Well, I guess I deserved that. I tempted the baseball gods by joking about Cleveland’s “boring” games recently in the Game Thread, and they smote me with a 1-0 game that lasted almost three hours and felt every second of it.
Zach Plesac was on the losing end of the pitchers’ duel, having given up a single run in six innings pitched. It was the sixth time this season that Plesac lasted exactly six innings, and the fifth time in a row he’s done it. He threw his four-seamer 40 times today and generated swinging and called strikes a quarter of the time with it. The lone run of the game — a Nick Gordon homer — came off a curveball that sat over the heart of the plate. Maybe that’s why he only threw seven of them.
The Guardians weren’t without chances to score runs, they just couldn’t get the hits when they needed them. Their first, and best, chance to score came with the bases loaded and no outs in the seventh inning. Oscar Gonzalez, Franmil Reyes, Andres Gimenez all reached base, leaving Ernie Clement, Luke Maile, and Myles Straw to try and get someone home.
A lot can be said about the fact that Josh Naylor and Steven Kwan remained on the bench while three of the Guardians’ worst hitters took hacks, but like the decision to pitch Anthony Castro yesterday, this seemed like Terry Francona managing for the marathon of games they are going to be playing. Pinch-hitting for catcher Luke Maile would have made the most sense, but it would have meant Austin Hedges catching for at least three more innings if things go well — after catching 11 the night before. Seeing as he’ll be asked to catch a lot over the next couple weeks, I think it’s a fair decision to just give him the day off.
Tito essentially offered that explanation after the game, saying he didn’t want Hedges catching today. Besides, Maile is a major-league hitter, he had a hit earlier in the game, let him try. Having Kwan or Naylor hit there instead in a playoff game might have been compulsatory but in the midst of a 162-game season, I think it’s fine to manage playing time.
Now, of course, Kwan did pinch-hit for Maile in the ninth inning with a runner on second and two outs — so if Kwan succeeded there’s a chance Hedges would have caught anyway. Despite looking cool and composed as a cucumber, Kwan uncharacteristically swung and missed on two straight pitches to end the game. Both were juicy pitches right over the heart of the plate that had “game-winning hero” written all over them, but he just couldn’t make contact. Maybe the moment got him, I don’t know, maybe cucumbers aren’t that composed after all.
Overall, the Guardians still end the series with two wins, and they’ll head home to face the Red Sox before turning around and playing the Twins five times in four days.