Top of Guardians lineup sparks 4-3 comeback win against Mariners

SEATTLE — Sparked by the top of their lineup, the Guardians rallied for three runs in the eighth inning Saturday to pull out a 4-3 comeback win against the Mariners at T-Mobile Park, and give Zach Plesac his first win in nearly three months .

The victory keeps Cleveland three games ahead of the Twins, who picked up a walk-off win against the Giants earlier in the evening. It’s Cleveland’s 27th come-from-behind win and 28th victory in a game decided after the seventh inning.

Steven Kwan ignited the rally with a leadoff walk against Seattle righty Andres Munoz, who had stifled Cleveland hitters late in the series opener Thursday with three strikeouts. Kwan moved to second on a base hit by Amed Rosario and scored on a José Ramírez RBI double to left.

Josh Naylor’s RBI ground out and an RBI sacrifice fly by Andrés Giménez turned Cleveland’s deficit into a one-run lead, and manager Terry Francona’s bullpen took care of the rest. James Karinchak recorded a strikeout in a scoreless eighth and Emmanuel Clase earned his league-leading 30th save in 32 chances with a flawless ninth.

Ramírez drove in a pair of runs, establishing a new single-season career high with 106, and moved past ex-teammate Carlos Santana for seventh on the franchise’s all-time list with his 504th extra-base hit. His solo home run in the fourth gave him 26 on the season and was the only run allowed by Mariners starter Luis Castillo, who fanned 10 Cleveland batters and walked just one, but did not factor in the decision.

Francona was asked afterwards if Saturday’s win showed the national audience the kind of will Cleveland’s young players have displayed over and over in countless comebacks this season.

“I don’t know if the country cares or not,” Francona said. “I know we care, and that’s what matters. That’s a hard game to win, but we found a way to win, so good for us.”

Plesac pitched well, allowing just three Seattle hits and no walks in seven innings. But every time the Mariners connected against him, the baseball left the park for a solo home run. Eugenio Suarez launched his 24th in the second and rookie Julio Rodriguez hit his 21st just out of Kwan’s reach at the wall in left.

Jake Lamb landed what appeared to be a crushing blow in the seventh when he swatted a Plesac changeup to deep right for his third home run, but Guardians hitters responded in the top of the eighth against Seattle’s standout reliever Andres Munoz.

Munoz had stifled Cleveland hitters with three strikeouts in the series opener Thursday, whiffing Ramírez in the eighth to spoil a late scoring chance and earn his third save, but the righty had no such luck the second time around. Ramírez lashed a double down the left field line that kicked into fair territory, causing Rosario to stop at third.

Francona said the quality of pitches Munoz can deliver mirrors Clase’s stuff.

“You don’t see Josey hit the ball down the left field line very often,” Francona said. “He drops that slider like Clase. That’s a pretty impressive inning for us because that kid is really, really good.”

Ramírez said he was not particularly looking for Munoz’s slider during the at-bat.

“Pitchers when they face me, it’s not necessarily like they stick to one pitch in particular,” Ramírez said via interpreter Agustin Rivero. “They try to play with my mind, trying to get in my mind. Honestly, I just try to look for a good pitch to hit but in the end, the game dictates what needs to be done and what I need to do in that particular at-bat.”

Kwan, who reached base three times, including on a pair of hits, opened the game with a 12-pitch at-bat against Castillo that ended with a base hit to right. He fouled off seven consecutive pitches before sending a soft liner over the head of Adam Frazier at second. He added another single, his fourth hit of the series, in the fifth when he rifled a line drive just past Frazier’s glove.

Myles Straw, who was running on the play, easily reached third, but was stranded there when Castillo whiffed Amed Rosario on a 97-mph fastball up and away. Castillo allowed one run on four hits, but exited after the sixth because his pitch count had climbed to 115.

Cleveland’s offense, which started the night with the lowest strikeout rate in baseball at 18.3%, whiffed 12 times and stranded five base runners while going hitless with runners in scoring position.

Plesac entered the game with an average of 2.58 runs of support per nine innings, the fourth fewest in the American League. He won for the first time since June 5 in Baltimore, snapping a stretch of 13 consecutive winless outings. It was the longest winless streak for a Cleveland starter since Zach McAllister went winless over 14 starts from April 2014 to Sept. 2016.

Francona praised Plesac’s competitiveness.

“When you look back on it, if he didn’t (compete) we wouldn’t have had a chance,” Francona said.

Plesac is now 1-7 over his last 13 starts with a 4.10 ERA. He improved to 1-3 against AL West opponents this year after going 7-0 in eight previous career appearances against the division. He said being able to keep runners off base and stay in his windup was key.

“I was able to keep my rhythm going the whole game,” Plesac said. “(Catcher Luke) Maile was doing a phenomenal job holding that glove down there on the bottom edge and we were getting calls that were good pitches. It felt like things were kind of leaning our way tonight because of that. We had a really good game plan and we executed really well.”

Next: The series concludes Sunday with a 4:10 pm first pitch from T-Mobile Park. Cleveland will send right-hander Aaron Civale (2-5, 5.63) to the mound, while the Mariners counter with lefty Robbie Ray (10-8, 3.75). The game will air on Bally Sports Great Lakes, WTAM 1100 AM, WMMS 100.7 FM and the Guardians Radio Network.

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