3 Guardians strike out, then 6 score … in the same inning

56 minutes ago

CLEVELAND — It’s been said all season: This Guardians roster never gives up. Just how true is that statement? Well, somehow the offense turned three strikeouts into six runs.

The air seemed to be quickly escaping Cleveland’s balloon. With a Twins victory earlier in the day, the Guardians knew they had to win on Wednesday night to preserve their one-game lead in the AL Central. But after back-to-back strikeouts in the eighth, Cleveland was running out of time to make a move. That’s when the third strikeout of the frame led to a six-run inning that lifted the Guardians to an 8-4 win over the Tigers at Progressive Field.

Wednesday marked the first time in at least the Expansion Era (since 1961) that a team scored six or more runs in an inning after striking out three times, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Owen Miller was fanned to start the inning. Andr?s Gim?nez struck out on a foul tip. Then, Luke Maile went down swinging, but he realized the ball had escaped the catcher and trickled to the backstop, allowing him to reach first base.

Three strikeouts, but only two outs.

The Guardians made the Tigers pay for this mistake. What followed was a single, a ground-rule double, another single, consecutive doubles, an intentional walk and one final single by Miller, who started the frame with a strikeout, to give Cleveland six runs before the third out was made (again).

“A strikeout that goes to the backstop,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said. “How many times do you hear me say, ‘Keep playing, keep playing.’ That was kind of the ultimate.”

This is the benefit of the identity this young club has started to create. The scrappy, never-say-die, contact-first approach forces these types of scenarios. And when the Guardians boast seven hitters on their roster who are all under the AL average for whiff rate (20.7% average entering Wednesday), they make it difficult for them to be retired.

“I didn’t see it as a bad break,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said of the eighth inning. “I just think we had some non-box-score plays, and then their contact took over. They made contact on some tough pitches. Happens fast with a contact team, but obviously, we should’ve been out of the inning.”

Maybe this would be a simple fluke moment for most, but it was a statement for the Guardians. It epitomizes their entire season so far. Six runs after three strikeouts is a scenario we never thought we’d see. But having Cleveland — an inexperienced club going through a transition period — sit in first place in the middle of August isn’t something anyone predicted could happen, either.

“We take a bunch of pride in that,” Guardians left fielder Steven Kwan said. “I think we’re very cognizant that not a lot of people thought we’d be in the position we are, so we take that, and us being a really young squad, I think we’re really internalizing that and showing it on the field and having a lot of fun and hopefully we keep it rolling.”

The youthfulness of the roster surely brings some obstacles, but it could also be a reason that this club never gives up. It’s a mindset of, “What do we have to lose?” Wednesday marked Cleveland’s eighth victory when trailing by multiple runs in the eighth inning or later. That’s three more wins than any other team has in that scenario.

“I think we’re playing with house money right now,” Kwan said. “We’re just having a lot of fun with it, just kind of rolling and whenever the pressure gets too much, we’re always able to lean on each other, so that’s a really nice privilege to have.”

The victory kept the Guardians in sole possession of first place in the AL Central. The Twins are one game back and Cleveland is ready to welcome the White Sox, who are two games back, to Progressive Field on Friday. It’s a division race that’s likely going to come down to the wire. But the Guardians are ready to show that they’re going to be in the thick of it.

“I think they’re just proving something,” Guardians starter Cal Quantrill said of his teammates. ” I also think we’re proving something to other teams like we don’t have quit in us. … I mean, you’ve got to get 27 outs against us, and we’ve got a lot of guys in our lineup who don’t make that easy.”