MINNEAPOLIS -- Jose Ramirez picked an opportunistic time to catch fire, as his two-homer outburst on Saturday helped the Indians move into a tie with the Twins atop the American League Central standings.
In a 9-3 victory over Minnesota in the opener of a doubleheader at Target Field, Ramirez collected three extra-base hits and drove in four runs to power the Tribe's offense. The third baseman's performance, which marked his second multihomer game of the season, gave him 11 home runs on the year.
"I'm doing what I've always done," Ramirez said through team translator Anna Bolton. "I'm staying focused, and thank God I've been getting good pitches and getting good swing on them, and I've had success."
Twins lefty Adam Wilk was recalled from Triple-A Rochester to start Game 1 of the twin bill, but he lasted just 3 1/3 innings after giving up six runs on eight hits and was designated for assignment after the game. Ramirez got the Indians rolling with a two-out solo homer off Wilk to ignite a three-run first inning. He later added a leadoff shot against reliever Alex Wimmers in the sixth.
Dating back to a seventh-inning home run against the Dodgers on Wednesday, Ramirez has churned out 11 hits, including three homers and five doubles, in a span of 16 at-bats. Over his past 18 games, tracing back to when his season OPS last dropped below .800 on May 27, Ramirez has turned in a .400/.432/.714 slash line in 74 plate appearances.
"That's just the game," Ramirez said. "There's going to be good moments. There's going to be bad moments. Throughout all of it, you have to concentrate and figure out what you're doing well in the good moments to get out of the bad moments."
The Twins, who have been tied or in sole possession of first in the AL Central since May 11, struck for three runs (two earned) off lefty Ryan Merritt, who was promoted from Triple-A Columbus for the Game 1 start but optioned back to Columbus postgame. Brian Dozier contributed an RBI single in the third, and Ehire Adrianza delivered a two-run double in the fourth.
"The first two games have been lopsided," Minnesota manager Paul Molitor said. "We anticipated having some fun this series and competing. But it hasn't really worked out, pitching hasn't really given us much of a chance."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Zimmer's two-out attack: With two outs and a runner on second in the third, Indians rookie Bradley Zimmer roped a pitch into right-center for an RBI double. The extra-base hit put Cleveland up, 4-0, at the time and marked Zimmer's second breakthrough on the day. He also came through with a two-out, two-run single off Wilk in the first. So far, Zimmer is hitting .500 (5-for-10) with two outs and runners in scoring position this year.
"Hit at-bats are pretty mature," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He might swing through a pitch or chase a breaking ball, but then he makes the pitcher throw a strike to get him out. He's worked some walks in tough situations. He's gotten hits when he's been down in the count. And he's by far our fastest baserunner."
Double the trouble: Ramirez did plenty of damage with his two home runs, but it was a two-run double in the fourth that extended the Tribe's lead. With one out and runners on second and third, Ramirez sent a 3-1 slider from Wilk bouncing off the wall in right-center field, giving the Indians a 6-1 lead and ending the pitcher's outing.
"I don't think he was real happy he got hit last night late," said Francona, referring to Ramirez getting hit on the left shoulder by a pitch in Friday's win. "It's nice to see a guy react like that -- take it out on the ball. He didn't say a word, but he sure swung the bat."
"That was awesome. The team's just smashing the ball right now. It's even more fun to pitch in those games. The way they go out there and compete every day and swing the bat and win ballgames for you, it's a good time. It's awesome." --Merritt, on taking the mound in the first inning with a lead
"I feel good. Two homers. Four RBIs. I feel good." --Ramirez, when asked how his shoulder felt after Friday's HBP
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Ramirez homered from the right side in the first inning and then from the left side in the sixth. He became the ninth Indians player to go deep from both sides of the plate in a game in team history (done 11 times overall). Most recently, Francisco Lindor achieved the feat on April 5 at Texas.
WHAT'S NEXT Indians: Right-hander Trevor Bauer (5-5, 5.85 ERA) is scheduled to take the ball for the Tribe in a 2:10 p.m. ET clash with the Twins on Sunday at Target Field. Bauer has posted a 3.65 ERA with two wins in his two appearances against Minnesota this season, but he has a 6.61 ERA on the road this year.
Twins: Right-hander Kyle Gibson (4-4, 6.79 ERA) is slated to close out the four-game set for Minnesota on Sunday at 1:10 p.m. CT. He is seeking his fourth straight victory after going 3-0 with a 4.58 ERA over his past three outings. In 10 starts against Cleveland, Gibson has allowed 35 earned runs across 50 1/3 innings.