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Another outstanding Cal Quantrill start wasted by a bullpen implosion

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The Guardians bullpen did the thing again. The bad thing.

Oakland Athletics v Cleveland Indians Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Are you sick of me gushing about Cal Quantrill while recapping every one of his starts? Because that’s what I’m going to do here, too. I’m aware of what happened after he was pulled, but let’s start with the positive from the latest tire fire that is the 2021 Cleveland baseball season.

The Guardians’ undisputed ace, as he shall henceforth be referred to in this publication, followed up his seven-inning, 10-strikeout domination of the Tigers with a slightly more subdued six innings of work tonight against a much tougher lineup. He struck out five A’s batters and was charged with two earned runs, though he hardly deserves the negative marks.

Quantrill dazzled all night long, working his slider, sinker, and four-seamer almost evenly. He attacked the zone early and often with all five of his pitches, turned to his reliable sinker-slider combination when he got ahead but wasn’t afraid to rip a four-seamer when he had opponents on the ropes. By the end of his night, he recorded 12 0-2 counts and fell behind 2-0 just three times. He may have been able to stay in the game at a bit longer with a more consistent strike zone from the home plate umpire, but as it is he lasted just a couple of batters into the seventh inning.

When Quantrill left the mound with 93 pitches under his belt, the game was 2-0 Cleveland with runners on first and second and no outs in the top of the seventh. He walked Cleveland-killer Jed Lowrie to lead off, then Yan Gomes singled. Granted, he didn’t give his bullpen the greatest position to enter the game, but this is why they exist. That’s why you have your elite arms ready to go at a moment’s notice. That’s why interim manager DeMarlo Hale sent out ... Bryan Shaw?

As you might expect, Shaw didn’t hold the lead. A fielder’s choice followed by a single plated both of the runners that Quantrill allowed and shut the door on his day. Worse yet, it snapped his 22-inning stretch of not allowing a run. I cannot imagine a worse way for that impressive streak to end.

After Cleveland battled back to retake the lead in the bottom of the inning, Nick Sandlin looked unusually bad in his first at-bat against Elvis Andrus. The sidearmer left a slider up and in the zone and Andrus crushed it for a lead-off homer. Two batters later, Sandlin winced in pain after a pitch and was immediately pulled. Speculating on injuries based on a few seconds of video is never helpful, but seeing your stud reliever hurt his arm seemingly out of nowhere is never good. As of this writing, there hasn’t been word on what exactly happened.

The bullpen is the clear villain here — no matter whatever else happened, they came into the game with a lead and blew it. But the offense shouldn’t get off the hook entirely. They jumped out to a 2-0 lead thanks to some sloppy Oakland defense, but that was pretty much it.

Harold Ramirez left the game in the first inning with knee soreness, but his replacement, Myles Straw, flashed his speed around the bases and scored from first on Oscar Mercado’s seventh-inning double. I like him. He can stay. But the top four of Cleveland’s lineup — Bradley Zimmer, Amed Rosario, José Ramírez, and Franmil Reyes — combined to go 1-for-16 with seven strikeouts and two walks. That’s not gonna get it done.

The Guardians fell to 55-57 on the season with the loss and will look to avoid the sweep tomorrow afternoon.