The Cleveland Guardians welcomed a familiar face to town on Wednesday night.
In the first game of a double header against San Diego, the Guardians faced Padres pitcher Mike Clevinger.
It was Clevinger’s first time on the mound in a big league game in two years, when he started for the Padres in the NLDS.
Two months prior to his injury, Clevinger was traded to the Padres from Cleveland.
It was after that game that Clevinger underwent Tommy John surgery, derailing a strong career.
In five seasons with the Guardians, Clevinger was a solid contributor.
He posted a 3.20 ERA and turned in three straight double-digit winning seasons, from 2017-2019.
Clevinger, along with Shane Bieber, Carlos Carrasco, and Corey Kluber, helped form one of the American League’s more potent starting rotations in 2017.
That year, the team lost to the New York Yankees in the ALDS, one year removed from a World Series loss to midwest rival Chicago Cubs.
Clevinger’s outing Wednesday wasn’t particularly glamorous.
The righty went four and two-thirds, giving up three earned runs and striking out four.
And while he didn’t get credit for the win, Clevinger’s Padres did win the game 5-4.
But far more incredible was the joy and emotion Clevinger brought postgame, and even fans were here for it.
Mike Clevinger got emotional when discussing his return to the mound – and in CLE, of all places – after missing all of 2021.
"I wasn’t sure I was going to pitch again. This is big."
Before re-entering Padres' clubhouse, he took a few minutes to wipe his eyes & collect himself.
— Zack Meisel (@ZackMeisel) May 4, 2022
That was a moment.
Mike Clevinger broke down during postgame remarks to media.
“I didn’t think I was going to pitch again. … I’m just happy.”
— Kevin Acee (@sdutKevinAcee) May 4, 2022
Solid season debut for Mike Clevinger.
⚾️ 4.2 IP
⚾️ 4 K
⚾️ 4 Hits
⚾️ 3 BB
⚾️ 3 ER (2 after his exit)
⚾️ 95 Pitches
Great seeing 🌞 healthy and pitching for the Padres for the first time since October 2020. pic.twitter.com/sDKsmhxo61
— Darnay Tripp (@DarnayTripp) May 4, 2022
I missed watching Mike Clevinger pitch.
— Jon Schaeffer (@jonschaeffer) May 4, 2022
Welcome back Mike Clevinger!
— Morgan Harpenau (@DaygoHarpenau) May 4, 2022
Mike Clevinger and his Happy Feet are Back. 🔥
94mph Elevated Fastball. pic.twitter.com/60qLP2Cnb8
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 4, 2022
To make things even more special, Clevinger dueled with one of his closest friends on the Guardians, Zach Plesac.
The Guardians split the double header Wednesday, dropping round one before ending the day on a better note.
In game one, the Guardians accounted for seven hits (against San Diego’s six), with Steven Kwan, Josh Naylor, and Own Miller all recording at least one hit.
José Ramirez reached base twice, both on walks, and reached home plate once.
On the mound, Plesac sputtered through five lackluster frames, giving up five hits, and four earned runs and walks.
It was a tough sight, especially given the team’s woes against top-flight talent.
Fortunately, the team turned the corner in the afternoon.
In the second game, the team secured a 6-5 win.
Cal Quantrill pitched six quality innings, giving up three earned runs and striking out seven.
Behind the plate, Cleveland exploded for 11 hits.
With production like that, one might hope for a few more runs in the box score, but a win is a win.
What’s more reassuring is that some of the production came from a source that’s had a tough go of it so far this season: Franmil Reyes.
Batting fifth, Reyes slapped two hits in four ABs.
He seems to finally be showing signs of a pulse after a decent outing last weekend in Oakland.
With the split under the Padres under their belt, the Guardians stay in town for a four-game stand against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Another quality opponent, and another excellent time to rack up some wins against strong talent.
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