Naylor (6 RBIs) powers potent offense in grand finale

June 1st, 2023

BALTIMORE --  hit his eighth home run, had a career-high four hits and drove in six runs to lead the Guardians to a 12-8 victory over the Orioles in Wednesday afternoon’s series decider at Camden Yards.

Yet none of those moments made him as visibly excited as he was during the decisive five-run fifth inning, when he exalted and pumped his fists on the basepaths while watching ’ two-run shot sail into the visitors’ bullpen.

“I get excited for everyone's success on this team,” Naylor said. “We're a family here. Really believe in loving each other. … [If] you do something cool, I'm going to be excited for you because this game's hard enough, and I feel like if I show you a bunch of support, and if we show each other a bunch of support, only good things can happen in the future.”

Andrés Giménez matched a career high with four hits and also went deep as the Guardians broke out to complete their first back-to-back series wins since the first week of the season.

Cleveland pounded out a season-best 17 hits and scored its most runs in a nine-inning game this season to put a bow on arguably its best series win in 2023 against an Orioles team that is tied with the Rangers for the second-most wins in baseball.

And the Guardians did so despite staff ace ’s uncharacteristically rough outing, during which he allowed seven runs on eight hits over a season-low four innings, only to watch as his team surged back ahead.

“It's huge,” Bieber said of the consecutive series victories. “I think a lot of different groups, a lot of different individuals have stepped up, so it's good to see the success that we've been working toward, and we're going to continue to do that.”

Despite some early-season disappointments, Cleveland now treks to Minnesota very much within reach of the AL Central lead -- just 1 1/2 games behind the second-place Tigers and three behind the division-leading Twins, who faced the Astros on Wednesday night -- ahead of a four-game set that begins Thursday.

And with the pending return of starting pitchers  and , combined with signs of recent life from the middle of the batting order, the Guardians leave Baltimore with a feeling that better days could be ahead, especially if the offense becomes more consistent.

Cleveland's lineup has been one of the lowest-producing in baseball this season. But there were moments in Baltimore that have felt like potential turning points before Wednesday, with the Guardians pushing at least five men across the plate in each of the three games of the series.

While Naylor’s outburst drew the most attention, José Ramírez’s three-hit game pushed him to 10-for-29 with four doubles and four RBIs during his six-game hit streak. Bell has also hit and driven in runs in three consecutive games, sandwiched around a planned off-day on Monday.

Bell's fourth homer of 2023 came directly after Naylor’s for Cleveland’s second back-to-back jacks of the season. It ended a dry spell of 264 plate appearances for the slugger without a round-tripper.

“I'm happy for our guys because they've been working hard, and now have something to show for it,” manager Terry Francona said. “Hopefully, it keeps them going because they've been frustrated. I mean, I'm frustrated with them, but I'm happy for them today.”

Naylor’s day began with an at-bat he’d like back when, with the infield in and one out, he grounded out softly to first to strand Ramírez at third.

Naylor quickly made amends, doubling during his second trip to the plate and scoring before the third inning was through.

In his third at-bat, Naylor turned on lefty Cionel Pérez's offering, pulling it into the seats in right-center for a two-run shot. In his fourth, a bases-clearing double landed at the base of the right-center wall.

Still not content, Naylor swiped third, giving him a better view to celebrate Arias’ 441-foot shot that cleared the Orioles' bullpen and landed in the visitors’. Naylor added an RBI single in his fifth at-bat.

“I think everyone did their part today,” he said. “We had runners get on base, and I think that each runner that gets on base feeds confidence into the next guy. We played a complete game of baseball today. Maybe we had a little rough start to the game, but we picked up the players that needed to be picked up, and then we just kind of cruised to the end.”