The Cleveland Guardians caught fire in September and clinched the American League Central early last week.
They’ll try to keep their momentum going in October when they host the Kansas City Royals on Monday in the fourth game of a six-game series.
The Guardians (90-69) have won four of five and 11 of their past 13 games.
A key part of Cleveland’s late-season surge has been the play of shortstop Amed Rosario, who got hot about the same time the Guardians did and helped propel them to a 22-5 record over the past four weeks.
He finished September by going 20-for-59 over his final 13 games of the month with 12 RBIs. He went 1-for-3 with an RBI and run scored in a 7-5 win on Sunday.
He’s also been especially clutch, driving in the winning run in each of the Guardians’ last three walk-off victories.
Monday’s starting pitcher Triston McKenzie said the best thing Rosario brings to the team is his energy.
“When he’s on the field there’s a certain presence,” McKenzie said. “It lifts the whole team.”
McKenzie has done his part to get Cleveland into the postseason, as well. The right-hander will make his final start of the regular season on Monday.
McKenzie (11-11, 2.99 ERA) went 2-0 in five starts last month with 2.14 ERA and the Guardians won all five of his outings.
He allowed one run and three hits in six innings of a 2-1 win against the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday, but did not earn the win as the game ventured into extra innings before Cleveland won in the 10th.
McKenzie will be up against savvy veteran right-hander Zack Greinke (4-9, 3.78).
Greinke, who will turn 39 later this month, is also coming in hot after throwing seven scoreless innings against Detroit Tigers last Tuesday. He left with a 3-0 lead, but the bullpen faltered, and the Royals lost 4-3 in 10 innings.
“So good,” Kansas City manager Mike Matheny said of Greinke’s outing. “He had everything right from the top. Locating the fastball — looked like he had more depth to his cutter today than I’ve seen all season. Outdueling everyone with the curveball for strikes, backdoor, below the zone. It was just a great rhythm.”
Tigers manager A.J. Hinch, who managed Greinke in Houston in 2019 when the Astros made the World Series, was equally impressed.
“I’ve seen Zack a ton, and he teased us quite a bit throughout the day,” Hinch said. “He got soft contact in the air, soft contact on the ground. … I’ve watched him up close and personal, and he can really pitch. The art of pitching, which doesn’t get talked about enough nowadays with all the pitch characteristics and all the velo and pitching up top, Zack can really pitch, and he showed us tonight.”
Greinke’s overall performance this season hasn’t been what many are used to seeing. The 2009 AL Cy Young Award winner could finish with his fewest wins over a full season. He won five games in the second year of his career, in 2005.
Greinke is also winless over his past six outings. His last victory came against the Chicago White Sox on Aug. 11, when he threw 6 1/3 shutout innings.
–Field Level Media