Anything can happen, but the future is firmly in the Guardians’ own hands. With mere weeks of the season left, all they have to do is continue to win games and they will be playing extended baseball in October. If Game 1 of today’s doubleheader against the Twins is any indication, they are prepared to do just that.
Today’s scoring started with José Ramírez hitting a ball 421 feet in the first inning. The swagger that followed is indescribable.
At 107 mph it was the hardest hit ball of the day, and it wouldn’t be the last one the Guardians offense blasted. Amed Rosario, Josh Naylor, Myles Straw, Oscar Gonzalez, and Andrés Giménez all registered at least one hit scored at over 100 mph, and only two didn’t fall for hits.
Rosario’s four hits extended his hitting streak to a modest four games, but he appears to be heating up at just the right time after a slow start to September. The same goes for Owen Miller (nine-game hitting streak) and Straw (five-game hitting streak). The hitters you’d expect to hit are hitting, and everyone else is humming along, too. This is exactly what you want to see out of your baseball team down the stretch.
The Guardians offense struck out just four times combined and drew three walks. Everyone but Austin Hedges recorded at least one base hit, and Straw drew a pair of walks in addition to his sixth-inning single.
The numerous hard hits were nice, but the Guardians story of the day was pitching, namely Shane Bieber absolutely shutting the Twins down for most of eight innings. His only blemish was a cutter that didn’t cut enough and gave Matt Wallner a home run in his first career game. He was brilliant otherwise: 8.0 innings, six strikeouts, no walks, and four hits. He was in line for a Maddux until the homer and still finished with only 93 pitches before Terry Francona made the call to go Emmanuel Clase in the ninth inning of a 5-1 game.
That seems weird on the surface, but I’m having a hard time getting too worked up about it. Plenty of times we’ve seen Tito leave a starter in too long, panic, and pull him the second he gives up a baserunner. In this case — with what is on the line and a doubleheader starting in a few hours — I’m fine just skipping that and going straight to Clase. Don’t even mess around and throw someone else out there who might collapse and give the Twins a window. Use your closer and have the rest of the bullpen ready to go for the nightcap. You’ll probably need them.
It was the extremely safe decision to win this one game, but with a growing lead over the rest of the division, they can afford to be safe and keep winning one game at a time.