Battenfield's debut a blast on 'weird day' for Guardians

Right-hander yields just 1 ER over 4 2/3 IP vs. Yanks, but Clase slips in pivotal 9th

April 12th, 2023

CLEVELAND -- Of all the things that went awry in the Guardians’ series finale against the Yankees at Progressive Field on Wednesday afternoon, starter  was not one of them.

A game that saw conflict over a Cleveland challenge in the first inning, an umpire get struck by a relay throw, a starter making his Major League debut and an  long ball that snapped the Guardians’ longest stretch of homerless at-bats (233) since 2012, resulted in a 4-3 loss in the rubber game.

“It was a weird day,” manager Terry Francona said.

Battenfield’s debut

The Guardians couldn’t have asked for much more from Battenfield. He was called up on Monday when Cleveland received the news that starter Aaron Civale sustained a left oblique strain. Over the past two days, Battenfield was an option out of the bullpen. 

He wasn’t used in relief, so Battenfield was set to start his first Major League game against the Yankees on Wednesday. The waiting game caused his anticipation to build exponentially. But once he stepped on the field, all that angst disappeared.

“I wasn’t as nervous walking in as I thought I’d be,” Battenfield said. “I thought I was going to be shaking my legs a little bit. It was a blast.”

Facing one of the toughest lineups in his Major League debut, Battenfield gave up a leadoff double, but he went on to retire the next 13 batters he faced.

Battenfield ran into some trouble in the fifth when a single by Yankees catcher Kyle Higashioka to Myles Straw in center was set to plate a run from second base. But when Straw threw the ball to cutoff man Andrés Giménez, Giménez turned to throw the ball home and instead hit second-base umpire Larry Vanover in the side of the head.

Vanover dropped to the ground, the ball was rerouted and a second run scored.

The umpire crew had to shake off the freak accident after watching Vanover leave the game to be evaluated at the Cleveland Clinic. Battenfield did his best to settle back in for one more batter before the Guardians turned to their bullpen.

Battenfield ended his debut having given up one earned run in 4 2/3 innings with no walks and three strikeouts. His four-seamer averaged just under 92 mph and his cutter induced 12 whiffs out of the 20 swings batters took against it.

“Just trying to get it to location because it didn’t have a ton of movement,” Battenfield said. “So, got to be able to spot it up. To see the results play out the way they did, it’s pretty reassuring.”

Rosario’s error

With one out in a tie game in the top of the ninth inning, shortstop Amed Rosario had a Giancarlo Stanton ground ball come his way. Rosario ran toward the third-base line, backhanded the ball and threw across his body on the run to try to record the out at first.

The ball took a bounce a few feet in front of first baseman Josh Bell, who couldn’t come up with it and the ball went out of play, granting Stanton second base.

It’s just a tough angle and I went for it,” Bell said. “I wish it would’ve caught just a little bit more leather so it stays in front, at least.”

A run was able to easily score from second on a single later in the frame, causing the Yankees to take the lead. Rosario provided the big blast earlier in the game and had a chance for redemption in the bottom of the ninth, as the Guardians loaded the bases with two outs, but he struck out to end the game.

Clase’s first loss

Guardians closer Emmanuel Clase was so close to perfection in 2022 that any type of slow start to the season would cause concern. He’d already blown one save this season and entered the tie game in the ninth inning. The average of his cutter has already been 1.5 mph slower than the 99.5 it averaged last year, but when it was flashing between 96 and 97 mph this time, it seemed more perplexing.

But the Guardians know the weapon that Clase has been for this club and is not concerned by the start he’s gotten off to.

“I think his velocity is not showing 100, but sometimes there’s more cut to it,” Francona said. “I think he’s still getting accustomed to the pace of what we’re doing.”