The Cleveland Guardians retook the lead in this illustrious six-game series against the Kansas City Royals with a 7-5 victory today. Three-run home runs from Will Brennan and Josh Naylor in the second inning proved too much for Kansas City to overcome. Cleveland rises to 90-69 on the season as the larger playoff picture emerges.
Cleveland wasted no time establishing the lead. Brennan tripled on the second pitch thrown to the Guardians today. Amed Rosario drove him in with a sacrifice fly and Cleveland carried the 1-0 lead into the second.
Nothing about this particular inning appeared dangerous for Royals fans as it began to unfold. Oscar Gonzalez singled and Gabrial Arias walked. Will Benson sacrificed the runners into scoring position. I’m willing to bet there have been dozens of innings that played out exactly like this over the history of baseball.
We should give it a chess opening name. Tito’s Gambit feels nice. After the standard opening unfolded Austin Hedges struck out swinging, costing Cleveland a tempo. Fortunately, Will Brennan provided plenty of his own.
From here the material difference proved too much for Kansas City to resist Cleveland’s attack. Rosario singled up the middle and scooted to third on José Ramírez’s subsequent base hit. This positioning allowed Naylor to unleash a brutal forking of pitcher Max Castillo.
Build a pawn chain, punk.
Shane Bieber pitched five innings, striking out three and walking one while allowing two runs (one earned) and seven hits. He finishes the 2022 campaign with a 13-8 record and an ERA of 2.88. These are fine accomplishments for a pitcher that many on Twitter believed to be a bum as recently as August.
Cleveland’s Bullpen coughed up three of the runs, something they rarely do. For example, James Karinchak allowed two earned runs in two-thirds of an inning and his ERA is still a healthy 1.89. In fact, every Cleveland pitcher today has an ERA below 3.00.
It is possible to read too far into this but I believe we may have watched the first test of Cleveland’s 2022 postseason pitching strategy.
- Ramírez stole bases nineteen and twenty. It appears likely that he’ll finish with 30 home runs, 40 doubles, and 20 stolen bases.
- Bo Naylor’s MLB debut will be a much better memory than his first MLB start. A golden sombrero isn’t a wonderful thing to see, but there is quite a lot of baseball left for Bo.
- Gabriel Arias made another throwing error, his fourth in limited fielding opportunities.
- Emmanuel Clase earned his 41st save of the season. I am coming around somewhat on the specific value of a designated last-inning reliever despite previous claims that I simply don’t believe in “closers”. I still suspect a multi-inning monster will emerge. Someday.
Owen Miller pinch hit for Josh Naylor, then stayed in and played first. I like that we’re getting J. Naylor the rest that is required given his past injury, but I do wish there was an option that inspired a little bit more confidence as we enter October.
Cleveland is still playing Kansas City.