LEVELAND (AP) — José Ramírez homered on his 31st birthday to touch off Cleveland’s nine-run outburst in the fourth inning, leading the Guardians to a 9-2 win and three-game sweep of the playoff-chasing Texas Rangers on Sunday.
With the loss by Texas, Baltimore and Tampa Bay clinched playoff berths.
Ramírez connected off rookie Cody Bradford (4-2) leading off the fourth and the Guardians kept swinging away. They scored a season-high nine runs on a season-best nine hits — the homer, two doubles and six singles.
Andrés Giménez drove in three runs in the inning, Gabriel Arias had two RBIs and Ramírez added a run-scoring groundout in his second at-bat in the fourth, when the Guardians sent 14 batters to the plate.
The big inning — Cleveland got just one hit the rest of the way — took any stress away for Guardians rookie Gavin Williams (3-5), who limited Texas to one run and four hits in six innings with seven strikeouts.
Cleveland’s playoff hopes are hanging by a thread in the AL Central, leaving the Guardians to play spoiler over the final three weeks.
The Rangers, on the other hand, are in the thick of both the AL West and wild-card races. They came into the day one-half game behind first-place Houston in the division, and holding one of the three wild-card spots.
Ramírez tied it 1-1 in the fourth with a birthday homer — a 431-foot shot that landed about five rows short of the top of the left-field bleachers.
The homer was Ramírez’s 216th, moving him past Hall of Famer Larry Doby and into a tie for fifth with Carlos Santana and Hal Trosky on the Cleveland list. Ramírez is always good, but even better on his birthday, batting .333 (11 for 33) with four homers and nine RBIs in eight games.
Josh Naylor followed Ramírez’s 24th homer with a single and Cleveland strung together six straight hits before the Rangers pulled Bradford, who has been pitching in relief since his last start on July 30.
ON THE MEND
Rangers rookie third baseman Josh Jung is expected to be activated Monday after missing more than a month following thumb surgery.
Jong has been out since Aug. 6, when he was injured knocking down a 109 mph line drive with his glove hand to start a double play against Miami. He had an operation three days later.
Manager Bruce Bochy said Jong felt good after he faced live pitching and played three innings at the team’s complex in Surprise, Arizona on Saturday.
Despite missing time, Jong is still one of the leading contenders for AL Rookie of the Year. He was batting .274 with 22 homers and 67 RBIs before getting hurt.
Rangers: All-Star OF Adolis García (strained patellar) sprinted in the outfield grass before the game as he nears a return. Garcia has been out since getting hurt while chasing down a play ball on Sept. 6. Bochy said the club wants Garcia to have a larger role than just DH when he’s back.
Guardians: Ace Shane Bieber didn’t allow a hit over 3 2/3 innings in a rehab start for Triple-A Columbus at Toledo. Bieber, who hasn’t pitched since July 9 for Cleveland due to elbow inflammation, will likely make one more start in the minors before he’s activated.
Rangers: Begin their final homestand of the regular season Monday against Boston with LHP Jordan Montgomery (9-11, 4.47) facing Red Sox RHP Kutter Crawford (6-7, 4.26) in the opener of a three-game series.
Guardians: Open a three-game set in Kansas City on Monday. RHP Cal Quantrill (3-6, 5.40) starts the opener against Royals RHP Brady Singer (8-11, 5.51).