With the Guardians‘ win over the Tigers on Thursday, a few things happened.
First, the club got its fifth straight win, tying a season-high matched twice, once in mid-June and once in mid-July.
Second, the team officially swept the Tigers, which marks their first sweep since the All-Star Break.
Since the midseason classic, though, the Guardians have yet to lose a series outright, securing either a split or two-game series win against each of their most recent opponents.
It’s an impressive run, considering they’ve battled against division rivals like the Chicago White Sox, as well as American League foes in the Houston Astros and Tampa Bay Rays.
Third, the Guardians moved a full game-and-a-half ahead of the Twins for first in the AL Central.
It’s Cleveland’s largest division lead all season.
As we head down the season’s stretch (there are only 50 more games!), there’s quite a bit to be excited about.
But a deep playoff run?
Don’t get your hopes up, at least according to one MLB insider.
On Friday, Bleacher Report’s Zach Rymer evaluated the Guardians’ chances of going the distance in this year’s fall tournament.
The report was as one might expect.
Lots of praise for how well and scrappy this young Guardians team has played this season.
But plenty of skepticism over the team’s lack of run support and lack of division quality:
“As much as there is to like about the top end of their rotation, the back end of their bullpen, their defense and their contact-happy offense, it’s hard to decide which is a worse omen: that said offense generally doesn’t do what works best in October, or that they haven’t been any less of a pushover than the AL Central contenders that came before them.”
Ultimately, Rymer “sold” the Guardians as capable of a deep postseason run.
It’s true that the AL Central is probably the weakest in the AL this season.
— Bally Sports Cleveland (@BallySportsCLE) August 11, 2022
In the AL East and West, even the current second-place teams would have the best record in the AL Central.
But hey, you can only play the teams in your division, right?
And if the Guardians can rise above the loaded White Sox and equally talented Twins, that’s an achievement in its own right.
Rymer compared this Guardians team to two others that found deep postseason success recently: the 2021 Atlanta Braves and 2015 Kansas City Royals squads.
As a reminder, both of those iterations of the Royals and Braves won the World Series.
In terms of Atlanta, Rymer noted that there are some sound defensive similarities to the 2022 Guardians:
“If Cal Quantrill, Aaron Civale or Zach Plesac were to subsequently step up, Cleveland could overwhelm opponents with a top-heavy pitching staff much like Atlanta did in 2021, when it was Max Fried, Charlie Morton and Ian Anderson setting ’em up and Tyler Matzek, A.J. Minter and Will Smith knocking ’em down.
Another area where Atlanta excelled en route to winning the World Series was in fielding the ball. This is likewise part of the blueprint that the Guardians stand to copy. Their defense rates as one of MLB’s five best for outs above average, defensive runs saved and ultimate zone rating.”
If it comes down to a best-of-three series, a one-two punch of Shane Bieber and Triston McKenzie will be tough outs.
Add in the strong bullpen play of late and the team has the complete pitching prowess to make a run.
— David Hrusovsky Sports (@davehrus) August 10, 2022
But what about that pesky lack of power?
Look no further than the Royals:
“Rather than home runs, the ’15 Royals dispatched teams through excellent work from their front-end starters and back-end relievers, as well as shutdown defense and an offense predicated on situational hitting and baserunning.”
The Guardians have an established plan of attack that’s taken all season to master.
Fortunately, they aren’t alone in their strategy.