CLEVELAND, Ohio – The regularly scheduled portion of your broadcast has ended. Now the fun begins.
The Guardians ended the regular season with a 9-2 win over the Royals in progressive field on Wednesday afternoon. They went 92-70, their best result since their 93-69 in 2019. But unlike this year, the Guardians still have some baseball to play.
They open a best-of-three wildcard series against the Rays on Friday. The Guardians enter the series as champions of the AL Central Division. The Rays enter the extended playoff format as the sixth seed.
One more thing, the Guards are hot. They went 24-6 in their last 30 games. It was their second-best stretch of 30 games since going 26-4 in 2017.
Aaron Civale won’t make the wildcard list, but he played like someone determined to make the next postseason list should the G’s get promoted to the ALDS and play the Yankees.
Civale (5-6, 4.92) had nine hits in six innings, winning his third straight start since being put off the injured list on September 20.
Three trips to the injury list that season limited Civale to 20 starts but he finished the season strong. The Guardians started him twice in that six-pack against the Royals so he would be an option for the rotation if they survive the wild card round.
Civale conceded two runs on homers to Vinnie Pasquantino and Kyle Isbel, but Cleveland’s offense gave him a wide margin for error.
After Pasquantino took a 1-0 lead in the first home game, Cleveland scored in the bottom end of the first four against Jonathan Heasley. Josh Naylor hit the wall with a two-out double down center left for a 2-1 lead. Singles by rookie Will Brennan and Luke Maile made it 4-1.
“I gave up on the first heat and of course (Josh) Naylor says, ‘Don’t worry, we got you,'” Civale said. “Then they lined up in the first four. It never ends. As we’ve said all year, we’re never out of the game.”
The guards didn’t stop there. They scored singles runs in second, third, sixth, seventh and eighth places to extend the lead to 8-2. Heasley (4-10, 5.58) lasted five innings and allowed six runs with nine hits.
In the last four games, starters Shane Bieber, Triston McKenzie, Cal Quanrtrill and Civale prepared themselves for the postseason in impressive fashion. They went 3-0 with a 2.14 ERA (five carries in 21 innings). Bieber, McKenzie and Quantrill are set to start the wildcard streak when it goes the distance.
All four pitchers went into their final starts of the season knowing they would only have a limited number of pitches.
“I’m approaching the next six days like it’s the regular season and I’m preparing for the next start,” said Civale.
Jose Ramirez ended the regular season in a game with four goals. He had three singles and a hustle double. He was replaced by pinch runner Gabriel Aria after his eighth inning double. Ramirez, who drove in two runs, goes into the postseason with a career-high 126 RBI, hitting a .280. The 126 RBI is second in the AL and third in the major leagues behind Aaron Judge and Pete Alonso with 131 each.
Naylor left the game after his RBI single in the eighth. He finished with three RBI, which gave him a career-high 79.
Rookies Oscar Gonzalez and Steven Kwan finished the season with .296 and .298, respectively. Gonzalez went 2-on-4 and Kwan 1-on-4. Second baseman Andres Gimenez took a 0-for-4 and finished the year with a .297 hit. He was hit by a pitch for the 25th time to lead the AL in that painful category.
“I thought it was fitting that Josey finished with a hustle double and Kwan trying to hit .300 warns the ref that he’s getting hit because he’s playing the game,” manager Terry Francona said. “For me, that means that we are going in a good direction.”
Kwan, who hit eighth with two ons and two outs, needed a shot to finish at .300, but Luke Weaver hit him with a throw.
Trevor Stephan, Enyel De Los Santos and Eli Morgan finished the game with a scoreless inning each. Stephan finished the season with a 2.69 ERA compared to his rookie season of 4.41. He’s 10-6 in his first two years in the big leagues
De Los Santos finished with a 3.04 ERA in 50 games. Last year he had a 6.37 ERA in 33 appearances with Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
Morgan allowed a run over his last 11 appearances (15 1/3 innings) for a .58 ERA in September and October in his freshman year as a reliever. It was a good way to end the season after posting ERAs of 6.75 and 8.55 in July and August.
The crowd of 12,983 gave Cleveland an attendance of 1,295,870 in 76 home games that year. Over the past two seasons, Cleveland has had its two lowest attendances — drawing 1,114,368 in 2021 — since 1991 and 1992, when they drew 1,051,863 and 1,223,240.
Next: The Guardians will practice in progressive field on Thursday before opening the wildcard series against the Rays on Friday at 12:07 p.m. ESPN, WTAM and WMMS will broadcast the game.
‘Guardians AL Central Championship Items For Sale: Find Cleveland Guardians gear commemorating their AL Central Division title, including t-shirts, hats, hoodies and more.
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