CHICAGO — Former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who works on pre- and post-game TV for the team, has been impressed with the brand of baseball the Guardians have played this season.
“I don’t like the way Cleveland plays, I love it,” said Guillen after Cleveland’s 8-2 win on Wednesday. “Tell Terry Francona this is the best baseball I’ve seen in 20 years.”
The message was relayed to Francona ahead of Thursday night’s season finale against the White Sox.
“You know what, that makes me feel good,” Francona said, “because I know how Ozzie wants to see the game.
“A lot of people have said to me, ‘I respect how your team plays.’ That makes me feel good. I’m proud of that. It’s not easy, but I think it really helps us. Our boys should be proud of how they’re trying to play the game.”
The Guardians play old school baseball. They’re 14th in the AL on home runs, but they’re hitting infield hits, stealing bases, and finishing first through third on every opportunity. Combined with a strong bullpen and a starting rotation that has bounced back since the All-Star hiatus, the Guardians are nearing their first AL Central championship since 2018.
They are 14-7 in September and lead the White Sox with six games with 13 games remaining on the schedule including Thursday.
“I appreciate how we play,” said Francona. “It’s easy when you’re doing well. But when you scuffle, keep doing it (it’s hard). I just think that the same guy who runs hard to first even though he’s frustrated is the same guy who’s going to secure a base or be on time. It’s kind of important.”
Unlike Guillen, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli is still in the dugout. He watched the Guardians literally chase his team out of the gym in eight games from September 9 to Monday. Cleveland won seven of the eight games, ending the Twins’ postseason chances.
“To be a good player you have to be able to relax on the field, but you literally have to be on your toes and be the most alert when you’re playing them,” Baldelli told reporters ahead of the season finale between the two teams. “Everywhere you look, they have people doing things that you don’t see a lot of in today’s game.”
The land of cans
Aaron Civale returned to the starting rotation Tuesday against the White Sox. Zach Plesac, who is due to make a rehab start for the AAA Columbus class on Saturday, could soon join him if all goes well with his broken right pinky finger.
Should anything go wrong on Plesac’s return, recent starts from rookies Cody Morris and Konnor Pilkington have been encouraging.
Pilkington threw 5 2/3 innings scoreless in the second game of a doubleheader on Saturday against the Twins. He didn’t win, but he batted six, walked two and conceded a hit. Morris allowed a six-inning run against the Twins on Sunday in a 3-0 loss to the Twins. He crossed out six and went one.
Morris starts Friday night against Texas at Globe Life Field.
If things go as planned, the Guardians would like to have a healthy Plesac back at some point in the last two weeks of the season.
“You always try to make the glass half full and not half empty,” Francona said. “But it’s also good to get your boys back. He was there, he made it, he knows how to do it. We just have to do this right. It’s not like he (Plesac) has a hangnail. He broke a bone.”
Separated at birth
Center fielder Myles Straw and field coach Kyle Hudson are similar. So much so that Straw Hudson pranked Thursday by wearing his jersey during batting practice.
While Straw has been inconsistent on the plate all season, his defense has been Gold Glove caliber since opening day.
That was demonstrated again in Wednesday’s sixth inning when Jose Abreu sent a long drive into the left midfield gap. Straw made a slip stop on his knees after a long run to end the inning.
“That’s about a good catch, as you’ll see,” Francona said.
Straw said he had a good feeling he’d make that catch about halfway through his pursuit.
“It hung up a bit,” he said.
StevenKwanCleveland’s DH on Thursday night, has a 5.0 WAR, the fourth-highest grade by a Cleveland freshman in franchise history. Kenny Lofton and Al Rosen Hold the franchise record in 1992 and 1950 respectively with 6.6 followed by Hal Trosky at 5.5 in 1934. Kwan has five straight games in which he has two or more hits. That includes seven in his last two games going into Thursday night. … Triston McKenzie, has hit 27 batters in his last two starts against the White Sox, including Wednesday’s 8-2 win. It’s the most strikeouts in consecutive starts against the same team by a Cleveland pitcher since Sam McDowell beat 29 batters Oakland A’s and Luis Titan eliminated 28 twins. McDowell and Tiant accomplished these feats in the 1968 (Elias) season.
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