Detroit Tigers catcher Wilson Ramos is turning back the clock.
It’s not 2016, when Ramos crushed a career-high 22 home runs in 131 games for the Washington Nationals. But it’s not 2020, either, when the 12-year MLB veteran only picked up five homers in 45 games for the New York Mets.
Until someone dethrones him, Ramos leads the major leagues in 2021 with six home runs. He has needed just nine games to reach this total, thanks to a two-homer performance in Tuesday’s 8-2 win over the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.
“A dream come true,” Ramos said after Tuesday’s win. “I worked really hard during the offseason, and I feel that work paying off. Very excited because I feel 100% (healthy) right now behind the plate and on offense. I want to do what I can do, so I’m very happy for this moment in my career.”
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Ramos stands alone atop MLB’s leaderboard, one ahead of ex-Tiger J.D. Martinez (Boston Red Sox), Byron Buxton (Minnesota Twins), Tyler Naquin (Cincinnati Reds), Ryan McMahon (Colorado Rockies) and Rafael Devers (Red Sox). Fellow Tiger Akil Baddoo, a rookie, has four home runs.
On Tuesday, Ramos hit opposite-field blasts against Astros relievers Bryan Abreu in the fifth inning and Nivaldo Rodriguez in the ninth inning.
The accomplishment marked his first two-homer game since May 25, 2019. Playing for the Mets against the Tigers, he homered off Ryan Carpenter in the second inning and Nick Ramirez in the sixth inning.
“He’s a productive offensive catcher who can do damage at any moment,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said. “We’ve seen that when he hits the ball, it goes pretty far.”
Since Miguel Cabrera — Ramos’ close friend — went to the 10-day injured list Sunday with a left biceps strain, the 33-year-old Ramos has moved to the cleanup spot in the batting order. Although Cabrera was only hitting .125 with one homer and three RBIs through seven games, his teammates find comfort in his presence in the lineup.
Without Cabrera, a slew of players have stepped up to provide 14 runs on 23 hits and eight walks in back-to-back wins against the Astros. It’s the first series victory in Houston for the Tigers since May 2013, and the team improved to a 5-6 record.
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Ramos isn’t putting pressure on himself, but as a veteran, he understands his responsibility to help fill Cabrera’s void until he returns from his injury.
“I like to be in the middle of the lineup because I’m working hard on my offense,” Ramos said. “Miggy is one of the leaders of this team, and we need him back. But if he’s not here right now, I have to take that spot he left. I don’t want to be in Miggy’s spot, but I have to do my job.”
Ramos has 134 homers and 521 RBIs, with a .274 batting average, in his 955-game career with the Twins (2010), Nationals (2010-16), Tampa Bay Rays (2017-18), Philadelphia Phillies (2018), Mets (2019-20) and Tigers.
And Ramos believes, based on a small sample this season, he can prolong his career in the majors, even if he must eventually transition from catcher to full-time designated hitter because of previous knee injuries.
“I still feel young to play more years in the big leagues,” Ramos said. “I’m very happy because I’m showing a lot of people who didn’t trust me in free agency. Now I’m doing a good job and giving support to this team.”
Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.