Welcome to the latest edition of the Guardians Newsletter! Just a reminder, I’m Mandy Bell and I’m in my fourth season covering Cleveland for MLB.com. Let’s get into the good stuff.
It’s now the end of August and the Guardians entered their four-game set against Seattle with a 65.1 percent chance to win the American League Central, according to FanGraphs. How are they still atop the division? Let’s take a look at four big reasons:
1. Starting pitching
This has been the team’s bread and butter for years, but in 2022, the Guardians have had to figure out how to rack up victories without dominant pitching. Well, in the last few weeks, the starters have settled in and have been one of the biggest reasons why Cleveland has soared to the top of the division.
Entering the four-game set in Seattle, the Guardians had won 12 of their last 16 games. In that span, the starters posted a collective 2.08 ERA while averaging over six innings per start. And during that stretch, Cleveland went from being two games back of the Twins to a season-high four games up on both the Twins and White Sox.
2. Oscar Gonzalez
There’s a reason Cleveland is starting to slot Gonzalez in the cleanup spot more frequently. Since he returned from the injured list, Gonzalez has been one of the most productive hitters in the Guardians’ lineup, proving it even more against a playoff-caliber team in the Padres this week. Before he got to Seattle, he owned a .338 average with 11 extra-base hits in 19 games since he was activated off the injured list.
3. Steven Kwan
Kwan has been the biggest pickup for the Guardians this season. Not only did they find a productive rookie who could help them win games, but they found a reliable, textbook leadoff hitter who has brought tremendous life to this lineup. Since the All-Star break, Kwan’s found another gear, slashing .338/.399/.462 with 25 runs scored in 31 games entering Thursday.
4. José Ramírez is heating up
Even when Ramírez isn’t at his best, he’s still second in the Majors in RBIs, trailing just AL MVP favorite Aaron Judge.
Ramírez hasn’t been as lethal as we’ve seen him in the past, and usually, that’s difficult for this lineup to navigate. But this season, the club has been able to turn to guys like Kwan and Gonzalez to help keep the offense afloat when Ramírez isn’t carrying the team.
But now, Ramírez is showing signs of heating up, which could take this club to another level. In his 11 games prior to the series opener at T-Mobile Park, Ramírez had hit .341 with a 1.055 OPS, four homers and 15 RBIs. If his bat gets (and stays) scorching hot, Cleveland’s odds of hanging on to the division can only go up.
No matter how many hurdles John Adams has to face when it comes to his health, he’s determined to get back to Progressive Field at some point in the future. In the meantime, the Guardians are doing their part to make his presence known at every home game moving forward.
The Guardians surprised Adams on Wednesday afternoon -- the anniversary of the first game he brought his enormous bass drum to in 1973 -- at his living facility with a special announcement in a small ceremony in front of friends, family and Guardians staffers. Adams learned that he’ll be the 11th member of Cleveland’s Distinguished Hall of Fame and that the bench he sat on in the top of the left-field bleachers will be moved to Heritage Park with a bronze sculpture of his drum sitting on top of it.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” Adams blurted out, with an enormous grin as the Guardians continued to explain how his legacy would live on at Progressive Field. Read more here >>
Since it was five years ago around this time that Cleveland made history, let’s test everyone’s memories. Who did they blank at home from Aug. 25-27, 2017, to record their first shutout series sweep of at least three games since 1956?
A. New York Yankees
B. Kansas City Royals
C. Tampa Bay Rays
D. Minnesota Twins
MLB.com researcher Sarah Langs is one of the best in the business (and just so happens to be my best friend). I constantly message her, “RANDOM QUESTION TIME!” warning her that my brain has come up with the most random stat-related question that I need help looking up. But not all of these factoids make it into my stories. Thankfully, this can be a place where her efforts are recognized.
For a brief moment, Bo Naylor’s arrival to the big leagues seemed imminent. Austin Hedges had been removed from a game with a sprained right ankle. The fear was that Hedges was going to need an extended IL stint, and Naylor was (not so) coincidentally pulled from his Triple-A game just minutes after Hedges’ departure. But when Hedges quickly bounced back and the team knew he’d be able to avoid the IL, Naylor was no longer an option (at least for now).
But I still wanted to be prepared, just in case Naylor did get added to the active roster.
We all know Naylor has his older brother, Josh, on the big league team. So, I messaged Sarah to get some answers on how many times brothers had been in the same organization and same big league team together. Of course, she had answers:
There have been just over 200 pairs of brothers who played for the same MLB franchise.
Cleveland has had three pairs of brothers reach play on the team at the same time, including Sandy and Roberto Alomar (1999-2000), Jim and Gaylord Perry (1974-75) and Joe and Luke Sewell (1921-30).
As long as we’re talking about Sarah and me, I’ll take this quick timeout to shamelessly plug BOTH of our new podcasts! Ballpark Dimensions -- a podcast hosted by MLB.com’s Mike Petriello and Matt Meyers -- has now expanded to two episodes per week and the Monday show is hosted by (you guessed it) Sarah and me!
Our newest podcast is Fielding Questions. It’s a platform for us to do a deep dive on all the little things that make baseball so great! (Let’s face it, could Sarah have a more fitting podcast?) We have two episodes out right now about superstitions and ballparks.
Take a listen and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts.
B.) Kansas City Royals
Backed by a two-run homer by Francisco Lindor in the first game of the three-game set against the Royals, Cleveland came out on top, 4-0. In Game 2, the team, once again, took a 4-0 victory thanks to three homers in the sixth and seventh innings. And in the series finale, Cleveland unleashed for a nine-run second inning that led to the shutout sweep with a 12-0 win.
FORWARDED FROM A FRIEND? SUBSCRIBE NOW
To subscribe to Guardians Beat, visit this page and mark "Guardians Beat" from our newsletter list. Make sure you're following the Guardians or that they're checked as your favorite team.