I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but the Guardians are playing bad baseball. Very bad, in fact.
Completing their seventh loss in nine games to the Nationals, Tigers, Marlins, and Rockies, the Guardians, again, looked mostly lifeless at the plate tonight. The good news is that, rather than getting shut down by a pitcher with an ERA north of 12 as they did on Monday, they were handled by a pitcher whose ERA was only 6.16 entering the game.
José Ramírez scorched one in the first at 104.6 mph that resulted in a double play, because of course. Josh Naylor hit another grounder over 100 mph right at the second baseman, because he needs to get to a launch angle above the negative. And, he did finally manage a launch angle of 15, smoking a 106.4 mph double in the bottom of the ninth, so hopefully that’s something to build on for the beleaguered slugger.
Meanwhile, Andrés Giménez hit one fairly hard in a great spot down the first base line that Mike Moustakas somehow managed to turn into an out to start off the fifth when a Mike Zunino double that followed would have scored him. Charmingly, Giménez followed this promising swing with an attempt at a bunt single his next time up, showing that the idea of “keep hitting the ball hard and good things will eventually happen” is not exactly taking, at the moment. Oh well, at least he didn’t slide into first bas— ... oh wait, he did on that double that was robbed from him. Alas.
Peyton Battenfield had the kind of struggles we should expect a rookie pitcher to have in freezing temperatures in Cleveland. Everything he threw was up in the zone and when he brought it down to where hitters would swing, swing they did, and hit it hard. He found it, a bit in the third and in the fourth, especially, where he struck out the side in order.
I find Battenfield to be another great candidate to be a fifth starter, the kind of pitcher of which Cleveland seems to have a ton. Konnor Pilkington, Xzavion Curry, Zach Plesac, and possibly even Cal Quantrill ... all probably join Battenfield in profiling best as adequate-great fifth starters in a playoff major-league rotation. It’s great to have depth, and also to know that any of these five would probably be excellent relievers, but I do hope the team considers supplying another playoff contender with one of this bunch at the 2023 trade deadline to help shore up some area of need in the organization. Perhaps, say, a right-handed hitting prospect with some upside?
In any case, I was glad to see Battenfield battling through it and finding his way, but hard to watch knowing that the Guardians offense remained utterly and perpetually stymied.
Speaking of Pilkington, he joined Enyel De Los Santos and James Karinchak pitching in this game, leading to the apparent conclusion that Tanner Bibee would make his debut on Wednesday, as concluded by Jeff Ellis of Locked on Guardians:
Going to be Bibee on Wednesday— Jeffmlbdraft (@jeffMLBdraft) April 25, 2023
So, the Cleveland faithful can now dream of the possibility of turning a 0-0 tie over to Emmanuel Clase tomorrow in hopes of walk-off theatrics in the bottom of the ninth. I give props to the Guardians for being aggressive with their best prospects in the middle of an incredibly rough stretch, and I hope the tide begins to turn, accordingly. Logan Allen’s debut has been, by far, the highlight of one of the most trying weeks for the team in recent memory. We can all hope that seeing Bibee will provide a similar glimmer of hope.
It was interesting to see Karinchak get reps in a game where the score was fairly lopsided. He clearly has some work to do on getting his stuff where it needs to be, so I wondered if this was an indication that Tito will be looking at other options for high-leverage situations for a bit, or if it was just a chance to get the right-hander some needed in-game work. Time will tell, but bullpen hiccups seem like the least of the team’s worries at the moment.
In another list of small worries, teams are running roughshod on Mike Zunino and the Guardians pitching staff, with the Rockies adding three stolen bases today at their expense. Again, deck chairs on the Titanic, but it does make one hope both that the pitching staff can work on holding runners and Bo Naylor’s cannon arm might make an appearance before too long.
It feels like the Guardians are getting unlucky, but it’s important to note that the Rockies expected batting average was .275 and the Guardians’ was .249. The Rockies were the better team in every aspect of today’s game and that’s a sobering thought because the Rockies are not a good baseball team.
I try to remain optimistic because what’s the fun in being pessimistic, so here goes: The top five hitters in the Guardians lineup had a hit today. That’s something. Battenfield learned how to work through a stretch where his pitches weren’t doing what he wanted on the major league level. That’s valuable experience. Ellis Burks couldn’t figure out what the heck was going on with the woo birds late in the game, and that was the most entertaining part of the game in my humble opinion.
It’s Bibee day tomorrow. May it be a turning point in what is quickly turning into a bitterly disappointing opening month to the 2023 season for the Cleveland Guardians.