Beating up on bad teams is fun, and that’s just what the Cleveland Guardians did tonight. Mostly.
They finished the game with a 10-6 win, but it felt a lot closer than it should have been considering they scored four in the first inning and reached double-digit runs by the end of the game. Before we get to the pitching and defensive troubles, though, let’s talk big dingers.
Myles Straw got things started with a lead-off home run, and in true Myles Straw fashion, it was a homer hit at only 94 mph. Not the weakest home run by any stretch but definitely on the weaker side since baseball began measuring exit velocities. Still, he was able to give his legs a rest and job around the bases instead of fly around them. More importantly, he gave the Guardians an early lead.
Cleveland didn’t stop there, though. José Ramírez’s monster game started innocently enough with a walk followed by a stolen base, then Franmil Reyes doubled him home and Bradley Zimmer hit an absolute rocket that created some of the best home run reactions from his stunned teammates.
Oscar Mercado was clearly the star of the show ...
... but the entire thing is a renaissance painting in itself (and also Covering the Corner’s new background on Twitter).
Zimmer’s homer went 465 feet and it wasn’t even his longest home run of August. That distinction belongs to the 471-foot monster he hit on Aug. 11. It’s easy to forget that there was once a lot of promise in Zimmer’s ability to crush baseballs — as well as his speed — outweighing his strikeout issues. He hasn’t gotten hold of enough baseballs to really show it consistently, but we now know for sure he’s capable of going full Franmil Reyes on a ball once in a while.
Speaking of whom, while he didn’t hit a home run tonight, Reyes’ first-inning double was scorched at 109.7 mph, the second hardest-hit ball of the night. He also added a pair of singles later on and drew a walk.
By the end of the first inning, Cleveland was ahead 4-0 and shouldn’t have had much to worry about with an utterly depleted Rangers team in the opposing dugout. Jordan Lyles was left to the wolves for a full 3.2 innings, allowing eight earned runs before his bullpen came to the rescue.
Cleveland, on the other hand, rode Sam Hentges for a full four innings, where he allowed two total earned runs with three strikeouts. Cleveland’s psuedo-opener rode his four-seam fastball 32 times, but induced just two swings and misses. But it peaked at almost 97 mph and averaged 93.9. At this point, I think we just have to accept that he doesn’t have a deceptive fastball, and if he’s going to make it work somewhere it will probably be as a reliever who can pump in the high-90s for an inning or two. He also threw 15 sliders, 14 curveballs, and seven sinkers, with just six whiffs total on 31 swings.
The fact that only two of Hentges runs were earned is noteworthy because the other two occurred when José Ramírez booted a ground ball that should have been an easy inning-ended play in the top of the third. Instead, he kicked the ball into the outfield and two runs scored before an overly aggressive Nate Lowe was thrown out at second trying to turn it into a double. The end result was a tie game after three.
After a couple of quiet innings, three straight hits from Daniel Johnson, Austin Hedges, and Andrés Giménez got things going again in the fourth, followed by hits from Ramírez and Reyes later in the inning to put them at 8-4. A lead that would be extended immediately in the bottom of the fifth by an Owen Miller home run.
Rangers pitchers seemingly wanted no part of José Ramírez or Franmil Reyes tonight, but their patience at the plate forced them back into the zone anyway. Two of Ramírez’s three hits and two of Franmil’s came on full counts — all three were clearly pitches meant to get over the plate and hope for the best. The best never came.
Oh, and José also finished with three stolen bases and couldn’t keep his helmet on his head.
Every Guardians batter had a hit tonight, and the only damage that the Rangers did to the bullpen was solo shots in the sixth (off of Trevor Stephan) and eighth (off of Nick Wittgren). Overall a solid win for a team that really needs a few of them as they prepare for the final weeks of the 2021 season. They’ll welcome the Red Sox to Cleveland over the weekend to see if their winning ways can translate against a team in the thick of a playoff hunt.