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Guardians avoid falling below .500 with wild win in Chicago

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Welcome to Cleveland, Myles Straw — we’re kind of a mess

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Chicago White Sox Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

A grand slam, a five-run comeback, nine unanswered runs, a blown lead, a close save. This game had just about everything. Best of all, it ended with the Cleveland Guardians leaving Guaranteed Rate Field happy with a final score of 12-11.

This game turned into a wild back-and-forth contest in the middle innings, but it didn’t start that way, instead looking like a blowout through the first four. Triston McKenzie was on the bump for Cleveland and on a scale of one to bad, he looked bad. No, the scale doesn’t make sense, but trust me.

He relied on his four-seamer far too often — 72% of the time — and it wasn’t particularly effective anyway. White Sox batters swung at it 28 times and whiffed just twice. That’s not a recipe for success, but neither were his curveball or slider, which were thrown 12 and 11 times, respectively and were not fooling anybody.

McKenzie gave up three home runs before his day was finished in the fifth inning. Only one was anything more than a solo shot, thankfully, but it also happened to be a grand slam. A grand slam that was only set up because McKenzie completely lost the strike zone in the fourth inning and threw 11-straight balls following a lead-off double by Gavin Sheets. His pitch chart for that inning is just ugly, showing a young pitcher desperately trying to get a fastball to get into the zone.

Baseball Savant

For a while, this game looked like rookie White Sox’s rookie catcher Seby Zavala’s coming-out party. He hit two of those homers off McKenzie, including the grand slam, after coming into the game without a dinger to his name. I’m sure for White Sox fans looking for a silver lining in this loss that will still be the headliner, but I would just prefer to ignore him altogether and focus on these sick back-to-back jacks from Owen Miller and Austin Hedges.

Yes, that Owen Miller and that Austin Hedges. Miller’s 416-foot homer in the fifth inning was his first of the season and was quickly followed by Hedges sending his own ball 419 feet. The two of them celebrated the occasion in the dugout afterward. It was adorable.

And a little terrifying.

Those home runs only cut Chicago’s lead in half, though. After Justin Garza (hey, remember him?) pitched a clean fifth inning, the offense needed to deliver in the sixth — and deliver they did.

Amed Rosario got things started with a walk, then two batters later Franmil Reyes brought him home with a double. Oscar Mercado, Austin Hedges, and Yu Chang each added hits in the rally, and Owen Miller walked in-between. The end result was six runs on the board in the inning, and at that point, seven unanswered.

Most of this sixth-inning magic came after Dallas Keuchel was removed from the game for Michael Kopech. Oscar Mercado, the second batter to faced Kopech, had maybe his best at-bat of the season, if not the last couple of seasons. He held on for eight pitches, did a fantastic job of fighting off a slider with a full count, and then hammered the next pitch for a double. He finished the game 1-for-5, but that one hit was something special.

An inning later, after Harold Ramirez doubled home Rosario and José Ramírez to make the score 10-6, Bryan Shaw entered the game in relief and ... immediately gave up a home run. Then a double. Then a single. Finally, after Jose Abreu reached base on an error and Sheets flew out, he was pulled for Nick Sandlin who took down Yoán Moncada and Andrew Vaughn with his typical precision.

I’m not going to lie, things got dicey there. Things were said about Bryan Shaw that wouldn’t make it into a PG-13 movie. With Tito now sidelined for the rest of the season, one has to wonder how long Shaw keeps getting these premium relief roles — let alone any relief roles at all. Tonight he got another one, was left in too long, and nearly cost his team the game.

By the time Shaw mercifully left the game and Sandlin cleaned up his mess, the score was 10-8. Cleveland would score two more in the top of the eighth to give them a four-run lead, which as it turns out, was very necessary.

James Karinchak, without the aid of sticky substances, can’t seem to pitch anymore. His spin rates have plummeted almost as fast as his walk rate has risen and he just doesn’t look like the highly touted reliever he once was. Tonight, he faced four batters and only managed one out. The other three were a walk, a home run, and a single. At least this time he didn’t hit anybody.

Emmanuel Clase was brought in to finish the eighth and get the rare five-out save. He did it, but not with some stress mixed in there. He was hitting 102 mph towards the end, and if you couldn’t tell by the featured image of this recap, he was absolutely pumped.

Lost in all of this was also the fact that Myles Straw made his Guardians debut after being acquired at the trade deadline. He went 1-for-5, but the dude can absolutely fly in the outfield. On at least one occasion that I took note of, there was a fly ball hit to left field that he almost beat Harold Ramirez to. He took good routes, made good throws, and didn’t blow up his body running full speed into a wall. All good things.

We got to see his patented ability to not miss a damn thing, too. Straw saw 17 pitches tonight, swung 10 times, and didn’t miss one. The book on him appears to be “attack the zone and hope for the best” and that’s exactly what White Sox pitchers did. It mostly worked, but he was able to take a high changeup and pull it at 100.4 mph for a single.

In the end, Cleveland won, 12-11, and that’s what really matters. It was a fun game, even if a lot of the drama was self-inflicted damage by the bullpen — comebacks are always welcome In This House. The win prevents Cleveland from falling even further back in the AL Central standings and it keeps them above .500 for the time being. The series will wrap up tomorrow at 2:10 p.m. ET.