Maybe the answer is just to wait for everything to work itself out — it usually is in baseball — but right now the Guardians look like a team with every conceivable weakness fully exposed. Even when they rallied together and almost completed an improbable comeback tonight, the many problems of the April 2023 Cleveland Guardians ended up costing them another game as they lost, 8-7, to set up a rubber match tomorrow if the weather cooperates.
Zach Plesac looked awful in the start, Amed Rosario hit into a double play and struck out almost every other time, Oscar Gonzalez looked overmatched at the plate, and Mike Zunino had a bad throw to second base on a stolen base attempt and let a crucial passed ball get by him in the bottom of the tenth. The coup de grâce: Emmanuel Clase’s contact-first approach to closing games came back to bite him in extra innings.
The Guardians have to know what they have in Plesac at this point, right? I get that they can’t just cut bait right now because of the state of their rotation, but Xzavion Curry is right there and deserves a shot. Peyton Battenfield was technically in the bullpen tonight but not used. There are other starting pitchers on this roster who are probably going to look better than Plesac on a weekly basis. Maybe it’s time to give them a shot. Stick Plesac in the bullpen instead of pitchers who have a conceivable ceiling. Do something. Make a decision.
Plesac was simply atrocious tonight; utterly hittable from start to finish, and lucky that he only gave up five runs in his 3.1 innings of work. He induced two swings and misses, both from his slider, and on average — average! — the ball was hit back at him at 93.3 mph. We’ve seen this plenty from him already, but he always manages to have one or two games where it seems like he’s back on track before another implosion.
The hardest hit of the night was a meatball of a slider over the plate that Rafael Devers crushed 114.1 mph and 411 feet for a home run. There’s nothing else to say about Plesac at this point. He is who he is, and that’s a pitcher who should not be an every-fifth-day starter on a playoff baseball team.
On the plus side, dingers.
Josh Bell continued his nice little power output in the last couple of weeks with another homer tonight, his third of the season. Andrés Giménez homered as well in the seventh inning. It was only his second of the season — the other game all the way back on April 1 against the Mariners. He might finally be heating up with four hits over his last three games. It’s great every time he hits, and it also makes it worse when he hits and No. 2 hitter Rosario can’t get a hit to save his life in the same game.
Rosario was gifted the golden opportunity for a two-hole hitter when Steven Kwan singled to lead off the game. Literally, the reason you are the two-hole hitter is to advance that guy and/or get on base for your next big boppers to start the game. There is no other guarantee that you will be up with a runner on and no outs like this. It’s the ideal scenario for any hitter.
... Rosario hit a weak dribbler for a double play, an occurrence so common that even Tom Hamilton acknowledged on the radio broadcast. Between that and another two-out ground out in the fifth and strikeouts in the seventh and ninth, Rosario left seven men on base tonight by himself — three times directly following a Kwan single. It’s almost getting comical at this point.
Now with all that said, a pair of brief rallies showed why it’s absolutely impossible (not to mention foolish) to give up on this team completely. Giménez’s solo shot to lead off the seventh technically started the comeback attempt as he reduced the deficit to 6-2. But it was really Myles Straw walking followed by vintage disgusting Guardians baseball nonsense that culminated in a bases-clearing double by Josh Naylor. If nothing else, tonight taught us that Naylor is still the same clutch monster when he’s facing a right-handed pitcher in the right moment.
Overall, just a weird, frustrating game that could have been so much worse. But it was also one or two pitches away from being in the win column.