You wouldn’t know it looking at the final score, but things were looking bleak for the Guardians in their first of two games today. Sure, they started the first three innings with lead-off singles, but every opportunity was squandered — twice by José Ramírez pop flys.
And when Triston McKenzie failed to field a comebacker in the fourth inning and ended up giving his first run of July, this had the feeling of a painful, low-scoring loss. Luckily, response runs in the top of the fifth and a volley of singles in the top of the ninth made this a much more pleasant experience.
Back-to-back hits from Steven Kwan and Amed Rosario were enough to start the scoring in the fifth, and Ramíez added yet another pop fly — only this time it was with someone on third base so it also scored a run. I don’t know if it’s something actually wrong with José or a weird stretch, but all but one of his five balls in play today were outs in the air (one in the third was generously called a fly out). His only out on the ground was a scorcher at 101 mph, but right into the dirt.
The White Sox mounted their own comeback attempt with a three-run seventh inning off of Eli Morgan and Trevor Stephan, which ended up tying up the game at 4-4. Morgan, simply put, didn’t have it today. His deceptive changeups were all dead center of the plate as he couldn’t find the edge of the zone to save his life. The result was back-to-back doubles that knocked him out of the game.
The Guards’ go-ahead run in the ninth ultimately came off of Josh Naylor when he turned on a high-and-inside fastball to muscle it into the outfield and plate Nolan Jones. That prompted a beautiful bat flip from Naylor, which has parts of Chicago White Sox Twitter in absolute shambles.
Jones, to his credit, recorded two hits in the win for his second multi-hit game in three games. He is, hopefully, turning a corner from the five-game hitless streak he was in prior to the All-Star break. Steven Kwan, Amed Rosario, and Andres Gimenez each also had multi-hit games, and as a team, the Guardians struck out just twice.
While he did snap a 24-inning scoreless streak, McKenzie still turned in another gem on the mound. Maybe not a dominating eight innings and double-digit strikeouts kind of gem, but he didn’t completely buckle under pressure and that’s kind of a gem on its own. That fourth inning could have gone so much — especially if he got down on himself for allowing the lead-off batter to get on base — but with the bases loaded and two outs he got catcher Seby Zavala looking on a perfectly-placed four-seamer on the edge of the zone.
And with that, Game 1 of doubleheader No. 32499 of the season goes to the Guardians. They currently sit at 48-44 and a game back of the Twins and start their game against the Tigers in a few minutes. They’re only playing one game today for some reason, which feels like it should be illegal.