‘He was so good’: Triston closes near-record July

4:14 AM UTC

BOSTON — After his fifth and final start of July, Triston McKenzie closed the month with a 1.34 ERA. Through his first four games, the right-hander owned a near-spotless 0.34 ERA.

For the first five innings of Thursday’s series finale against the Red Sox, McKenzie kept his near-historic July pace. After not allowing a hit until the fourth inning, McKenzie surrendered a three-run homer to Xander Bogaerts in the sixth as the Guardians lost, 4-2, to leave Fenway Park with a four-game series split.

The sixth opened with a soft single by Jeter Downs. Jarren Duran got to first by bunting into a forceout, then Alex Verdugo singled to set up the three-run shot. The homer to Bogaerts, which came on an 0-2 slider, marked the first long ball McKenzie had allowed this month after he surrendered 15 across May and June.

“I thought he was so good,” manager Terry Francona said. “I mean, really good. Then they had the 0-2 swinging bunt, and then he made a couple of bad mistakes. And then the last one, the 0-2 breaking ball for the three-run homer, that really hurt. But up to that point, man, he was so good.”

Just how good was McKenzie’s July? The 24-year-old’s first four starts of the month would have easily set a Cleveland record (minimum four starts) for the lowest July ERA in the live ball era (since 1920). Instead, he settled for a three-way tie for fourth:

1. Gaylord Perry, 1972 — 1.072. Tom Candiotti, 1989 — 1.133. Emil Levsen, 1926 — 1.204. (tie) Steve Hargan, 1970 — 1.344. (tie) Bob Feller, 1947 — 1.344. (tie) McKenzie, 2022 — 1.34

Along with his dominance, McKenzie has given the Guardians dependability, having pitched 5 2/3 or more frames in 15 of his 19 starts this season. Cleveland has been challenged to fill innings after an MLB-high nine doubleheaders and starter Aaron Civale’s recent move to the 15-day injured list.

Here’s a look at McKenzie’s five starts this month, including his July 14 outing in which he notched career highs in strikeouts (12) and pitches (109):

July 3 vs. YankeesSeven innings, one hit, zero runs, seven strikeouts, one walk (92 pitches)

July 9 at RoyalsSix innings, three hits, zero runs, four strikeouts, five walks (88 pitches)

July 14 vs. TigersEight innings, five hits, zero runs, 12 strikeouts, zero walks (109 pitches)

July 23 at White Sox5 2/3 innings, four hits, one run, four strikeouts, two walks (94 pitches)

July 28 at Red SoxSeven innings, six hits, four runs, six strikeouts, one walk (91 pitches)

On Thursday night, McKenzie was working with just one run of support, courtesy of Jos? Ram?rez’s 20th homer of the season. The Guardians opened the series with one run on Monday before putting up 15 runs on 24 hits across the second and third games.

“I just think when you have one run … we talk all the time about trying to spread a game out, because if somebody makes a mistake, you don’t want it to cost you the game. That’s what can happen,” Francona said.

“I think with the situation of the game, where the team was being up 1-0, I think it’s just more of a mistake that can’t happen,” McKenzie said of the pitch Bogaerts hit for a homer. “I regret it, but it’s a part of the game.”

The Guardians left Boston having split their past eight games as they head to St. Petersburg to face the Rays and close out a 10-day, 11-game road trip to open the second half.