CLEVELAND, Ohio — Luis Garcia looks like he’s rocking a baby to sleep during his windup.
It’s hard to argue with the results. Through his first 19 starts this season, Garcia allowed 82 hits in 106 1/3 innings.
Saturday night, however, it was the Guardians who sent Garcia to dreamland with six hits and four runs in the first two innings on the way to a 4-1 win over the powerful Astros at Progressive Field.
It was just the second time the Guardians have beaten the AL West leading Astros in seven meetings this year. The Astros, running away with their division, are 70-39 with 35 wins in their last 50 games.
The Guardians have no such luxury. They faced the Astros in a second-place tie with Chicago and a mere two games behind first-place Minnesota in the AL Central. They remained two games out of first as Minnesota beat Toronto, 7-3. But the White Sox slipped to three games off the pace following an 8-0 loss to Texas.
Perhaps that’s why they struck so hard so early. Backed by six scoreless innings from Cal Quantrill (8-5, 3.88) it proved to be a winning formula against a team that has won 14 of the last 18 games between the two teams.
“We all needed to remind ourselves that we’re a good team, regardless of how these last two games have gone,” said Quantrill, who improved to 11-0 with a 2.74 ERA in 37 games at Progressive Field. “I feel like we’re a good team. We want to make the playoffs. Tonight we showed that we can compete against anybody.
“That’s a really good team over there. I thought we fought well. We scored early and I finally did my job by holding the lead and then we handed it over to what I feel is one of the better seven, eight, nine (relievers) in baseball.”
Houston won the first two games of the four-game series by a combined score of 15-3.
Andres Giménez, filling in for leadoff hitter Steven Kwan (bruised left foot), opened the first with a single. He was forced out at second on a grounder to third by Amed Rosario. It looked like the Astros had gone around the horn for a double play, but the Guardians challenged the out call at first.
The out call was overturned and Rosario’s non-stop hustle paid a dividend. José Ramírez lined a run-and-hit double into right field to score the Guardians’ shortstop from first base for a 1-0 lead. The 496th extra base hit of Ramírez’s career moved him into eighth place in franchise history behind Hall of Famer Lou Boudreau.
The Guardians made it 4-0 with three two-out runs in the second. Austin Hedges drew a two-out walk and went to second as Myles Straw singled against his former team. Giménez sent a cue shot to shortstop Aledmys Diaz that sliced away from him at the last moment.
Diaz gloved the ball, but threw it into the camera pit as Hedges scored, Straw took third and Giménez second. Rosario followed with a two-run single to center for a 4-0 lead. He’s hitting .325 (38-for-117) with seven doubles, four homers and 20 RBI in his last 27 games.
Rosario, despite trade rumors and speculation that one of Cleveland’s hot-shot shortstop prospects is going to take his job, just keeps hustling and producing.
“No matter how many people try to tell him he’s not a shortstop, he continues to prove he is our shortstop,” said Quantrill. “His hitting, his fielding, I feel extremely confident with Rosario playing shortstop.”
Ramírez kept the pressure on with his second hit in as many innings to send Rosario to third, but first baseman Yuli Gurriel denied Josh Naylor a double with a nice play at the bag to end the inning.
Quantrill is 1-1 with a 1.50 ERA (two earned runs, 12 innings) against the Astros this year. He struck out four, walked one and allowed three hits. He faced just three batters over the limit in his six innings of work. It took him a season-low 82 pitches, including 57 (70%) strikes, to do it.
“I thought Cal was really good, really good,” said manager Terry Francona.
It didn’t take Garcia (8-8, 3.93) long to regroup. He didn’t allow another run through his six inning start. He’s 0-2 with a 4.90 ERA in two starts against the Guardians this season.
After Quantrill left, the Guardians’ bullpen came within an out of completing the shutout. Trevor Stephan and James Karinchak each threw a scoreless inning to hand the ball to Emmanuel Clase in the ninth. He retired the first two batters, but allowed consecutive doubles to Alex Bregman and Diaz for Houston’s only run.
It was just the third run Clase has allowed since May 17.
Next: RHP Triston McKenzie (7-8, 3.38) vs. RHP Christian Javier (6-7, 3.24) Sunday at 12:05 pm Peacock will televise the game, while WTAM, WMMS and the Guardians Radio Network will broadcast the game.
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