OAKLAND -- After a brief lapse, the Guardians have once again found their signature late-inning magic.
Sitting in a tie after nine innings for the third time in four days, Cleveland scored twice in the top of the 10th to secure a 6-4 win on Wednesday and remain undefeated in extra innings this season. It'll be a happy plane ride for the Guardians as they head back east for their home opener after wrapping a 5-2 road trip that had more than its fair share of nail-biters.
"A lot of these games were close ballgames," backstop Cam Gallagher said, "and it's one pitch, one play that separates the game."
Many of Cleveland's game-changers in Wednesday's series-clinching win were the usual suspects. Steven Kwan tallied his eighth RBI of the season, an insurance run in the 10th. Myles Straw made a leaping grab at the left-center-field wall in the bottom of the eighth to halt the A's late rally. Emmanuel Clase walked his third batter in two games but held on to record his second save of the season.
But then there was rookie Hunter Gaddis, who finally put the pieces together and delivered the finest start of his young career.
Gaddis stole the show in his second start of the 2023 campaign, twirling six shutout frames and scattering two walks and a hit. The 24-year-old righty was in line for the win -- which would have been his first in the big leagues -- until the A's slugged their way back late in the game, knotting the tally on a pair of home runs surrendered by relievers Nick Sandlin and Tim Herrin.
"He was tremendous," manager Terry Francona said. "It's a shame. … That was really fun to watch. He was fired up, as he should be."
Gaddis, for his part, didn't seem too disappointed about being denied his first win, as a broad grin repeatedly flashed across his face as he reflected on his outing later that afternoon.
Sure, getting a win under his belt would have been great. But nothing beats when things finally start clicking.
"I was throwing it where I wanted to," Gaddis said. "Gally was money back there. The defense behind me was amazing. I couldn't ask for more."
Cleveland's No. 28 prospect per MLB Pipeline, Gaddis made the Guardians' Opening Day rotation after Triston McKenzie sustained a right teres major strain in his final spring outing and was shut down from throwing for two weeks. McKenzie could miss up to eight weeks as he recovers, which opens the door for Gaddis to force his way into a more permanent role with the big league club.
Entering the afternoon with a 15.55 ERA in three career appearances, a pair of spot starts last year and his season debut in Seattle, Gaddis brought sharpness and efficiency to his longest start in the Majors. He primarily deployed his cutter and four-seamer, getting five whiffs on the two pitches, but he also flashed his 60-grade changeup. That offering was in fine form on Wednesday, twice freezing A's batters to account for two of Gaddis' four strikeouts on the afternoon.
"He was special today," Straw said, "especially getting to see him [from] center field. … He just had his whole mix working, and he was locating all of his pitches. He was just going after hitters. When you're not walking people, you've got a really good chance to be successful. He was pounding the zone and just letting us play defense, and that's what this team does."
With Cleveland's winning formula once again in working order, the Guardians secured their second straight series win and are set for a much-needed day off after beginning the season with seven straight games.
The West Coast road trip was a grind, but it helped reestablish their identity as a team. It may be early, but the Guardians already feel as if they've made a statement about who they are.
"We don't stop," Gaddis said. "I can see it in everybody's face. They're not going to stop until the game's over, if it's up by 10, down by 10 or dead even."