Lively sharp in debut, but Guardians unable to solve Houck

April 18th, 2024

BOSTON -- The Guardians’ hitters just ran into a dominant pitcher. Simple as that.

Limited to just three singles, Cleveland never had a runner reach second base in its first shutout loss of the season, falling to the Red Sox 2-0 on Wednesday night at chilly Fenway Park.

Making his Guardians debut after opening the season on the injured list due to a viral illness that sidelined him a good portion of Spring Training, 32-year-old gave up two runs on three hits over five innings, striking out seven and walking only one. He was called for a balk that scored Boston’s first run.

“The fastball was where I wanted it to go. It felt great getting out there and getting fired up again,” said Lively, who still seemed pumped after the game. “I wanted to go as deep as I can. That’s what I had to do to keep going.”

But, on this night, it didn’t matter. The bats were silenced by Boston right-hander Tanner Houck, who made short work of Cleveland in a game that lasted just 1 hour, 49 minutes -- the fastest nine-inning MLB game since 2010, when Armando Galarraga narrowly missed tossing a perfect game.

“I don’t know if he can pitch much better than he did tonight,” Guardians manager Stephen Vogt said of Houck. “You’ve got to tip your cap. That was an outstanding performance by him.”

No late-inning heroics like the past three wins, not even a rally that threatened to keep this incredible road start going. It was just the Guardians' third loss in 12 road games this season. They came up one win short of the 1948 World Series-winning team and 1942 squad that both opened a club-record 10-2 away from home.

“As a pitcher you see that and you’re like: ‘Let's go!’’’ Lively said of the quick innings. ‘Me and you are going toe-to-toe right now.’ It gets me fired up. I was ready to get back out there, too.”

Signed as a free agent during the offseason to a $750,000, one-year deal, Lively spotted his sinking fastball well early, mixing in his curve and sweeper toward the middle-to-end of his outing.

“That’s what I do, I bounce around and mix it up,” he said.

After striking out Rafael Devers for the second out with runners on second and third in the third, Lively was called for a balk. He then struck out the next hitter, Triston Casas, with a nasty curveball.

“They changed the rule this year that you’ve got to declare whether you’re going from the windup or stretch,” Vogt said of the balk. “He did not declare with the new hitter, and evidently that’s the rule. I didn’t like it, but I understand that’s the rule."

The other run off Lively came on a homer by Connor Wong in the fourth.

Mr. Versatility

In just the 18th game of the season, has already moved around the diamond a lot. With the Guardians looking to keep his bat in the lineup, he made his first career start in center field. In his ninth start, Arias played his sixth different position. He went 1-for-3, raising his average to .314 with a homer and seven RBIs.

The 24-year-old had already started four times each at third base and shortstop, and he's entered off the bench twice at first and once each at second and right field before Wednesday night.

Welcome back

Right-hander Wes Parsons was recalled from Triple-A Columbus before the game, back for the second time this season since being acquired from Toronto on April 10. He worked two scoreless innings with three strikeouts.

“He was outstanding. That was great stuff,” Vogt said. “Really thrilled that Wes is with us. He’s going to get a lot of meaningful outs for us this year. That was electric stuff he showed tonight.”