All this talk of rookie hitters and struggling pitching — it seems like it’s been forever since the Guardians came out and just dominated a team with their pitching. Well, it finally happened tonight, as Cal and the Quantrills shut the Astros out for
nine 8.2 innings of solid baseball.
When I think of Cal Quantrill’s attainable ceiling, I think of outings like he had tonight. Six innings, only four strikeouts but zero runs on three hits. Only a handful of Astros were able to hit the ball hard, and they were limited to one ball over 100 mph.
Quantrill was able to have his best outing of the season thanks primarily to his sinker and cutter, which combined accounted for 75 of his 85 pitches. It looks, to me at least, like the plan was always to bring him out after he faced the vaunted Astros lineup twice. Tito let him get through the top of the order in the sixth, but he was pulled after just 85 pitches and the complete absence of his off-speed stuff makes me think he was going out with his top two pitches knowing it wouldn’t matter if they saw his best stuff up front — by the time they locked in, he would be out. Kind of like a reeeeeeeally long opener.
Whether intentional or not, it worked. Trevor Stephan and James Karinchak were brilliant in the seventh and eighth innings, striking out four of the seven batters they faced. Emmanuel Clase looked a little shakier than usual, giving up his first run since May by allowing back-to-back doubles from Alex Bregman and Aledmys Diaz. It was all for naught, though, as he induced an out from Trey Mancini to end the game.
Talking about the Guardians’ run prevention would be incomplete without talking about their defense. And talking about their defense tonight would be incomplete without talking about Amed Rosario, because he was stellar out there on more than one occasion.
The Guardians offense, on the other hand, got their runs early and then kicked their feet up for the night while the pitching went to work.
José Ramírez doubled home Rosario for the first run of the game. Then, in the second, Andrés Giménez started a two-out rally with a single that scored Austin Hedges on a wild throwing error. Rosario followed it up with a single of his own that scored both Giménez and Myles Straw. That gave the Guardians their four runs, and then they, too, were shut down for the rest of the game.
A small rally in the eighth snuffed out by Austin Hedges watching a called third strike was the only real pressure the Guardians put on the Astros after the second, but it was all they needed.
It was good to see Nolan Jones to get a hit (his first of August), but it’s looking like the Astros may have cracked the code on him. His hit came off a low Luis Garcia curveball, but after that, he didn’t another pitch anywhere near the bottom of the zone. The Astros attacked him with fastballs high in the strike zone and he missed every single one.
Of course, it’s too early to declare Jones’ career dead in the water, but this was a very coordinated attack by the Astros, and it worked so well that I can’t imagine it’ll be the last time teams throw him high cheddar all game. If he doesn’t want to become Tyler Naquin (which, all told, isn’t the worst fate for a baseball player), he’ll need to adjust to the adjustments, as the old saying goes.
The win tonight saves the Guardians from a potential sweep and sets them up for a split against the AL’s best team tomorrow at noon. Good luck watching, though, since it’s a Peacock exclusive game.