It was a relatively light night around Major League Baseball, but we’ve got to talk about the Cleveland Guardians and the incredible job they’ve done this season. We’ll also size up a pretty compelling weekend slate of action around baseball.
Guardians Take AL Central Lead With Motown Sweep
When the season started, no one gave the Guardians a shot to compete in the AL Central. Clevinger, gone. Lindor, gone. The sell-off was seemingly underway, and it was a re-tool in Cleveland. According to FanGraphs, the Guardians had a 13.5 percent chance to make the playoffs and just a 6.4 percent chance to win the AL Central.
Now, the Guardians’ chances of making the playoffs stand at 52.9 percent, and the chances of winning the AL Central are at 39.3 percent. It seems that everyone looked at this season as a transition year for the Guardians, except for the Guardians, who now look like a team that made some savvy moves to re-tool rather than a team heading toward the now standard blow it up rebuild.
A sweep of the Detroit Tigers this week has the Guardians defying the odds, leading the division on August 12. Aside from Jose Ramirez and Shane Bieber, Cleveland lacks the star power to make you believe in them, but they’ve built this team on the farm, and it seems like another dude pops up every day. Steven Kwan took the league by storm to open the season; he’s hitting .300 and has accrued 2.6 fWAR this season.
On Thursday, it was rookie Oscar Gonzalez who played hero for the Guardians, the latest “WHO?” for Cleveland.
Gonzaléz is slashing .301/.325/.458 with a 121 wRC+ and 1.1 fWAR through his first 160 plate appearances for the Guardians. The 24-year-old was nowhere to be found on Cleveland’s Top-30 in recent seasons despite signing with the Guardians as an international free agent in 2014 for $300,000.
Kwan, who might be the AL Rookie of the Year, was a fifth-rounder in 2018 who, like Gonzaléz, was nowhere to be found on Cleveland’s Top-30 in any recent season.
All of this makes one thing for sure; the Guardians are better at identifying talent than we are and, by the look of the standings, better than much of the league.
Cleveland has won five straight after taking two from the Astros last weekend and three from the Tigers this week, and they’re a game and a half up on the Twins entering play today.
“We’re buzzing,” Guardians starter Zach Plesac said. “You can tell we have a winning streak. Guys know how to win. We’re playing together. Timely hitting. It seems like everything is coming together right now.”
Big Series’ on the Weekend Slate
It’s August 12, and the games are starting to mean the world for some teams fighting for their postseason chances. We’ve got a few series this weekend with significant ramifications on the playoff picture.
Brewers at Cardinals
The Cardinals have won 10 of their last 13 games, and the Brewers have lost five of their previous eight, yet the Cardinals are clinging to a half-game lead in the NL Central with the two teams set to start a big weekend series in St. Louis today.
The Cards and Brewers haven’t met since June and have split their season series to this point, with each team winning six of their 12 meetings this season. They’ve split four in St. Louis, and they’ve split eight in Milwaukee. St. Louis has narrowly outscored the Brewers 48-44, so it’s been a tight head-to-head matchup this season.
Orioles at Rays
The Orioles head to St. Petersburg for a huge weekend series with the Rays, who lead Baltimore by a half-game for the third and final AL Wild Card spot entering play today.
Baltimore is the Cinderella team that just keeps on ticking even after trading Trey Mancini and Jorge Lopez at the trade deadline and sticking to their plan. The Orioles are 58-53 and have won seven of their last ten games. Tampa Bay has the postseason experience, so the Orioles will have their work cut out for them this weekend.
The Rays will send Corey Kluber, Shane McClanahan, and Drew Rasmussen to the mound this weekend, and the O’s have Austin Voth (tonight) and two TBDs on the slate as of this morning.
Guardians at Blue Jays
Cleveland heads to The Six winners of five straight, but Jose Berrios and the Blue Jays would love to cool them off and hold their ground atop the AL Wild Card standings. Toronto dropped a pair of games to the Orioles this week, but after a rainout Wednesday and an off day yesterday, Toronto is rested and ready for a big weekend series with the Guardians.
Phillies at Mets
The Mets play host to the Phillies this weekend in Queens, and they look to continue to pad their lead over the Braves in the NL East as they have recently, winning six straight heading into this weekend series with Philadelphia.
The Phillies are 10.5 games behind the Mets, but they’re sitting in the second Wild Card spot in the National League and looking to prove something against the 73-win Mets and gain some breathing room in the WC standings. The Phils are 40-20 since Rob Thomson took over for Joe Girardi, and they look like a completely different team.
New York will send Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom the mound tonight and tomorrow and have a TBD listed for Sunday, so the Phils will have a tough assignment at the dish this weekend.
Odds and Ends
- I would pay good money to watch this:
- We learned this week that there will be no Field of Dreams game in 2023 due to the construction of a youth baseball and softball complex, and now we have some details on that project, a massive $80 million complex. Front Office Sports has the complex opening in 2025, so maybe we don’t see MLB return to the Dyersville site until that summer as well?
- Last night’s Field of Dreams game was pretty well covered around these parts, but this was a pretty cool highlight reel put together by MLB’s social team:
- Juan Soto is heading back to D.C. just 10 days after being traded from the team he signed with as a teenage international free agent in 2015. It’ll be an emotional weekend for Soto, writes AJ Cassavell:
- Speaking of weekends, have a wonderful one!