CLEVELAND (AP) — Jose Ramirez finished third in the AL Most Valuable Player race last season.
Cleveland’s All-Star third baseman is making another run to finish high in the voting again.
Ramirez moved into a tie for the major league lead with his 33rd home run — a three-run shot in the first inning — and the Cleveland Indians defeated the Los Angeles Angels 4-3 on Sunday.
Ramirez is batting .300 and is third in the AL with 82 RBIs. He’s also near the top of the league in slugging percentage, on-base percentage and total bases.
“He’s a special hitter,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “Some guys kind of warm into the game. He’s dangerous right from the very first pitch.”
Ramirez homer traveled an estimated 423 feet and barely missed landing in the upper deck in right field. He also walked twice and has three homers and eight RBIs in his last six games.
Ramirez’s home run came against Deck McGuire, called up from Triple-A Salt Lake to start in place of the injured Tyler Skaggs.
McGuire (0-2) retired only one batter, allowed three runs and was pulled with the bases loaded in the first. While McGuire had never any of Cleveland’s hitters, he knew what he was getting into with Ramirez at the plate.
“I threw a fastball down the middle, and a really good hitter put a really good swing on it,” he said.
Rookie Shane Bieber (6-2) allowed two runs in 5 2/3 innings. Brad Hand — the Indians fourth reliever — allowed a run in the ninth but got his third save with Cleveland and 27th of the season.
Before the game Angels manager Mike Scioscia dismissed a report that he’s stepping down after this season. Scioscia, who has managed the Angels since 2000, said before Sunday’s game that he won’t talk about his future with the club until the season ends.
The Angels were missing outfielder Mike Trout for the fourth straight game with a lingering right wrist injury. He hasn’t played since injuring his wrist while sliding on a steal attempt Wednesday in Tampa.
Trout is still having issues swinging the bat and is considered day to day. Albert Pujols was also out of the lineup for a planned day off.
The Angels scored twice in the fifth on Kole Calhoun’s RBI double and Shohei Ohtani’s run-scoring single.
Calhoun started the ninth with a single. Pinch-hitter Justin Upton hit into a force play and Ohtani grounded out, but Andrelton Simmons’ infield hit made it a one-run game. Hand struck out David Fletcher to end the game.
Skaggs was scheduled to start Sunday, but went on the 10-day disabled list with a left adductor strain. McGuire joined the team Saturday and was activated before the game. He allowed a home run, two singles, hit two batters, walked one and threw a wild pitch.
McGuire loaded the bases on two hit batters and a single, but Taylor Cole retired the next two hitters and pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings.
Jason Kipnis had an RBI double in the sixth.
Right fielder Melky Cabrera helped Bieber with three outstanding defensive plays. He made a head-first diving catch of balls hit by Jefry Marte and Calhoun in the third. Cabrera hung on to Ohtani’s drive to right field after crashing into the wall in the fourth.
“He was all over the place,” Francona said. “That was kind of cool to hear the way the fans responded to it too. He did a good job.”
Trout and Pujols were out of the lineup and Upton wasn’t used until the ninth. Eric Young Jr. started in center again while Simmons batted cleanup and Francisco Arcia played first base.
“We had a lot of guys out but the guys that were in there played hard and we hit the ball harder than they did, we just couldn’t get that extra hit with guys in scoring position,” Scioscia said.
Andrew Miller made his second appearance since spending two months on the DL with right knee inflammation, entering in the seventh with a runner on first. He retired Calhoun on a lineout to center, but allowed Young’s single and hit Ohtani with a pitch.
Miller was relieved by Cody Allen, who threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings.
“It wasn’t exactly like we drew it up, but with the way their lineup shook out it fit kind of perfectly to go in that order,” Allen said.
Infielder Luis Valbuena was designated for assignment to make room for McGuire. Valbeuna batted .199 with nine home runs and 33 RBIs in 96 games.
Indians: C Yan Gomes (right hamstring tendinitis) missed his second straight game.
Angels: Los Angeles returns home to open a three-game series Monday against Detroit. RHP Nick Tropeano (4-6, 4.94 ERA) will start for the Angels.
Indians: Cleveland begins a three-game series Monday against Minnesota at Progressive Field. RHP Trevor Bauer (10-6, 2.34) will start for the Indians.