CLEVELAND (AP) — The baseball-shaped cake with three lit candles went unclaimed as José Ramírez skipped his postgame media availability.
His party took place earlier.
Ramírez homered on his 31st birthday to touch off Cleveland’s nine-run fourth inning, leading the Guardians to a 9-2 win and three-game sweep of the playoff-chasing Texas Rangers on Sunday.
Ramírez connected off rookie Cody Bradford (4-2) leading off the fourth and the Guardians kept swinging away. They had a homer, two doubles and six singles in scoring nine runs with nine hits, both their highs for an inning this season.
“We just kept getting hits and kept going,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said.
There wasn’t much the Rangers could do.
“We just got in one of those innings when we just couldn’t stop it,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “It’s a helpless feeling. What could go wrong, did.”
The Rangers, in the thick of the AL West and wild-card races, came to Cleveland riding a six-game winning streak only to be held to six runs over the weekend.
“Sure it’s disappointing,” Bochy said. “We’re all disappointed with how the games went. But we had a winning road trip. You get swept, and you’re like wait a minute. Best thing you can do is look at the silver lining. We’re coming off a 4-3 road trip and heading home.”
Andrés Giménez drove in three runs in Cleveland’s fourth, Gabriel Arias had two RBIs and Ramírez added a run-scoring groundout in his second at-bat of the inning as 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 trying to extend their season into October. They came into the day one-half game behind first-place Houston in the division, and holding one of the three wild-card spots.
Also, the Rangers’ loss clinched playoff berths for Baltimore and Tampa Bay.
Ramírez tied it 1-1 in the fourth with 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 Cleveland’s career 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.
“You can use any superlative just about you want, and he checks that box,” Francona said of his All-Star third baseman. “That’s the kind of player he is, stating the obvious.”
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.
“The first three innings we were grooving and the fourth I went out and made a pretty good pitch to José Ramírez, I thought. But he put a better swing on it,” Bradford said. “After that it was some balls over the fat part of the plate and they did what any MLB team should do and made me pay for it.”
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.
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).