Here are 3 biggest takeaways from Guards’ road trip

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ARLINGTON — This isn’t how the Guardians would’ve liked to end their two-city road trip, but the team accomplished what it set out to do: Win another series.

After winning the first two contests at Globe Life Field, the Guardians fell, 4-0, to the Rangers on Wednesday night. But this long stretch of 16 games in 16 days has officially come to an end. The Guardian went 8-8 in that span.

“These guys battled through a lot of things over the course of the 16 days,” Guardians manager Stephen Vogt said. “You always want to be better than that with your record, but we won three out of five series, did a great job of staying right where we are and these guys worked and battled.”

This stretch began with a series loss in Houston at the start of May. The Guardians rebounded to win both series at home but lost three of four to the White Sox before traveling to Texas.

Here are three takeaways from the most recent road trip.

Spotty offense

Vogt said it before the game: This offense has been so successful this year because it has gotten the big hit at the right time. But during a roller coaster of a road trip, the offense became inconsistent.

It started with a three-game losing streak in Chicago. During that span, the Guardians went 2-for-16 (.125 average) with two RBIs and eight strikeouts with runners in scoring position. But during the following three victories, the bats erupted. Cleveland hit .370 (10-for-27) with 17 RBIs and just five strikeouts with runners in scoring position. On Wednesday, the group went just 0-for-2.

A lot of the Guardians’ production has come from José Ramírez and Josh Naylor, considering the duo has been responsible for 33.5% of Cleveland’s runs. When their bats are silenced, runs are harder to come by. But for this lineup to remain a threat for the rest of the year, it will need different guys to step up and help the two big bats in the middle of the order.

“I think obviously what Josey and Naylz have done in the middle of the order, you can’t discount,” Vogt said. “But when we need a big hit, it’s a different person stepping up every single night.”

The bullpen is lights-out

Without the bullpen, who knows where the Guardians would be? As the team still tries to find consistency with its rotation (although the starters have been trending in the right direction), the relief corps has handled every task thrown it. Entering the day, Cleveland owned the best bullpen ERA in the Majors by a landslide (2.38). The next closest team was the Yankees at 2.63. On Wednesday, a two-run homer off Nick Sandlin only increased that number to 2.44.

Before the long ball, Sandlin had been almost untouchable for his previous nine outings. Closer Emmanuel Clase has given up just one earned run in 22 appearances. It’s impossible to know just how sustainable the success from all eight relievers is, but if the Guardians have these types of weapons all year long, they’ll be able to remain in contention.

Missing the leadoff man

The biggest hurdle the Guardians faced during this 16-game stretch was losing Steven Kwan. When he was taken out of the game on May 4 with a left hamstring strain, he led the American League in hits (47) and average (.353) and he was tied for second in on-base percentage (.407). On top of that, he was carrying a streak of 74 consecutive plate appearances without a strikeout.

He was the catalyst at the top of the order, making it easy for guys like Ramírez and Naylor to rack up RBIs. Since his departure, the Guardians have tried guys like Estevan Florial, Tyler Freeman or Brayan Rocchio in the leadoff spot, but it hasn’t quite been the same.

Since May 5, the Guardians have had a collective .143 average with a .250 on-base percentage, 11 strikeouts and five walks in 48 plate appearances from their leadoff man.

Kwan has already been out for nearly two weeks. He should only need another two weeks to recover. One bat doesn’t fix everything, but getting Kwan back into the mix will only help the Guardians inch closer to the offensive consistency they started the season with.