The Cleveland Guardians will try to capture their four-game series against the visiting Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday, but they know the task will be a tall one.
That’s because they will be facing one of the top pitchers in the American League this season in right-hander Alek Manoah (4-0, 1.45 ERA). He’s tied for the most wins in the majors and has the second-best ERA in the AL. He has a 13-2 record in 25 career starts.
The Guardians will recall left-hander Konnor Pilkington (0-0, 0.00) from Triple-A Columbus to make his first major-league start. The rookie tossed five scoreless innings in three relief appearances for Cleveland earlier this season.
The 6-foot-6 Manoah has never faced Cleveland in his brief career. He was No. 11 overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft.
“I feel so good when he’s on the mound,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo told the Toronto Star.
The two teams split a doubleheader on Saturday and the Guardians won Thursday.
Kevin Gausman was the winning pitcher in Game 1 on Saturday. With Manoah and Jose Berrios in the rotation, Toronto is well-fortified.
Toronto reliever Adam Cimber, who formerly played in Cleveland, said Manoah has a chance to be very special.
“One hundred percent,” he said. “It’s not a fluke. He’s the real deal, man. … He’s just nasty, man.”
The Guardians were excited about two defensive gems made by second baseman Andres Gimenez in the second game of the doubleheader won by Cleveland 8-2. He made two diving stops on balls that looked like sure hits by the Blue Jays.
“We knew he was capable of that,” said Guardians bench coach DeMarlo Hale. “It’s helped that his offense is coming together. He’s feeling pretty good about himself. We like what we see of him, no doubt.”
Gimenez was 2-for-4 with an RBI in Game 2 and is now batting .348 on the season. In his past nine games, he’s batting .412 (14-for-34), with four extra base hits and nine RBIs.
First baseman Owen Miller was 2-for-3 in the nightcap with two runs scored and two RBIs and is batting a team-high .353.
And right fielder Franmil Reyes is starting to hit. He was 2-for-3 with two RBIs and his third homer of the season in the second game on Saturday. It was his first long ball since April 22. During his current five-game hitting streak, he’s batting .474 (9-for-19) to finally get over the .200 mark (.204).
“He’s going to battle his (butt) off,” Hale said of Reyes. “He has the power to turn the game around.”
Rookie outfielder Steven Kwan has hit safely in seven consecutive games and knocked in a run in five games in a row. During the hitting streak, he’s batting .286 (8-for-28).
Hale said it’s a benefit that the Guardians have several players who can play more than one position, including Josh Naylor (first base, right field), Miller (first and second base) and Gimenez (second base and shortstop).
He said eventually, the players will become more comfortable at one position, such as Miller, who is best suited to play first base.
–Field Level Media