'It’s just fun baseball': Lively, Giménez fuel Guards' 9th straight win

May 27th, 2024

ANAHEIM -- There’s simply no MLB squad hotter right now than the Guardians, who wrapped this weekend’s series in Anaheim as they began it: on a roll.

On the heels of seven solid innings from and a sixth-inning offensive uprising, Cleveland finished off a three-game sweep on Sunday afternoon at Angel Stadium, riding to a 5-4 victory.

The Guardians have now won nine straight games, the club’s longest such streak since setting an American League record with 22 consecutive victories in 2017.

Cleveland’s 36 wins through 53 games is tied for the most in club history, having also been accomplished in 1920, 1954 and 1995 -- all World Series appearances.

Of more immediate focus is this current streak -- though first-year manager Stephen Vogt was quick to deflect credit for it.

“It’s fun,” Vogt said in his office after the game, amid the cacophonous din of clubhouse music and revelry. “That’s what these guys do. I haven’t done anything. It’s all about the guys in there. This team, they believe in each other, they fight for each other.”

A two-run double in the third from Johnathan Rodriguez staked Lively to an early 2-0 lead on Reid Detmers and the Angels, but that slim advantage evaporated in the fifth, when Lively allowed a bunt single from Zach Neto and a two-run homer to Matt Thaiss.

Between innings, country superstar Luke Combs’ smash-hit cover of “Fast Car,” the 1988 debut single from Cleveland’s own Tracy Chapman, blared over the stadium speakers as part of the Angels’ “Country Weekend” festivities.

Minutes later, it was the Guardians who revved the engines of their own “Fast Car,” so to speak, untying the game with a three-run sixth keyed by a series of walks, a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch to Tyler Freeman, an RBI single from Andrés Giménez (who leads the Majors with a .478 average and is sixth with a 1.226 OPS with runners in scoring position) and another run-scoring free pass to José Ramírez.

Giménez was struck in the head by a 95 mph fastball that got away from Detmers in the third, but he quickly rose to his feet and stayed in the game after being looked over by the Guardians’ medical staff.

Three innings later, the infielder picked up what proved to be a vital extra run with that sixth-inning single.

“He’s just a baseball player,” said Vogt of Giménez. “I say that about a lot of our guys, but [Giménez] is a pro.”

Giménez noted that this was the first time he could recall being hit in the head by a pitch, and hopefully the last time, too.

“It’s a special group, special players,” Giménez said of his team’s electric play. “We’re playing the game every day with a mission to play a ballgame that day.”

Ramírez’s bases-loaded walk following Giménez’s single in that pivotal sixth inning had some wondering if the Angels were, in fact, pitching around the slugger.

“I don't know,” Giménez said with a smile when asked his opinion on the Ramírez at-bat. “But there's some things that happen in this game. … He’s hitting the ball really well. So I [wouldn’t be] surprised if they're trying to pitch around him.”

That rally held up, as Lively finished with seven innings, striking out five on 92 efficient pitches and notching his first quality start since May 4.

Scott Barlow survived an eighth-inning Angels rally and Emmanuel Clase tallied his MLB-leading 17th save to seal the victory.

Lively spoke to his approach against the Angels, staying in the zone with 58 of his 92 pitches landing for strikes and making them “swing the bat and get off the field.”

Sunday marked Lively’s first start since an on-air broadcast mixup last week referred to him as Blake Lively -- which prompted an amusing reaction from the actor on her Instagram page.

This begs the question: Had Ben Lively left any tickets at the box office for Blake Lively?

“Nah,” he said with a laugh. “I was hoping that if I didn't leave them, there would be an issue so it’d be an even cooler story, but …"

What is it about Vogt, 53 games into his managerial career after 10 years in the Majors as a player, that’s working so well in Cleveland?

“He just gets it,” opined Lively. “He’s got a feel for everybody, and just lets everyone be their own guy. Makes us comfortable, makes us ready to go every day and ready to be here. … Everyone’s got confidence right now. Everybody’s swinging the bat. … It’s just fun baseball.”