CLEVELAND -- When the Cleveland Guardians needed a response, after Tampa Bay took a 1-0 lead in Game 1 of their AL Wild Card Series on Friday, it came as no surprise that All-Star third baseman Jose Ramirez would be the guy to come through. He's done it all year.
"He's inevitable," winning pitcher Shane Bieber said after the Guardians' 2-1 win. "To do it right away, that was huge. I know for me personally, any pitcher, will tell you that."
Ramirez hit an 88 mph changeup for a two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth not long after Jose Siri had given the Rays the lead in the top of the inning. Response accomplished.
"Yeah, that [responding] came through my mind, but we have a really good team, so I knew we were capable to come back," Ramirez said through the team interpreter. "When it came off the bat I felt it was a homer, but with this weather you never know, and when I saw the center fielder trying to get to the wall, I was kind of concerned and I kind of sped up a little bit my pace [on the bases]."
Ramirez, batting right-handed, went deep to the opposite field off Rays starter Shane McClanahan as the home crowd erupted for the fan favorite. The best player on the Guardians hit 29 regular-season home runs but his manager is most impressed when he's not trying to hit them.
"I know he was [sitting] on 29 [in the regular season], and everybody was wanting it -- and I understand why they want him to get 30," Terry Francona said. "But he hit the double the other way. He had a bunch of hits that were staying through the ball. Balls will go out just because he's a really good hitter."
McClanahan left the pitch up after getting Ramirez out on changeups his first two times at the plate.
"That was my plan, just look for that changeup," he said. "He got me twice with the same pitch. Because it's a really good pitch. It really resembles a fastball. So I was just sitting on that pitch and I was just trying not to do too much, just put it on the opposing side of the field, and I was able to get a good contact on that."
The home run backed Bieber's stellar outing as he lasted 7⅔ innings, giving up just three hits while striking out eight. He wouldn't commit to it being his best outing of the year but it would be hard to find one better, considering what's at stake. The Guardians can win the best-of-three series with a victory Saturday.
Bieber said the crowd gave him some needed adrenaline.
"It was just a lot of fun out there," he said. "I wasn't blind to the fact that there were a lot of people there pulling for us, pulling for us to come out of there with a victory. So we won't take that for granted and that's what we do it for."
The game lasted just two hours, 17 minutes on a chilly and cloudy day in Cleveland. It was decided by home runs -- by two teams not known for hitting them.
"Two home runs, theirs and ours," Francona said. "Or we might still be playing because both pitchers were [good], I mean, their guy was really good."