If the season ended today, the Cleveland Guardians would be playing postseason baseball.
With a 4-2 win over the Rockies on Thursday, the Guardians completed a sweep of the Mile High Club and stretched their winning streak to four straight.
What a change just a few weeks can bring.
On May 27, Cleveland was scuffling.
It was the season’s nadir; the team was seven games behind the Twins for first place and sat third in the AL Central.
And the day before, the Guardians lost a soul-snatcher again the Tigers — a walk-off 3-4 loss.
After a red-hot start to the season, the only thing still warm was the early Summer humidity.
Cleveland’s April showers, in the form of bunches of hits, runs, and wins did not yield May flowers.
Instead, a drought struck the Guardians.
In the 19 games leading up to that May 27 game, the Guardians were an anemic 9-10.
Playing almost .500 baseball during a team’s rough streak isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it was so uncharacteristic from what fans saw out of the gate.
It was cognitive dissonance.
But something changed on May 27.
For starters, Cleveland snagged a win, much needed against the Tigers, a division rival, albeit one that is well in the AL Central basement.
And over the next 19 games, Cleveland would win some more.
The Guardians are now 14-5 over their last 19 games, a huge turnaround from their May woes.
José Ramirez, who continued to play well throughout the team’s slump, has found solid support in young studs like Oscar Gonzalez, Andrés Giménez, and Steven Kwan.
And slowly but surely, the Guardians clawed their way back into the playoff race.
Emmanuel Clase closes out a @CleGuardians series sweep in Colorado!#ForTheLand pic.twitter.com/CP7YnUL2mN
— Bally Sports Cleveland (@BallySportsCLE) June 16, 2022
They now carry momentum into a pivotal series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, who won the World Series in 2020.
Here are three things to look out for as Cleveland takes on Tinseltown:
1. Pitch Perfect
The Dodgers have one of the best pitching units in baseball.
Pick any stat you want.
ERA: 2.98, second-best in baseball.
WHIP: 1.08, second-best in baseball.
Opposing batting average: .214, best in baseball.
Cleveland will have its work cut out for itself at the plate this series.
And it’s not like the Guardians are getting any of the Dodgers’ back-end starters, either.
On Friday, Dodgers ace and Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw (2.12 ERA) takes the mound, followed by Julio Urias (2.80 ERA) on Saturday.
The Guardians, to their credit, bring a top-eight batting offense to Los Angeles.
How Cleveland’s offense fares against one of the best pitching rotations will be a huge sign of whether this team is a pretender or contender in the American League.
2. Momentous Momentum
If Cleveland has one thing going for it, it’s momentum.
The Guardians are on a tear of late, having won 14 of its last 19 games.
The Dodgers, on the other hand, are slumping through a ten-game stretch where they’ve only secured two wins.
Can Cleveland’s momentum carry them over a game or two in Los Angeles?
The worst thing that could happen to Cleveland is to get blown out in LA, sacrificing all the momentum leading up to this series.
Especially with the Minnesota Twins looming on the other end of this series.
Cleveland simply needs to keep the winning train going at full speed ahead.
3. Youth Movement
Cleveland boasts a bevy of young talent in the lineup.
The aforementioned Kwan, Gonzalez, and Giménez have come on strong of late.
They look like, along with José Ramirez, Cleveland’s future.
But are they ready for a challenge quite like this?
The Cleveland Guardians are just 3 games back of first place in the AL Central. #ForTheLand pic.twitter.com/1SUH9Pz7lz
— Nick Karns (@karnsies817) June 11, 2022
They’ve fared well against the Tigers, Rockies, and Athletics of the world.
But the Dodgers are a different beast.
While the Dodgers series will be a test for the team as a whole, the young talent will be on full display as well.
Look out to see if the Guardians’ young stars keep their cool and confidence when they’re down in the count, metaphorically and literally.
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