Ramirez takes it seriously, pitches Angels to win over Red Sox
ANAHEIM, Calif.–At 3 p.m. Wednesday, JC Ramirez pulled on his baseball pants, laced up his cleats, buttoned his uniform, buckled his belt, and headed for the bullpen behind left field at Angel Stadium.
This between-starts bullpen session, 75 hours before Ramirez took the mound Saturday against the Boston Red Sox, was not going to be a normal shorts-and-shirt bullpen session.
“Treat it like a game,” Ramirez said, scrunching his face and pointing two fingers to his eyes. “Stay focused.”
The Nicaraguan right-hander is new to the realm of starting pitching, so he has used this season as his study hall. More than a month into his new gig, he learned he was warming up too early before games and was tired come the first inning. Now he has sensed a need to increase his overall intensity, so he is going treat the standard sessions as if they matter a great deal.
Whether his strategy helped Saturday was unclear. He hurled an imperfect outing. But the six innings he supplied were enough to aid the Angels on their way to a 7-3 victory at Angel Stadium.
Right away, Ramirez issued a one-out walk to Andrew Benintendi. He then missed with all four pitches to Dustin Pedroia and slapped his right hand on his glove in frustration. Hanley Ramirez poked a slider into right field for a run-scoring single.
To begin the Angels’ first, Yunel Escobar tried to check his swing on a biting 2-and-2 cutter from Red Sox starter David Price. First-base umpire Vic Carapazza ruled that he did not successfully do so, and Escobar flung his hand in disbelief as he turned back to the dugout.
Before Albert Pujols notched a two-out single into left, Price struck out Mike Trout on a perfect two-seamer along the inner edge. The highly compensated left-hander worked out of the inning and the next, though the Angels forced him to toil, which might have factored into his later unraveling.
Ramirez was late to start covering first base on a potential double play in the second inning, and he missed Simmons’ throw that would have secured the second out of the inning. One out later, Mookie Betts stroked a double into right field. Benintendi sliced a first-pitch curveball into left, scoring another.
Ramirez’s error was the Angels’ first since June 30, which snapped a club record of 14 consecutive error-less games. They still have not had a position player commit an error since June 29.
In the Angels’ second, Andrelton Simmons grounded out on the seventh pitch he saw, and Kole Calhoun worked an eight-pitch walk. Then, with a man on and one out in the third, Trout forced Price into another extended at-bat before drawing a nine-pitch walk. Pujols stroked a double into left field, scoring two and cutting the Angels’ deficit to 3-2.
Simmons stepped up to the plate and swatted the next pitch into the third row of the left-field seats. The two-run home run pushed the Angels ahead for good, 4-3. Simmons singled in another run in the fifth. When Martin Maldonado followed with a routine grounder to shortstop, Xander Bogaerts inexplicably attempted a forceout at second, though Simmons had been running on the pitch. Bogaerts’ toss missed Pedroia at second base, and the Angels had a sixth run. They made it seven in the seventh.
After Benintendi’s second-inning single, Ramirez retired the next 12 Red Sox he faced. He struck out the side in the fifth, the latter two on called strikeouts, which angered Boston manager John Farrell, who was ejected for arguing.
Bogaerts slapped a double to snap Ramirez’s streak with two outs in the sixth, prompting relief to begin warming in the Angels’ bullpen. When Mitch Moreland walked, pitching coach Charles Nagy visited the mound, but Ramirez got to face one more batter, and he made him count. He induced a low liner from Christian Vazquez that Trout speared to end the inning and Ramirez’s night.
Charged with three runs, one earned, in his six innings, Ramirez lowered his earned-run average in 19 starts to a respectable 4.34, and the Angels stayed in the wild-card hunt.