Looking up and down the box score of Cleveland’s loss to the Astros on Thursday, fans will find an unfamiliar name.
Oscar Gonzalez was quietly named the starter in right field for the contest, earning his official MLB debut.
But if Gonzalez was quietly named a starter, his actual start was anything but silent.
In fact, Gonzalez’s performance was one of the few bright spots in the game.
Across his first four MLB at-bats, Gonzalez stroked two hits, including a double in the ninth that gave the cardiac Guards some hope of taking the lead.
But what exactly does the recent addition bring to the Guardians lineup?
Heat Seeking Missile
Gonzalez is a scorcher.
Insert whatever warm-adjacent adjective you wish, and it’s essentially accurate.
On Thursday, Gonzalez accounted for three of the five hardest hit balls in the game.
OSCAR GONZALEZ ROCKET SINGLE FOR HIS FIRST MAJOR LEAGUE HIT IN HIS FIRST OPPORTUNITY 🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨
CONGRATS KID #Fortheland
— 216 Baseball Podcast (@216BaseballPod) May 26, 2022
In the second inning, Gonzalez recorded his first MLB hit, a 113 mph heater down the middle of the infield diamond.
A groundout in the fourth inning?
But it’s not just Gonzalez’s bat that’s hot.
In the first inning, Gonzalez fielded a slap in right, and his 99 mph cut-off throw prevented any Tigers baserunners from advancing.
Oh, and his legs.
That groundout in the fourth?
Should have been routine.
And probably would have, had the speed merchant in Gonzalez not been the one dusting down the first-base line.
A third-inning chopper saw Gonzalez record a nearly 30 ft./sec. sprint time.
With the heat comes energy and excitement, something this Cleveland club has missed out on at times this season.
“[Gonzalez] swung at strikes. If he swings at strikes, he’s going to do some damage. He’s never going to be a big high-walk guy. That’s OK; we don’t need him to do that. But he hit the ball the opposite way. Hit the ball up the middle.”
Gonzalez’s ability to make contact with the ball is not unusual for this team.
Today Oscar Gonzalez hit a ball 113, 109, AND 107 MPH. My man can HIT
— Jram4MVP (18-23) (@Soto2CLE) May 27, 2022
The Guardians are averaging 8.20 hits a night, tenth best in the majors.
Where the team is often let down is turning those hits into runs; Cleveland averages 4.49 runs per game, eleventh best in the league.
That number is a little misleading, especially with huge outings by the offense early in the season, where the squad posted 17, 11, and 10 runs fairly regularly.
If Gonzalez wants to make himself even more useful, he’ll find ways to turn his contact into runs.
Optimism and Joy
Francona also called Gonzalez’s attitude in the locker room “infectious.”
Gonzalez clearly plays with joy for the game.
That’s going to be hugely important for this team at this present moment.
As it stands, the Guardians are losers of nine of their last 13 contests.
It’s a run that often brings along dark clouds and gloomy moods.
Gonzalez’s ray of sunshine might be just what the club needs.