Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The fifth postponement of the year for the Guardians led to the final game of the 2022 Ohio Cup being played on Thursday afternoon. However, for the second game in a row, the Guardians ran into the same two issues: not being able to hit and the bullpen failing to compliment a solid outing by the starting pitcher. The 2022 Ohio Cup will be a tie as the Reds win 4-2. 

Reds (11-26) 4 – Guardians (16-19) 2. WP: Luis Cessa (2-0), LP: Trevor Stephan (2-1), 

The weather’s warmer but the bats are colder

Baseball can be a weird sport. Everything tells you one or a couple of things should happen and then the opposite does. The Reds are at or near the bottom of every statistical category for pitching. They’re last in MLB for team ERA (5.85), runs allowed (212), earned runs allowed (206), home runs allowed (50) and walks allowed (166). The Guardians rank near the top 10 in almost every statistical category, including leading the MLB with nine triples. However, baseball is also a season that lasts 162 games, so eventually you’re going to lose games you’re expected to win. For the Guardians, it happened twice in a row to the team with the league’s poorest record. Over the span of the two games and 19 innings, the Guardians managed just seven hits. In both games, they only had two hits through the first seven innings. 

“Today we actually put together a lot of good at-bats, we just couldn’t get any across the plate,” Quantrill said.”

While the weather got better and the temperature rose to past 70 degrees during the game, which makes the ball carry further, the Guardians could never get good contact on the ball, outside of Franmil Reyes, who had two balls carry over 380 feet each time, but both of those were outs. The opportunities to score didn’t come too often, so it was important to take advantage of them, which the Guardians weren’t able to do.

“We haven’t had too many opportunities,” Francona said. “When you don’t, sometimes you’ll remember things like Franmil’s ball not going out. You’d like to have numerous opportunities because you’re not going to get them all.”

A scary moment for Guardians fans occurred in the bottom of the eighth inning, when José Ramírez got hurt after fouling a ball off of his leg that had him on the ground for a few minutes. However, he was able to finish the at-bat and even single home a run to cut the lead to two.

“He’s pretty sore,” Francona explained. “He got hit above his pad, just below the knee. For him to react like that, he’s a pretty tough kid. He’s going to get some X-rays, but he’s sore.”

Quantrill’s best outing of the year

It was unfortunate that the Guardians couldn’t find a way to give their starting pitcher good run support, cause for the second night in a row, the Guardians had a quality outing from their starting pitcher. Cal Quantrill had his seventh start of the season Saturday and arguably had his best performance. 

“I thought he was terrific,” Francona praised. “He was really good. He’s starting to get into a rhythm, which is really good. He gave us seven really good innings.”

Quantrill lasted seven innings, giving up one run on a solo homer by Tyler Naquin, five hits, struck out five and walked zero batters on 95 pitches, 69 of which were strikes. His velocity was the highest it’s been all season, with his four-seam fastball averaging 93.6 for the day with his maximum velocity topping out at 94.3, while his sinker was 93.3 mph on average.

“I feel like I’m throwing the ball better.” Quantrill said. “I’m commanding the ball better and the zone is reminding myself of what I can do.”

Another revenge game?

It seems like a former Cleveland player always has to play the Guardians this season and once again, they made sure to take it personally. Against the Twins, it was Gio Urshella. For the Reds, it was Tyler Naquin. Naquin took this series personally and homered for the second game in a row and third time in four games against his former team this season. For the series, Naquin went 4-8 with two home runs, two RBI and four runs. Naquin’s play is what ultimately got the Reds the two victories as any time the Reds scored runs, Naquin seemed to lead off the rally with a base hit or stolen base. Francona said he’s not surprised on his abilities and what he was able to do for Cincinnati this series.

“With Naquin in his first year, there were times where he would put up over a 900 ops,” Francona pointed out. “So, we saw it. He just had trouble staying healthy.”

Bullpen issues starting to throw

For the second game in a row, the Guardians bullpen struggled. In the top of the eighth inning, Cleveland turned to Trevor Stephan. Stephan has been statistically the best reliever for the Guardians this season, but he’s now giving up at least one run in his last two appearances, both against the Reds. He allowed an RBI single to Kyle Farmer that gave Cincinnati a 2-1 lead, then committed a throwing error to first which brought home another run, before giving up a sacrifice fly to TJ Friedl that gave the Reds a 4-1 lead. In his appearance, Stephan lasted 2/3’s of an inning, giving up three runs, two earned on three hits and walked one. Eli Morgan came on after him and struck out three in 1.1 innings, with the rest of his stats being all zeroes. Out of all five relievers for Cleveland this series, Stephan, Morgan, Bryan Shaw, Emmanuel Clase and Nick Sandlin, only Shaw and Morgan didn’t allow a run in their appearance.

History not on their side today

There were a couple of notable events that occurred with this loss. First, the Guardians’ streak of nine consecutive wins on May 19 dating back to 2011 ends with the loss. The Guardians were swept in Cleveland by the Reds for the first time ever, something fans would soon like to forget. It was also the first time they’ve been swept by the Reds since August of 2014. The Guardians are now 3-14 in games where they’ve scored three-or-less runs and drop to 0-8 on games where they’ve recorded five-or-less hits. 

Final notes 

After the game, Manager Terry Francona also announced that he will not be managing their Friday night game against the Detroit Tigers, as he will be having a minor medical procedure done. Francona says he will be back for Saturday. Josh Naylor is also expected to return Friday, whose bat the Guardians have missed as they’ve dropped five out of their last six without Naylor in the lineup.

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