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Guardians fight back to make it close but can’t overcome disastrous start

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Well, at least they didn’t quit

Cleveland Indians v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images

Entering play today, the Cleveland Guardians were 43-13 when scoring four or more runs in a game this season. If you are a fan who called it quits after Cleveland fell behind 8-0 in the third inning and stayed there until the eighth (and who could blame you), you may be wondering why that stat matters.

Well, that’s because they attempted to mount a comeback in the eighth inning and they came damn close to pulling it off in the ninth. Ultimately they still lost, 8-6, and fell below .500 for the first time since May 1. But hey it was fun for a little bit, at least.

Owen Miller got the scoring started in the eighth with a bases-clearing double that plated Franmil Reyes, Bobby Bradley, and Oscar Mercado in one fell swoop. Bradley Zimmer added on with a sacrifice fly to cut the deficit down to four heading into the bottom of the eighth.

Veteran Blake Parker, who finished off the bottom of the seventh inning, pitched a clean eighth with three straight fly outs to set up a dramatic top of the ninth. José Ramírez and Oscar Mercado would each add homers to make it 8-5 but strikeouts from Franmil Reyes, Bobby Bradley, and Austin Hedges ended the attempted comeback.

Typically in a game like this — where it gets out of hand quickly and the offense fails to do anything for the vast majority of it — there are several villains. This time out, the blame mostly falls on one man: J.C. Mejia.

I think we are all rooting for the big righty to figure it out, but his first-inning woes are not going away. Tonight he lasted just 2.1 innings, allowed eight earned runs, walked four, and didn’t strike out a single Blue Jays batter. This is rock bottom for a season that hasn’t been great to begin with. The eight runs are a season-high, and the 2.1 innings is the shortest outing since he was chased in 0.2 against the Cardinals on June 9.

The first inning was particularly brutal again as he threw 30 pitches, had seven balls put in play, and allowed four runs to cross the plate. Four of those balls put into play in the first inning were off his sinker; three went for hits. All were low in the zone, but not nearly low enough.

Tyler Naquin would be J.C. Mejia’s worst nightmare
Baseball Savant

In the second, the sinker was elevated instead and was put in play three times and resulted in a double. By the third inning, he was off the rails and just missing with it everywhere. He even got a couple calls to go his way but it didn’t help.

Baseball Savant

All told, Mejia threw his sinker 34 times, had a single swinging strike, six called strikes, and it was put in play seven times. He also relied on his slider 22 times, then turned to his four-seamer, curveball, and changeup on occasion. Nothing else induced a whiff — not a single batter swung and missed outside of Bo Bichette chasing a first-pitch sinker with two outs when his team was already up by five.

Offensively, this was one of the Guardians’ brightest showings. Both in terms of overall performance, and lack of quit that they showed even with a massive uphill battle in front of them. Oscar Mercado went 4-for-4 including that home run, Owen Miller had the second multi-hit game of his career, and even Austin Hedges added a pair of hits (three strikeouts notwithstanding).

It’s hard to even be upset at this game because so much of the fault lays at the feet of one player in this instance. There exists a universe in which Mejia had a decent start and the recap — as Blake Ruane aptly put it in our Slack after the game — reads something along the lines of “The bullpen held Toronto scoreless and the Guardians plated six runs. Great game”.

But for now, we move on and hope for better things tomorrow.