The Columbus Dispatch

Guardians quite fortunate to play in AL Central

- Ryan Lewis

The Guardians’ contempora­ries in the American League Central have given them a gift.

Through the first two months of the 2023 season, the Guardians sported statistica­lly MLB’S worst offense. Forty percent of the rotation missed most of that stretch. The back end of the bullpen has either been a bit shakier than in the past.

And yet, because of a mediocre showing by the rest of the AL Central, and specifical­ly the Minnesota Twins, the Guardians are only a few games out of first place and could, technicall­y, be in first place by the end of the week.

The Guardians lead the league by a wide margin in one-run games, and under manager Terry Francona, Cleveland has shown a knack for finding its groove in June, July, August and September.

Add to that the fact that starting pitchers Triston Mckenzie and Aaron Civale both returned from the injured list over the weekend series in Minnesota and fired five scoreless innings, and there are reasons to be optimistic.

For Mckenzie, it was an electric 2023 debut in which he became the third Guardians pitcher since 1988 to strike out at least 10 hitters in fewer than 80 pitches. He joined Corey Kluber and Mike Clevinger on that list. For Civale, Friday marked the continuanc­e of a great beginning to his season before he was sidelined.

The Guardians still have much to figure out. If the lineup doesn’t recover, they could end up sellers at the deadline, even in such a winnable division. But they’ve been gifted a much easier road back into a potential playoff spot than would be the case in almost any other division.

All they have to do is unwrap it.

 ?? STACY BENGS/AP ?? Will Brennan and the Guardians lead Major League Baseball in one-run games.
STACY BENGS/AP Will Brennan and the Guardians lead Major League Baseball in one-run games.

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