O, Canada! Pair of Guardians key win in home country

9 minutes ago

TORONTO — It was like Josh Naylor and Cal Quantrill were playing in their own backyard.

The Canadian pair proved that they still feel very much at home in Toronto, helping the Guardians to an 8-0 win over the Blue Jays on Friday night, their team’s sixth-consecutive win, in front of dozens of friends and family.

Naylor’s two-run homer fueled a prolific night for the Guardians’ offense and gave Quantrill all the support he needed as Cleveland’s starter posted seven shutout innings at Rogers Centre.

“This is where we grew up playing baseball,” said Naylor, a native of Mississauga, Ontario. “We decided our paths here in Canada, we stuck with it, we grinded. It’s tough being a Canadian, coming up through baseball, but when you work hard, anything is possible.”

Quantrill, from Port Hope, Ont., and Naylor have been constants in each other’s baseball careers. The starter and slugger rose through the Padres’ organization together and later joined the Guardians in the trade that sent Mike Clevinger to San Diego in 2020.

Their success on Friday had a decade of meaning behind it.

“It’s just awesome to see [Naylor] have the year he’s having,” Quantrill said. “I’ve watched him play so much baseball over the last 10 years that seeing it all come together is really exciting.”

Naylor’s third-inning shot was a display of pure power. The swingman sent a Jos? Berr?os fastball — the very first pitch of the at-bat — 362 feet to the opposite field, just enough to clear the wall and extend the Guardians’ early lead to 5-0. Cheers erupted from the stands, as Blue Jays fans recognized the stellar season their fellow countryman has put together.

It was home run No. 15 in the year and the first in August for Naylor, who added an infield single in his next at-bat and is now batting .271 with an .806 OPS and 56 RBIs.

“I’m really happy for Naylor,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said. “It’s not like it gives you something extra on your batting average, but I’m sure it’s special for his family.”

By their estimates, Naylor and Quantrill had a combined 120 people at the ballpark between family, friends, old teachers, coaches and teammates. It was their first time back since May 2019 with the Padres, when Naylor — who grew up an hour away from Toronto — made his big league debut at the ballpark he grew up visiting as a fan.

As that ball left his bat and he rounded the bases, Naylor looked like he belonged.

“This is twice now that he stole my thunder at home,” Quantrill laughed, remembering that three-game set in 2019.

By no means did Naylor act alone, though. His two-run shot capped off a five-run third inning for the Guardians, and Jos? Ram?rez added a three-run blast of his own in the fourth to cement a dominant offensive night.

It was more than enough support for Quantrill, who pitched seven innings of one-hit scoreless ball, striking out seven Blue Jays batters without issuing a single walk en route to the win. The right-hander commanded and mixed his pitches at an elite level against one of the most dangerous lineups in baseball, a performance that handed him his second quality start in a row.

“It’s nice when you’re in the middle of August and a guy looks like his last pitch was as good as his first one,” said Francona. “It sure looked like he wasn’t too worried with anything other than pitching.”

Quantrill has been at the center of the Guardians rotation’s recent success. Friday’s win over the Blue Jays has given Cleveland victories in seven consecutive Quantrill starts. The 27-year-old hasn’t allowed an earned run in 13 innings, helping his team claw its way back to the top spot of the American League Central.

With roughly a month and a half left to go, the race between the Guardians and Twins will likely remain close until the end. That may come as a surprise to those on the outside, as Minnesota was the preseason favorite to win the division. But the Guardians believe they are simply realizing their potential.

“For the most part, people saw us as a middle-of-the-road team, but we never felt that way,” said Quantrill. “We’re here to stay. I don’t think it’s a fluke. I think that we know how to win baseball games, and we’re a complete baseball team.”