It’s hard to pinpoint the worst moment of this doubleheader, as every one of them ranged from “kinda boring” to “downright awful.” From the moment Game 1 was initially delayed almost two hours by rain, to the failure to score a single run in the bottom of the ninth with runners on and no outs to end Game 2, this was another ugly set of games for a Guardians team that has had many ugly games in the first month of the season.
... OK on second thought, I have an answer now: it’s the bunt. Oh my lord, it’s the bunt. It was the worst moment of this game, the season, and — not to exaggerate here — maybe the worst moment in human history.
If you were lucky and/or smart enough to tune out this doubleheader after the dud in Game 1, you missed the mother of all bad bunts. Allow me to set the stage.
No outs, bottom of the ninth, down by one, runners on first and second, Tyler Freeman up to bat. Now, granted, Freeman hasn’t had a ton of major-league success yet, but he already drew a walk today and he’s a guy known for making frequent contact. So what does he do, with his team down by a run in the bottom of the ninth inning? He takes an out — the most precious, finite resource in baseball — and flushes it down the toilet with an attempted sacrifice bunt.
I say “attempted” because it didn’t even work. It would have been bad enough if the bunt was “successful,” but Marlins pitcher AJ Puk picked up the ball and fired it to third to get the runner and negate any benefit that could have come from such a poor decision.
Tom Hamilton will be the first to tell you that supposedly Terry Francona doesn’t like the bunts. But I’ve said it before, and I will say it until my dying breath: Even if that’s the case — even if Terry Francona absolutely hates bunting more than he hates cheap off-brand ice cream — the onus still falls on him to tell his players to swing a damn bat when there’s an opportunity to score. He didn’t do it here, just like he didn’t do it so many crucial times in the past, and the result was the same as it usually is. Bad.
To follow up on the worst bunt in human history, Amed Rosario may have had the worst individual at-bat since the Big Bang. One batter after Freeman, now with runners on first and second with one out (thank you, sac bunt attempt), Rosario came to bat in place of the catcher. He watched two close pitches go for strikes then pulled the trigger on one that was almost eye-level. He missed, of course, and was gone in three pitches.
Rosario was only in that position because Will Brennan was bizarrely used as a pinch-runner for Cam Gallagher in the seventh inning — not when Gallagher walked, mind you, but only when he reached second base on a Steven Kwan single. Brennan would not come around to score, and he was unusable for the rest of the game.
Right after Gallagher walked would have been the perfect time to leverage Rosario’s speed (and allow Brennan’s much better bat to be used later on), but Tito opted to 1) wait until Gallagher reached second, and 2) use Brennan on the bases to save Rosario’s bat. Dear reader, it did not work.
Hell, if you’re going to let Gallagher hit in that scenario, you might as well let him stay on the bases. Doing nothing would have made more sense than waiting for him to get to second and then taking him out. Hindsight is 20/20, but between the sacrifice bunt and the odd substitutions, this was just a series of bizarre decisions either made or implicitly allowed by Francona.
Now with all that said, what I can also tell you is that the best moment of the doubleheader was Oscar Gonzalez’s reaction to whatever Marlins manager Skip Schumaker said that got him ejected early in Game 2.
I would die for Oscar Gonzalez.
Zach Plesac was left in for an inning too long in Game 2, but he only allowed three earned runs in five innings, so it was far from his worst outing of the season. Shane Bieber also allowed three earned runs in the Game 1 start, but looked very hittable on the mound compared his normal outings.
The bullpen was a mixed bag in Game 1, but those who were good in both games were really good.
I would be surprised if we ever see Hunter Gaddis start another game. Not because he’s a bad starter (well ...), but because he looked so good out of the bullpen today. He pitched two hitless innings with a strikeout, came out of the gate firing 96 mph, and his changeup had the whiffle ball-like movement that it lacked in his starts. His future is clearly in the ‘pen and he can be a great asset there.
Eli Morgan continued his scoreless streak to start the season, keeping the Guards in striking distance in Game 2 with a pair of shutout, one-hit innings. He’s now up to 10.1 innings on the season without allowing a run.
James Karinchak came in to relieve Plesac with runners on the corners and no outs. He issued one walk, and a run via a sacrifice fly, but did his job. He’s still a little too unpredictable to be the “fireman” reliever for my taste, but it’s hard to get too worked up about specific bullpen usage late in a doubleheader. At that point, it’s about survival and not torching your whole bullpen, more than perfect matchups.
On the flip side, Tim Herrin just needs some kind of change. Different usage, maybe a break down in Columbus — I don’t know. But he looks all kinds of bad right now. Today he allowed another pair of runs as his ERA on the season rose past 7.00. Nick Sandlin didn’t look much better, walking two of the three batters he faced.
Outside of doubles from Oscar Gonzalez and Josh Bell in Game 2 and Game 1, respectively, there was nothing worth noting from the offense. It’s cliche to say they need a spark, but this team is in desperate need of something to wake them up right now. I would say that maybe getting swept out of a doubleheader against the Marlins could be that wake-up call, but I said the same thing when they were swept in a doubleheader by Detroit last week.
That didn’t seem to do the trick, but maybe this time it will.