A game that started as a pitcher’s duel ended as one as well, with one giant donger right in the middle of it.
Eli Morgan and Twins starter Baily Ober battled through four clean back-and-forth innings. The only baserunners until the fifth were when Eli Morgan lost the strike zone a bit in the second inning and a lone single in the fourth. For the Guardians, José Ramírez doubled in the first and Ernie Clement singled to lead off the fourth.
Yu Chang reached base on a double to lead off the fifth, then Daniel Johnson brought him home with this puppy.
We have scoring action thanks to a BOMB by Daniel Johnson! #OurCLE pic.twitter.com/Hc006iyUdp— Bally Sports Cleveland (@BallySportsCLE) August 18, 2021
The 425-foot, 108-mph moonshot was Johnson’s third homer of the season and it came in his first game played in the majors since July 30. He also singled and caught the game-ending catch in right field.
Franmil Reyes got a much-needed off day today, and in his place, Amed Rosario went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts. As a team, though, the Guardians struck out just six times and they didn’t commit any errors on defense. Overall, one of the cleanest games they’ve had this season aside from a passed ball in the seventh and a weird sac-fly double play that I’ll chalk up to being overly aggressive.
Eli Morgan worked in his slider 24 times tonight, as he has steadily done more as the season has progressed and hitters have started timing his changeup. Tonight, the pitch accounted for 27% of his total pitches — a career-high slider usage for the young hurler. It was swung at 12 times, whiffed on four times, and called for a strike twice.
Morgan earned the victory tonight primarily by staying ahead of hitters. He fell behind only a handful of times, and only once was he trapped in a 3-0 count. For the most part, he was able to use his fastball early in counts and catch hitters off guard with the change later on.
The bullpen, meanwhile, tried their hardest to ruin everything fun. Again. Bryan Shaw allowed a lead-off single in the seventh (and the runner advanced to third on the aforementioned passed ball), but he got out of it with three straight fly outs.
Trevor Stephan had a rough night, to say the least. He threw 21 pitches and walked the bases loaded before DeMarlo Hale pulled him for James Karinchak, whose spin rate is miraculously still dropping every time he comes out to pitch. He only allowed one run to score and got out of the inning, though. And I even give Hale props here for throwing him out there for a high-leverage situation. If the team still believes in him, you might as well let him have a couple now that Nick Sandlin is injured. I guess?
It didn’t matter anyway, as Emmanuel Clase pumped 100 mph cutters and shut the door on the 3-1 victory. The win brings Cleveland to within two games of .500 (which just feels gross to say), but still a massive hill to climb to reach the playoffs.