Photo credit: USA Today

The Houston Astros came in with the MLB’s top ranked ERA for both their Starting pitchers and bullpen. Both of them were dominant as they held the Guardians to just three hits and shut them out in route to a 6-0 victory, their 69th of the season.  

Astros (69-38) 6 – Guardians (54-51) 0. WP: Justin Verlander (15-3), LP: Zach Plesac (2-10)

Just let the Kids Play

The Guardians seem to be embracing the youth movement more and more as the season goes on, that was very evident Thursday night as the lineup featured four rookies, with two of them making either their first or second major league start. Steven Kwan, who obviously has been here since the start of the season, is still a rookie and has been one of the best rookies in baseball. He also picked up a single tonight in the 8th inning, extending his hitting streak to 18 games and making some history. Kwan is now one game shy of tying Michael Brantley’s 19 game hitting streak in 2010. Not only does Kwan have the second longest hitting streak by a rookie in the majors since Ke’Bryan Hayes’ 19 game hitting streak between 2020 and 2021, it is tied for the longest in the majors this season, with J.D Martinez of the Boston Red Sox also having an 18-game hit streak earlier in the season.

The other rookie of note was Tyler Freeman. Freeman got on base once against Justin Verlander, hitting into a fielder’s choice the first time up, but had some good at-bats against him and always made contact. Also of note, When Verlander made his debut in 2005, Freeman was just six years old.

Will Benson would be making his first career start in a Guardians uniform, batting seventh and playing center field. Benson struck out twice, but made good contact on his third at bat, flying out to center field in the 8th. Nolan Jones, who is the second most experienced behind Kwan, was 0-3 and struck out once, but made quite a number of catches in right field and had a good play in the fifth inning when he rifled home the ball, holding Aledmys Diaz at third and preventing the Astros from going up more.

After the game, Manager Terry Francona announced that Hunter Gaddis will be the starting pitcher for the Guardians Friday night, making it now 13 different Guardians who will have made their major league debut this season, meaning more than half of a 25-man rosters amount of people have made their major league debut this season for Cleveland. Gaddis is 5-3, with a 4.07 era in 17 games in the minors this season between Akron (AA) and Columbus (AAA).

Verlander adding to a Cy Young worthy campaign

At Age 39 and after coming off of Tommy John surgery, Justin Verlander somehow has gotten better if that wasn’t already possible. He leads the majors in wins with 15 and ERA with 1.73, he’s on pace to win his third AL Cy Young Award in his career and showed everybody why with another solid performance. Verlander would be pitching against the youth movement Guardians as four rookies were in the lineup and outside of José Ramírez and Amed Rosario, nobody in the lineup had been in the MLB longer than 2019. Verlander had 99 pitches, going to his fastball 50% of the time, while mixing in 23 sliders and 22 curveballs. He got the Guardians to put 15 of those balls in play, only two ended up being hits, one by Josh Naylor and the other by Austin Hedges.

“He’s as advertised,” Manager Terry Francona said of Verlander. “You Know he’s got the velocity; he can be his own reliever at times where he can pump you up and give you a little more. I thought our guys had some pretty good at bats, but we didn’t have much to show for it.”

Verlander, as he’s done since arriving to Houston in 2017, has continued to dominate Cleveland. He’s only pitched three games against them in those five years, but he’s 3-0, and has only allowed two runs in nearly 19 innings of work. Thursday night, he went six innings, giving up no runs on just two hits, walked one and struck out four.

Plesac’s bad luck continues

Zach Plesac’s just can’t seem to catch a break. He isn’t necessarily pitching bad, but his record of 2-10 is an eye-sore to many. Plesac got the start Thursday night, his second start against the Astros this season. His first time around in June was a mess. He gave up seven earned runs in 4.2 innings pitched on nine hits in a game the Guardians lost 7-3. This time around, as the Astros are very good at doing, raised his pitch count and made Plesac have long exchanges with batters.

“They made me throw a lot of pitches, Plesac said. “It’s not really taxing to me, but it’s pretty taxing when you have guys beat, and then they’re able to extend it.”

This resulted in Plesac reaching 99 pitches in just four and a third innings, with only 56 of them being strikes. The Astros wouldn’t dominate him by scoring runs, but by loading the bases and getting to a situation they liked. That occurred in the fourth, when they got two men on and Nick Sandlin came into pitch, and then Martin Maldonado doubled down the third base line and brought in two more runs, giving Plesac four earned runs to his name. of his 99 pitches, a whopping 87 of them were his 4-seam and slider. 46 of his 99 pitches were swung at, with 40 of them making contact. Of the 16 balls in play, seven of them turned into hits for the Astros. Plesac finished by also walking five and striking out four. This is now the 10th loss attributed to Plesac’s name.

“It’s hard,” Plesac admits. “I’m being tested right now. I think it’s one of those times where I’m trying to do everything I can to help us and doing everything in my power to not focus on things that aren’t going away.”

Unexpected Astros lead the charge

The Astros lineup is loaded with talent. Yordan Alvarez, outside of José Ramírez and MVP frontrunner Aaron Judge, has arguably been one of the best hitters in the American League. Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman make for a very formidable duo that attack opposing pitchers with long at bats and clutch hitting, and Yuli Gurriel was last year’s AL batting champion, but it was not any of them that were the reason the Astros had such an offensive explosion Thursday. If you looked at the lineup card, you probably wouldn’t say that Chaz McCormick and Martin Maldonado, who came in batting .225 and .180 respectively, were going to score the majority/all of the Astros runs. Well, baseball is a weird game, and they did. McCormick singled home a run in the third, one in the fifth, and then hit a solo home run off of Kirk McCarty in the 6th inning. Maldonado doubled down the third base line in the fifth which brought in two runs, before he also hit a solo home run off of McCarty in the sixth.

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