Cleveland Guardians starting pitcher Triston McKenzie anchored a pitching gem on Saturday at Progressive Field that turned into a 15-inning marathon, as the Guardians defeated the Tampa Rays 1-0 to win their AL Wildcard series 2-0 and advanced to play the New York Yankees in the American League Division Series.
Picked by many to finish last in the American League Central, 2022 marks the fifth time in seven years that Cleveland has made the playoffs under Terry Francona. Triston, who has been a key part of the Guardians’ success this season, took to the mound Saturday in his playoff debut, looking to close out the Rays.
McKenzie was dominant all day, allowing only two hits and two walks over six innings while striking out eight batters. He didn’t allow his first hit until the fifth inning and collected 13 swing-and-misses.
Former Cleveland Ace CC Sabathia was on hand for McKenzie’s gem and has been extremely supportive of the young stud looking to make his own name in The Land. Triston spoke on their relationship earlier this season.
“It just kind of blew my mind to see how some of the people that came before me really just pay attention to the game now and look at guys like me, or look at guys around the league, and are really invested in their careers,” said McKenzie.
One current player who has also offered support to Mckenzie is Chicago Cubs starter and fellow Black Ace Marcus Stroman. Stro made a bet in January that if Triston could finish the season with over 160 innings pitched and an ERA of 3.70 or lower that he would buy him a Rolex.
Easy money. McKenzie cruised past both numbers, posting a 2.96 ERA over 191.1 innings pitched. Stroman, always a man of his word, made sure Triston got his Rolex.
First Baseman Josh Naylor had a tough day at the plate but was able to contribute in the field. He made two big plays, first an amazing scoop on a Jose Ramirez throw that saved a run & ended the top of the 12th inning, then another to end the 13th.
The Guardians would walk the Rays off in the 15th, with rookie Oscar Gonzalez getting to be the hero after taking former Guardians starting pitcher Corey Kluber deep to end it. The walkoff may have won the game, but it was Mckenzie and the Guardians pitching staff that dominated this series.
In 24 innings, the Cleveland Guardians pitching staff surrendered just one run while striking out 29 Rays. Clinching in two games allows Mckenzie and fellow starter Shane Bieber the opportunity to get their normal rest before facing Aaron Judge and the New York Yankees, who received a bye as the number two seed.
Game one of the American League Division Series is October 11th.