CLEVELAND -- Alexei Ramirez has played his best baseball of the season and it couldn’t come at a better time for White Sox general manager Rick Hahn.
With a week left before the trade deadline, Ramirez continued to shine in every facet on Friday night in a 6-0 White Sox victory over the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Ramirez had three hits, stole two bases and made a trio of nice defensive plays and Jose Abreu homered for the first time since July 3 in support of Jose Quintana, who earned his first victory since July 1. Quintana struck out eight in the first complete game and shutout of his career.
“(Ramirez) was doing everything tonight,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “Right now, it’s probably that time where he’s starting to click, offensively and defensively.”
Since July 1, Ramirez has a .333/.363/.483 slash line with five extra-base hits and eight RBIs in 66 plate appearances. It’s an eye-opening stretch compared with the rest of his 2015 season as Ramirez hit .212/.235/.281 with two homers and 26 RBIs in his first 293 plate appearances.
Not only that, but Ramirez ranked near the bottom of the league in qualified shortstops in Defensive Runs Saved. But as of Friday, Ramirez has improved to 18th of 26 shortstops with minus-4 runs saved, according to fangraphs.com.
While Ramirez is under contract through this season, he’s only owed $1 million for 2016 unless his $10 million team option is picked up. His recent play -- for which he credits the White Sox coaching staff -- could make Ramirez an attractive option for a contender in need of a veteran shortstop before next week’s non-waiver trade deadline. Pittsburgh, which acquired Aramis Ramirez from Milwaukee on Thursday, also could use a shortstop with Jordy Mercer out with an injury.
“I really appreciate all of the coaches having my back and supporting me,” Ramirez said through an interpreter. “I feel it’s been working out good with all of the support they’ve given me. We had a talk and a meeting in a friendly way, and they said we’re going to continue to play hard, and that’s what I’m doing.”
Ramirez made his presence felt several times throughout Friday’s win over reigning American League Cy Young winner Corey Kluber. But none was bigger than a two-run double off first base in the eighth inning against Bryan Shaw to give the White Sox a six-run lead.
Ramirez scored the team’s first run in the third inning when he singled, stole second base, advanced on a grounder and scored on a Kluber wild pitch. He also singled and stole second base in the seventh inning.
The three-hit performance comes on the heels of a monstrous three-run homer by Ramirez in Thursday’s game, which Ventura said was the best ball the 2014 Silver Slugger had hit all season.
But Ramirez’s rebound hasn’t been limited to his bat, as he has seemingly made one diving stop after another for most of the month.
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A Gold Glove finalist last season, Ramirez has looked like one again in July. In the second inning, Ramirez knocked down a screamer headed for the outfield, retrieved the ball and flipped it between his legs to Carlos Sanchez at second for the force. An inning later, Ramirez made a nice play in the hole and threw behind Jason Kipnis, who overran second base for an out. Ramirez also took a hit away from Giovanny Urshela in the eighth inning.
Those plays helped Quintana to his first career shutout and complete game. Quintana gave up five hits through the first three innings but then settled in as he retired 15 of the next 16 batters he faced. Quintana struck out eight batters and walked none in a 120-pitch effort.
“Alexei plays good every time,” Quintana said. “Tonight, he got us a couple double plays. Good.”
Ramirez has been his most productive since that meeting, which took place in Detroit late last month. While he always has been a streaky player, Ramirez took a little longer this time. But Ventura has confidence Ramirez -- who entered Friday worth minus-0.7 F-Wins Above Replacement -- is on the rebound.
“Every year, you look at him and he goes through ruts,” Ventura said. “This one was a little bit extended. But at the end of the year, you look up and he’s right at the top of everybody at shortstop.
“You are going to look up and he’ll be right around .270 and even though it started out slow, he just always seems to beable to get to that point by the time the season is over. You half expect a hot streak.”