There is a special place in Hell for a team that wastes a Josh Naylor home run off a left-handed pitcher, but this Cleveland Guardians squad has spent the first 37 games of this season getting acquainted with the various rungs of Hell. Game 38 only continued their descent.
The stars seemed to align in the eighth inning, when Naylor broke a 3-3 tie with a solo shot off left-handed reliever Matt Moore, who hadn’t given up a home run through his first 18 innings of work this season. But not even Emmanuel Clase routinely touching 100 mph on his fastball could save the Guardians from themselves in their 5-4 loss to the Los Angeles Angels.
With runners on first and third and one out in the ninth inning, Hunter Renfroe worked a nine-pitch at-bat that culminated in a sharp grounder to Andrés Giménez at second base. But because of a perfectly-timed steal attempt by the runner at first that eliminated the possibility of an inning-ending double play, Giménez had to make the split-second choice between conceding the game-tying run and getting the out at first base or trying to get the out at the plate and preserving the Guardians’ one-run lead. He opted for the latter, but the throw home was off line, not only allowing the run to score but enabling the baserunners to advance to second and third.
The next at-bat, Brandon Drury’s sac fly scored the go-ahead run for the Angels.
It’s a gut punch of the loss for the Guardians, who needed to overcome a rocky start by Logan Allen. The rookie left-hander finished short of five innings for the first time in four starts, roughed up by the Angels in the fourth inning. He gave up eight hits over 4.1 innings, and four of those hits came in the fourth, when Allen was tagged for three earned runs. The Angels were making hard contact all night and it was only a matter of time before they started to do damage.
Cleveland initially opened up a 1-0 lead in the first inning thanks to an Amed Rosario triple and a José Ramírez sac fly. Rosario seems to be heating up, reaching base three times in the game after collecting four hits in a game against the Tigers earlier this week.
Myles Straw made it a 2-0 advantage in the second inning with a sac fly that scored Naylor, who collided with the catcher at home plate on the play and seemed to be in visible pain, favoring his left arm. But Naylor brushed off Terry Francona and the team trainer en route to the dugout.
After the Angels took a 3-2 lead in the fourth inning, Cleveland was able to pull even in the fifth on a run-scoring fielder’s choice courtesy of Josh Bell.
The Guardians seemed to be walking along the edge of a cliff all night. When Nick Sandlin came in to relieve Allen in the fifth inning, he did so with the bases were loaded, managing to escape unscathed thanks to a double play ball. The Angels came close to regaining the lead in the eighth inning, when Matt Thaiss tried to score from a first on a one-out Zach Neto, only to be tagged out at home thanks to a good throw from third base by Jose Ramirez.
Cleveland looked feeble in trying to mount a rally in the bottom of the ninth inning after Clase’s blown save. Steven Kwan and Rosario both fouled out for the first two outs of the inning. After back-to-back singles by Ramírez and Bell, the Angels intentionally walked Josh Naylor to load the bases and get to Will Brennan, who struck out on four pitches.