CLEVELAND -- Everyone in the ballpark knew it was gone as soon as it left his bat. Jose Ramirez's eighth-inning, two-run blast over the wall in left lifted the Indians past the Blue Jays, 3-2, in Sunday's series finale at Progressive Field.
According to Statcast™, Ramirez's homer off Jays reliever Brett Cecil went an estimated 401 feet with an exit velocity of 104 mph. It was his 10th home run of the season, with six of them coming in the eighth or ninth inning. It pushed the Tribe past Toronto in the rubber game between two first-place clubs in a potential postseason preview.
"That was exciting," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "The way their guy pitched, it was really hard to sustain anything. We'd get some hits, but that two-seamer was down in the zone and the breaking ball off of it. All of a sudden, Jose comes up and -- it happened so fast. We won two out of three and I think we had the lead for, like, 10 minutes."
Toronto did not go quietly after the home run. Josh Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion worked consecutive two-out walks in the ninth before Cleveland closer Cody Allen retired Russell Martin to seal his 24th save in 27 opportunities. The Indians finished their 11-game homestand with an 8-3 record.
The late-game heroics overshadowed a gem by Blue Jays righty Marcus Stroman, who tossed 7 1/3 innings of one-run ball. He allowed seven hits and struck out nine in the no-decision. Tribe ace Corey Kluber also was strong, allowing just two runs on six hits across 6 2/3 innings. Melvin Upton Jr. went deep off Kluber for his second homer in as many days.
"I felt good, but at the end of the day we didn't win the game," said Stroman, who has a 3.02 ERA since the beginning of July. "It's extremely frustrating that we weren't able to come out with that W."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Big spot: Rookie right-hander Mike Clevinger was tasked with his first true test out of the bullpen. Clevinger, who made five starts earlier this season, entered in relief of Kluber to get the final out of the seventh with the bases loaded, facing Encarnacion. He started off ahead in the count, 1-2, with a pair of called sliders. Then, Clevinger was called for a balk by third-base umpire Greg Gibson, but home-plate umpire Ramon De Jesus overruled him, saying time had been called. After a lengthy discussion with both managers, the balk was not issued. Clevinger came back and froze Encarnacion with a fastball to keep the deficit at one run. More >
"I said if I'm going out of the stretch then there is no need to even think about it anymore," Clevinger said. "I didn't want to have that in the back of my head on top of having the home run king up with the bases loaded."
Cecil's problems continue: This has been a year to forget for Cecil, who entered the season as one of the league's most reliable setup men but has struggled pretty much the entire way. Toronto was trying to get by with an undermanned bullpen after Joaquin Benoit, Jason Grilli and Roberto Osuna each pitched in the first two games of the series, but the lack of relief options cost the Blue Jays a potential win. Cecil was charged with his seventh loss of the year, and he has now surrendered five home runs -- one more than all of 2015 -- while his ERA sits at 5.13. More >
"Ramirez, you know, he just wore us out," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Flip those [switch-hitters] around, that didn't work either."
The birthday boy: Upton celebrated his 32nd birthday with a deep home run to left-center field in the third inning. According to Statcast™, Upton's 19th of the year was projected to travel 430 feet and left his bat at 107 mph. It was Upton's third home run over his last four games as he appears to be heating up following a slow start in a Toronto uniform. Upton is one home run away from reaching 20 for the first time since 2012. The Blue Jays added another run later in the inning after Devon Travis doubled off the wall in right and Donaldson followed with an RBI single, but that was all the damage Toronto could do.
"We played good," Gibbons said after his team dropped two of these three games, with both losses coming by a one-run margin. "It just magnifies that we need to score to win. We have a tough time in those low-scoring games."
Double-play daggers: The Indians did themselves no favors by rolling into three double plays against Stroman, who allowed very little wiggle room. The biggest came in the sixth inning, as Cleveland opened the frame with three straight singles, including an RBI base knock by Francisco Lindor to trim the lead in half. Then with two on and nobody out, Ramirez hit a chopper to shortstop Ryan Goins, who started a double play. Ramirez made up for it, however, with his go-ahead blast.
"Those high-pressure moments are always enjoyable, they're always good," Ramirez said. "It helps you learn how to focus better. It's great to enjoy those moments."
"Today he was 0-for-3. I thought he was going to take the first pitch because it's a lefty he hasn't hit all day. I saw his swing, as soon as he hit that ball, I'm like, 'Oh, wow.' It's unreal. It's fun to watch him. It makes me happy, puts a smile on my face every time I know he's going to be playing." -- Lindor, on Ramirez's ability to deliver in the clutch
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Upton is batting .321 (9-for-28) over his last eight games after hitting .136 (6-for-44) in his first 15 games for Toronto.
WHAT'S NEXT Blue Jays: Toronto will enjoy an off-day on Monday before opening a three-game series against the Angels on Tuesday night at Rogers Centre. Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (8-13, 4.51) will get the call in the series opener, with first pitch scheduled for 7:07 p.m. ET. Dickey has allowed six earned runs over his previous three starts.
Indians: The Tribe will begin a seven-game road trip starting Monday with the opener of a three-game set against the A's. Carlos Carrasco (8-6, 3.34 ERA) is slated to take the hill in the first game at 10:05 p.m. The righty is 1-2 with a 6.66 ERA this month. Carrasco has allowed three or more runs in each of his four outings in August.