CLEVELAND (AP) — José Ramírez hit a three-run homer and Emmanuel Clase worked a perfect ninth inning for his major league-leading 40th save in the Cleveland Guardians’ 6-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Friday night.
Ramírez put AL Central champion Cleveland ahead for good at 4-3 in the sixth with his 29th home run of the season. The 404-foot blast off Brady Singer (10-5) gave the All-Star third baseman 121 RBIs — second in the AL behind New York’s Aaron Judge.
“Andrés Giménez called that homer,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said, laughing. “I said, ‘Double,’ but he just turned to me and goes, ‘No, home run.’ Give him credit.”
Austin Hedges followed with an RBI single, snapping an 0-for-36 slump, and Myles Straw drove in rookie Will Brennan to make it 6-3. Kansas City had taken a 3-0 lead into the bottom of the fifth.
“We opened the door in that inning for their guy (Ramírez) to do damage,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “And he did it.”
Cleveland has won 10 of 11 and is a major league-best 21-4 since Sept. 5. Kansas City dropped its fourth in a row as the teams opened a six-game series to end the regular season.
Aaron Civale (4-6) threw six innings, allowing three runs — two earned — in winning his second straight start. The right-hander gave up a two-run homer to Drew Waters and a solo shot to Michael Massey.
Clase worked the ninth for his 40th save in 44 opportunities, keeping him two saves ahead of Atlanta’s Kenley Jansen.
“Every year starts with that goal, and for me, it’s motivation to go into next year and try and get a higher number,” Clase said. “I feel like I’m in my best moment. I’m just excited to get to pitch every time I can and excited about the playoffs.”
Singer absorbed his first loss since Aug. 3, giving up six runs in 5 2/3 innings. The right-hander was 6-0 with a 1.89 ERA in his previous nine starts, firmly establishing himself as Kansas City’s ace.
“Brady has set himself apart as an elite starter,” Matheny said. “He was great until the sixth inning, like he’s been all year. It’s a shame that his last one ended like that.”
Waters hit a two-run homer in the third, and Massey went deep in the fifth. Giménez led off the fifth with Cleveland’s first hit, then scored on Brennan’s single to cut Kansas City’s lead to 3-1.
Cleveland has not played a six-game series since 1963 against Washington. The Royals’ only other six-game set was in 1976 against Boston.
CREAM OF THE CROP
Royals shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. and Guardians outfielder Steven Kwan have been major contributors all season, but are unlikely to beat out Seattle outfielder Julio Rodríguez for the Rookie of the Year award.
Witt leads AL rookies with 80 RBIs, 57 extra-base hits and 28 stolen bases, while Kwan ranks first with 165 hits, 88 runs and seven triples. Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman and Astros shortstop Jeremy Peña also are making pushes for the honor.
“The biggest thing is we’re talking about young players who are ambassadors for the game of baseball,” Matheny said. “The position players, in particular, are pretty impressive.”
Francona agreed, saying, “There are a pretty good handful of them this year. And they look like they’re ready to not just survive, but maybe thrive.”
Guardians: LHP Anthony Gose (Tommy John surgery) is out for the season, giving Cleveland the chance to replace him on the 40-man roster with a prospect who would become eligible for the postseason.
Royals: LHP Kris Bubic (2-13, 5.81 ERA) is tied for third in the AL in losses, two behind leader Marco Gonzales of Seattle. Bubic has not won since July 24 against Tampa Bay, going 0-7 with a 6.14 ERA in his last 11 starts.
Guardians: RHP Zach Plesac (3-11, 4.39 ERA) will be activated from the injured list to make his first start since breaking his right hand on Aug. 27. Plesac is penciled in to pitch out of the bullpen in the wild-card round.