jose Ramirez out of game, Indians still manage 4-2 win over KC

Mike Freeman, Franmil Reyes provide offense on Saturday

T.J. Zuppe
August 24, 2019 - 10:19 pm
Mike Freeman, Franmil Reyes and Jason Kipnis

Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images

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CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) — Mike Freeman’s bat exploded as Royals starter Glenn Sparkman’s 95 mph heater darted in toward the utility-man’s swinging hands. The ball slowly trickled toward Cheslor Cuthbert, but all the Kansas City infielder could do was pocket the slow roller.

Freeman, as it so happens, was only in the game because Jose Ramirez was forced to exit in the first inning due to a right wrist injury, yet, somehow, it was Freeman’s 27.8 mph dribbler to the third baseman that got the Indians on the board in the third, scoring Oscar Mercado with two outs.

RELATED: The latest on Jose Ramirez's wrist injury

But baseball wasn’t done proving its unique brand of humor, as it was Freeman’s infield single — not the red hot, two-time All-Star that Freeman had replaced — that sparked the Indians’ offense, setting the stage for Franmil Reyes to deliver a monster three-run homer to the left field porch later in the frame, eventually pushing Cleveland to a 4-2 victory over the Royals on Saturday night.

"He stays ready," manager Terry Francona said of Freeman. "As a guy in his position, you can’t pick your spots when you stay ready because the game’s not fair. And because he always stays ready, he gets his chance to play and he plays well. He’s been a blessing for us so far. He’s been terrific."

While Freeman’s 2-for-3 day with a walk was just the latest case of the left-handed hitter providing a key contribution in an unexpected spot, it’s difficult for attention to drift too far from Ramirez, whose offensive resurgence over the past two months has been at the heart of a return to contention for the Tribe within the American League Central.

"You guys know that we need him," Reyes said after slugging his 30th homer of the season -- his third with the Indians. "We need his defense. We need his offense. He’s a great guy. We don’t know what’s going to happen, but I hope everything is good."

While awaiting word on Ramirez — it was later revealed that he was sent for an MRI on his wrist but those results weren't immediately available — Mike Clevinger went to work, allowing just one run over 5 2/3 innings. 

The hard-throwing hurler struck out eight, working around four hits and two walks, lowering his season ERA to an even 3.00. An elevated pitch count was the only thing that limited Clevinger’s effort. The righty registered 18 swinging strikes, including eight with the slider, six with the four-seamer and four with his changeup.

“Early, I thought that was probably his best breaking ball we’ve seen," Francona said. "I think in the middle innings, he almost felt too good. Then, he ended up throwing a ton of pitches. But his stuff was phenomenal."

"Beginning of the game, my stuff, I can go out there with basically four swing-and-miss pitches," Clevinger added. "As you wear down, guys see your stuff, I feel like it's ticking down a bit. But it's still not ticking down to the point of putting it in play, but maybe not good enough to get all the swings-and-misses you normally get. And I run into foul balls. It gets back to pitch selection and how I'm setting guys up early in the game, to see how they're staying on it later."

Oliver Perez, Adam Cimber, Tyler Clippard and Brad Hand combined to allow just one run over the final 3 1/3 innings to finish off the Tribe’s second consecutive win over Kansas City. The save was also the second in as many nights for Hand, who had suffered three consecutive blown saves prior to Cleveland's victory on Friday night.

The Indians' bullpen was also the beneficiary of some solid defense in the late innings. Francisco Lindor made a diving stop to help save a run in the seventh, and Roberto Perez grabbed a slow roller in front of the plate and threw out Meibrys Viloria at first base in the eighth to help keep the Royals in check.

"That [Lindor] play was as good as you’re going to see," Francona said. "The one that he dove to short. We’re looking at a bad inning right there. I thought Berto’s play, you know, coming out [from behind the plate and] getting Clippard out of the way and making the throw, those are big plays.”