56 minutes ago
CLEVELAND — If you’re going to have an inning unravel on you like Zach Plesac and the Guardians did against the Tigers on Friday night, it’s best to hope that Andr?s Gim?nez will be the man at the plate in a high-leverage spot late in the game to bail you out.
Plesac has run into plenty of tough luck this season. The righty hasn’t received much run support and has now had consecutive outings with some crucial defensive miscues that led to runs. But this time, the Guardians didn’t let these obstacles get the best of them, as they fought their way back in the seventh on a Gim?nez go-ahead RBI single that handed Cleveland a 6-5 victory over Detroit at Progressive Field.
“It’s cool to see guys like [Gim?nez] step up and turn into superstars,” Plesac said. “He really is.”
If it wasn’t for the fourth inning, maybe Gim?nez wouldn’t have needed to be the hero for this team yet again. The Guardians finally gave Plesac some breathing room by jumping out to an early three-run lead. But just like the last time Plesac toed the rubber in Kansas City, the defense made his job even more difficult.
The first batter in the fourth reached on an error by Jos? Ram?rez at third base. After a double and single knocked in two runs, Plesac thought he was going to escape the frame without any further damage when a ground ball came back to him on the mound with one out and a runner on first. He turned and threw toward second base to start an inning-ending double play, but no one was there to cover the bag.
“It was [Gim?nez’s] bag,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said. “But he was going after the ball. If Plesac doesn’t catch that ball, he’s got to be there. So if Amed [Rosario] could have seen that earlier — he went deep because he’s not supposed to have the bag. You’ve got to remember it’s happening quick. In hindsight, it’s probably better off just going to first. That’s very difficult for a pitcher to gauge all of that very quickly.”
Plesac still only had one out with runners at first and second and eventually permitted two more runs on a Riley Greene double.
“There was supposed to be a guy there, I got the ball there and there wasn’t,” Plesac said. “Both guys are safe. It’s nobody’s fault. It’s accountability. We just got to be at the right place at the right time. … Just tough luck.”
When Plesac couldn’t stop the bleeding, Francona made the decision to pull his starter after 3 2/3 innings (72 pitches). The Guardians have said since the beginning of Spring Training that they know it’ll be hard for them to win games if they aren’t defensively sound. But this time, they found a way to come back, as Gim?nez continued to show why he was named an All-Star.
The Guardians trailed by one run entering the seventh. A walk, double and an intentional free pass loaded the bases for Josh Naylor, who brought home a run on a sacrifice fly.
Then, the baton was passed to Gim?nez with two outs and runners on first and second — just the situation he’s been built for this season.
Entering Friday, Gim?nez boasted a .412 average with a whopping 1.401 OPS in 37 plate appearances with two outs and runners in scoring position this season. He found that same success in the seventh, as he served an 0-2 slider from Michael Fulmer into left field to knock in the go-ahead run.
“I mean, when guys are stepping up in big moments and coming through, that’s when you know a player’s having a special season and they’re in a good spot,” Plesac said. “It’s always good to see that dude come through when he does.”
What’s the secret to delivering in high-leverage situations? Gim?nez said it’s all about keeping the same approach, regardless of what’s happening in the game.
“I don’t do anything different,” Gim?nez said. “I think the game dictates what my approach is and the adjustment I make for that part of the game. Every idea I take is based on what the team is doing and finding ways to help the team win.”
Maybe the Guardians would’ve preferred to erase the fourth inning and have an easier path to victory Friday. But as the team has shown it’s running out of gas toward the end of the first half of the regular season, it proved Friday it still has some fight left.
“I think that speaks a lot of who we are,” Gim?nez said, “how we face adversity and how we’re going to continue fighting.”