CLEVELAND — It was setting up to happen all over again.
Over the past week, we’ve seen the Guardians prove that they’re never out of contention no matter how much of a deficit they’re facing. And in the bottom of the ninth on Tuesday night against the Reds with a runner on first, Owen Miller continued his hot start to the season by launching a game-tying blast that forced extra innings.
“We’re never out of it,” Miller said.
The writing seemed like it was on the wall: The Guardians were going to figure out some way to come back yet again. Instead, the club ran into a series of events that caused momentum to shift back in the Reds’ favor, resulting in Cleveland’s 5-4, extra-inning loss at Progressive Field. Let’s take a look at the key moments that led to the defeat:
Sandlin earned that right in 2021, owning a 2.94 ERA in 33 2/3 innings with 48 strikeouts and 17 walks before having his season cut short with a right shoulder strain. The Guardians took their time getting Sandlin back into game action in Spring Training to ease him back into a regular workload after he rehabbed his way back from the injury over the winter. And since the season has gotten underway, he hasn’t quite been as efficient as he was in ‘21.
Sandlin started the 10th by getting a quick groundout before walking the next three batters he faced, allowing the automatic runner to score. He was able to bounce back to record back-to-back strikeouts and escape further trouble, but when the Guardians offense was unable to pick him up in the bottom half of the frame, he became responsible for the loss. Sandlin has now permitted 11 walks in 13 1/3 innings with eight strikeouts.
“Those things happen,” Guardians acting manager and pitching coach Carl Willis said. “No one’s trying to do that. No one’s perfect. But it was just unfortunate that Nick lost the strike zone there for a couple hitters and it made a difference. When you start the inning with a man on second base, that’s difficult.”
The wild pitch
For a moment, it looked as if the Guardians had tied the game once again. With two outs and Myles Straw at the plate, Reds hurler Alexis Díaz threw a wild pitch that skipped away from his catcher and rolled toward the Cincinnati dugout. Richie Palacios (the Guardians’ automatic runner at second) broke for third and started to make a delicate turn toward home plate when he saw the ball fall out of play down the steps of the dugout. Instead of being able to go home, Palacios was limited to just one extra base, keeping him at third.
“I thought he was going to score,” Miller said. “I thought the umpire would’ve said he could cross home plate, but unfortunately it rolled in the dugout. I’m sure if it kept rolling down the line, we were sending him, so we could’ve gotten a run there. Just tough how the ball falls sometimes.”
Because the ball went out of play without being touched, the rule stands as one free base for the runner, despite the fact that he was rounding third base.
“The rule is from the mound to the dugout, it’s one base,” Willis said. “Obviously, I wouldn’t think from that particular spot he was going to be able to pick it up and throw anybody out at the plate, but that’s the rule. It was the right call.”
A struggling Ramírez
After the opportunity of tying the game on an errant pitch passed, the Guardians had as ideal of a scenario as they could’ve asked for. Both Straw and Steven Kwan drew walks, loading the bases for José Ramírez. But right now, Ramírez has found himself in an uncharacteristic slump.
Over his last 14 contests, Ramírez is batting .170 (9-for-53), dropping his season average from .360 to .281 over that span. And instead of somehow finding a way to be the team’s hero as he usually does, Ramírez was fooled by an 86.8-mph slider that ended Cleveland’s hopes of completing the comeback.
The team never presses the panic button when Ramírez reminds us that he is human from time to time, but the Guardians offense will only be able to pull off so many comebacks without his bat being a large contributor.