Photo credit:USA Today

With José Ramírez once again not in the lineup, the young guys on the Guardians offense had to come through against the veteran Dodgers pitching staff. The Guardians did just that as they scored three runs over the final two innings to steal two of three on the road from one of the best teams in baseball, win their 15th game in their last 19 and win their sixth series in a row.

Guardians (34-28) 5 – Dodgers (40-25) 3. WP: Eli Morgan (3-2), LP: Craig Kimbrell (0-3), SV: Emmanuel Clase (15)

Bieber’s road streak continues

    In his home state of California, Shane Bieber took the mound for the Guardians in the third and final game of the NL West road trip, this one being on Father’s Day. For the 36th consecutive time, Bieber had a very solid performance on the road. What that mean is that for the 36th consecutive start on the road for Bieber, he gave up three or less runs in an outing, which is the most all time since ERA started being recorded as a statistic back in 1913. He’s been that dominant on the road. Bieber let up an early solo home run to Freddie Freeman that made it 2-1 Dodgers, but after that he started mowing down the Dodgers, that being supported by striking out the side in the fifth inning. Overall, Bieber lasted 6.3 innings, giving up three earned runs on seven hits while striking out nine, just falling short of striking out 10+ for the third time in 2022.

   “I thought he was terrific,” Manager Terry Francona praised. “He’s a really good pitcher, I think he’s shown people.”

While his velocity hasn’t been great this year, his command has been excellent as eight of his nine strikeouts were swinging. He threw his slider 45 times, his four-seam 29 and his knuckle curve 23 times. He had an outstanding whiff percentage on his slider and knuckle curve as the Dodgers swung and missed 12 times or 55% of the times they swung at that pitch and for his knuckle curve, 54% of the time or seven out of 13.

   Bieber also made some more history during the start as in his 95th career start, he had 9+ strikeouts for the 33rd time, second in franchise history behind Herb Score with 38 in his first 95 games. Bieber has been something special during his career, even more so on the road.

Rookie Ball

There are a lot of young guys on the Guardians this season, they aren’t the youngest team in Major League Baseball for nothing. They’ve had nine guys this season make their major league debut, three of them made huge contributions during the game.

   First, Oscar Gonzalez. He’d already set the franchise record with 25 hits in his first 15 games in the majors, he already had nearly 30 hits and 20 in the month of June. He even comes up to the plate with the SpongeBob SquarePants Theme Song as his walkup song. Yet the one thing he didn’t have was a home run. That changed in the sixth inning Sunday as on the first pitch of his at-bat against Andrew Heaney, Gonzalez was ahead of it, yet had so much power that he was still able to hit it 104.1 miles per hour off his bat and 395 feet into the outfield bleachers of Dodger Stadium. His first major league home run tied the game at 2.

“You could see he was excited about it,” Francona said. “We just want him to swing at strikes. When he’s swinging at strikes, he’s gonna be just fine.”

The next rookie to make an impact was of course Steven Kwan. He’s done that all season, and while he didn’t get an RBI, he did what he’s done at such a good rate as a rookie: get on base. He drew a walk to get on first in the eighth, then got over to second on a sac bunt.

Next brought up arguably the biggest impact by a rookie on the day. Ernie Clement was up but was pulled for a pinch hitter, Richie Palacios. Friday night, Palacios got a pinch-hit sac-fly to give the Guardians a 2-1 lead in the 10th inning, which ended up being the winning run. Down 3-2 with a guy on second, Palacios once again delivered as he smoked one down the right field line, scoring Kwan and racing for a pinch hit double to tie the game at two. Francona isn’t surprised that Palacios once again came up, because he knows how Palacios handles himself when he’s not playing.

“Obviously his confidence is high,” Francona praised. “He doesn’t just sit over there in the dugout and eat sunflower seeds. He watches the game, looks at the pitchers. He talks to Chris (Valaika) and the guys, and he then puts on some really good at-bats.”

No Jose, they’ll find a way

With José Ramírez out of the lineup again, the Guardians looked to their young guys and other players in the lineup to carry the load against a very talented pitching staff and come through they did. It was the ninth inning in which “The Kids” took over and ultimately won the game. With one out, nobody on and the game tied at three, Oscar Gonzalez, a rookie, drew a walk on Dodgers closer Craig Kimbrel. Next, Josh Naylor, a 24-year-old in really his second season with the Guardians, came up clutch as Josh has been accustomed too this year with a double that just out of the reach of Eddy Alvarez in right and he legged it out for a double as Gonzalez smartly stopped at third. With ducks on the pound, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts chose to intentionally walk Steven Kwan to load the bases with one out in order to face Andrés Giménez, who was 0-3 on the night. Giménez only needed one pitch as he grounded one up the middle and scored Gonzalez to give the Guardians the lead. The next batter was Ernie Clement, also in his second season with the team, and he hit a sac fly into right center that scored Naylor and extended the Guardians lead to two. The young guys came through against the veteran Dodgers in the end and Francona couldn’t have been happier for them.

   “We’re asking a lot of these guys, to play the game with energy every day,” Francona said. “I know they get tired, but they bring it and to just hear their enthusiasm during the game got me going.”

While Ramírez wasn’t able to play, he was still the loudest player in the dugout as he was supporting his teammates the entire game, something Francona says is what makes this team so special.

    “That’s our team. When he’s out there yelling and banging on the railing, that’s a team and that’s big.”

Even then, Ramírez wanted to get in the game, even as a pinch runner.

   “He wanted to pinch run. We had a spot with Naylor, I just care so much about him that I just couldn’t do it.”

Andres’ redemption

Andrés Giménez had a tough series for about 2.5 games this series. Even more so in the seventh inning when he committed a throwing error when he attempted a jumping throw to get out Trea Turner at first, which went far to the right, allowing a run to score and give the Dodgers a 3-2 lead. It was what he did after that that may have been the most important plays of the game. Down 3-2 in the 8th, Steven Kwan was on first, Giménez chose to bunt and was thrown out in a close play at first but got Kwan into scoring position. He placed it so that the play wouldn’t be at second base. Palacios was able to knock in the run to tie the game the next at-bat. Then of course, Giménez had the game winning run in the 9th to give the Guardians the 4-3 lead, redeeming himself in the process.

The Perfect Trio

It may be way too early to say, but the Guardians may have found their Corey Kluber-Andrew Miller-Cody Allen starter-reliever-closer carousel that was so effective for the Guardians in 2016. That today was Shane Bieber-Eli Morgan-Emmanuel Clase. This three-man pitching trio has been remarkable for the Guardians this season and once again was today. As I mentioned earlier, Bieber had nine strikeouts and just three earned runs, although one of them was scored because of a throwing error by Giménez in the 7th.

   “I thought he (Bieber) had stuff left,” Francona said about taking Bieber out. “I just didn’t want to be a pitch too late. It’s not a lack of confidence in Bieber at all, it’s just that Eli (Morgan) Has just been such a weapon.”

On came Morgan, who once again was near perfect. He pitched 1.2 innings, giving up no runs on one hit, one walk and struck out three. He also extended his scoreless inning streak without giving up an earned run to 20.2, the last being in the seventh inning against the Toronto Blue Jays on May 8. Morgan was even able to pick up the win in his home state of California but cared more so that they won.

   “I think Eli didn’t care as much about getting the win, more so he was happy that he helped. That’s the kind of kid he is.”

 A three-day rested Clase came on in the ninth and made quick work of the Dodgers, getting his 15th save of the year, his eighth save in his last nine appearances and closing it out to give the Guardians the 5-3 victory and the series win.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.