Ramirez had been out since May 10 with a strained left hamstring. In his absence, the Brewers became one of the hottest-hitting teams in the Major Leagues, with some players thriving outside of their usual spots in the order.
For example, Ryan Braun shifted to the two-hole, then went 15-for-36 (.417) with two home runs, nine runs scored and nine RBIs over his next nine games. Jean Segura moved into the leadoff spot and was 18-for-54 (.333) with 12 runs scored in his next 12 games. And after moving into the cleanup spot, Carlos Gomez went 15-for-42 (.357) with a home run and nine RBIs in his next 11 games.
That productivity highlights an unusual advantage for Brewers manager Ron Roenicke. Namely, he has a bunch of players who can hit well wherever they bat in the order.
"Like Khris Davis right now, I could really probably slot him anywhere. Gomez I could slot anywhere. [Jonathan Lucroy] I could slot anywhere. [Braun] I could probably slot anywhere," Roenicke said. "It's always nice when you have a lot of guys you feel like could hit [anywhere], especially when you're talking about third-fourth-fifth.
"First and second … you kind of limit it to more guys who are your basestealers and guys who can get on base. I think when you talk about that middle of the order, when you have a lot of guys who can hit there, you know you're really good."
But ability isn't the only ingredient needed for a successful team. It especially helps when a five-time All-Star and former MVP buys in completely, and Braun said the switch did not bother him because it was good for him, too.
"My approach doesn't really change at all; I think, especially being in an American League ballpark, your nine hitter is essentially another leadoff guy," Braun said. "But as far as hitting second, I think the more at-bats you get the best hitters, the better off you'll be over the course of the season. I think moving up a spot, Lucroy three, Gomez four, I think it gives all of us 15 or 16 extra at-bats over the course of the season. The more at-bats we get, the more wins we should get."
As for the rest of the order, Roenicke said in an ideal world Gomez would bat first -- adding that "he creates a lot of problems when he's leading off" -- Segura or Lucroy would bat second, Braun third and Ramirez fourth. And while Roenicke appreciates the flexibility, he would like to get a bit closer to that ideal world of a set lineup one through eight.
"I would rather have it the same," Roenicke said, "but I don't know how to do that yet."