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Hot-pitching Guardians attempt to hold down Orioles

May 29, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Cleveland Guardians starting pitcher Triston McKenzie (24) pitches in the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Strong pitching is becoming the norm for the Cleveland Guardians.

Now it’s a matter of keeping it going when they oppose the host Baltimore Orioles on Saturday.

A 6-3 victory in Baltimore on Friday marked the sixth game in a row that Cleveland held the opponent to no more than three runs. The Guardians won five of those contests, including the past four in a row.

The number of quick innings in the field are starting to pile up.

“We get the offense going and the boys are never standing there (in the field too long), good things happen,” said Guardians second baseman Owen Miller, who went 3-for-5 with four RBIs.

If Cleveland starter Shane Bieber set the tone for the series by taking a shutout into the eighth inning on Friday, it could be a challenging weekend for Orioles batters.

“We didn’t do a whole lot against Bieber,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “We were having a tough time.”

There simply have been too many dry stretches on offense for Baltimore, which scored all three of its runs Friday in the eighth inning. The Orioles bunched four of their six runs on Thursday in the sixth inning during a 7-6, 10-inning loss to the visiting Seattle Mariners.

Two pitchers who put together some of their best work in their most recent starts are scheduled to be on the mound Saturday.

Right-hander Triston McKenzie (3-4, 2.65 ERA) is the slated starter for the Guardians, who lost 2-1 at Detroit on Sunday despite his season-high 7 2/3 innings. He recorded a season-best eight strikeouts while allowing two runs on four hits and a walk.

“I think he’s figuring out what it takes to be a good pro, and then he takes it to the mound on the day he pitches,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said.

McKenzie is still pursuing his first career complete game.

“I’m out there trying to get outs from pitch one to hopefully the end of the game,” the right-hander said.

McKenzie, who gave up a pair of solo home runs against the Tigers, has held left-handed batters to a .123 batting average this year.

Even with 38 starts and 42 overall appearances in the majors, McKenzie has never faced the Orioles.

Cleveland’s catcher for Saturday will be Luke Maile, as Austin Hedges tweaked a quad on Friday.

“Just want to be smart,” Francona said. “I think we dodged it a little bit. Maile was going to catch (in Saturday’s game) anyway. I think (Hedges) will be OK for Sunday.”

The Orioles will go with right-hander Tyler Wells (2-4, 3.71 ERA), who is coming off throwing six shutout innings Monday at Boston. Wells has encountered Cleveland twice, both brief 2021 relief stints, and he didn’t give up a run in 2 2/3 total innings.

The Orioles are dealing with roster movement. They called up utility man Tyler Nevin from Triple-A Norfolk with infielder Chris Owings going on the bereavement list.

On the pitching side, reliever Joey Krehbiel went on the injured list due to right shoulder inflammation, and Nick Vespi returned from the minors.

“He has had an incredible year in Norfolk,” Hyde said of Vespi. “We’re happy to have him back.”

–Field Level Media