Young Guardians team win AL Central crown | News, Sports, Jobs

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — A sturdy pair of eyeglasses was mandatory attire Sunday at the Cleveland clubhouse, where impromptu showers of champagne and beer erupted in a thick haze of cigar smoke.

The Guardians, baseball’s youngest team, have completed an unexpected run to the top of AL Central.

Rookie Steven Kwan hit a grand slam and had a season-high five points as the Guardians won a division championship no one thought possible six months ago with a 10-4 victory over the Texas Rangers.

When receiver Luke Maile pressed a foul on Josh Smith for the final, the Guardians began celebrating a title that became official 15 minutes earlier after second-placed Chicago lost to the Detroit Tigers.

Tied for first on Sept. 4, the Guardians have won seven straight and pulled off 18 wins in 21 games to open a 10-game lead and run away with the division.

“This team is good. We are not only young. We’re pretty good.” said starter Cal Quantrill, the club leader with 14 wins. “I don’t think anyone is thrilled to play us right now. We’re playing our best baseball. We’re playing baseball the right way.

It’s Cleveland’s 11th central title since the division’s inception in 1994 and its fourth in 10 years under Terry Francona, who has battled health issues the past two seasons but enjoyed this race with a team that may have surprised at first but is now seen. as a legitimate threat to the World Series.

“For what our guys have done, and when you do it with people you really care about, love and respect, it means a lot,” Francona said before her statement was cut off by a chilling sprinkling.

“I’m amazed by these guys,” said Chris Antonetti, president of baseball operations for the team. “They came together and played the game the right way.”

This season was not supposed to happen.

After dropping the Indians as a nickname after the 2021 season, a decision that upset a significant portion of Cleveland’s fan base, the Guardians have done little to improve their roster in free agency as the front office decided that 2022 would be all about seeing what he had.

In the end, the Cleveland kids were more than fine.

Perhaps none more so than Kwan, a 25-year-old player with a game well beyond his years. He made the roster in spring training and was the Guardians’ first pesky hitter since Opening Day, working pitchers into deep counts before hitting shots and becoming a nuisance on the pitches. base paths.

It was fitting that it was Kwan who led the way in Sunday’s clinch.

“Help any team I was on, be it Triple-A or the Majors,” Kwan spoke about his goals this season. “I think it helped me in college, travel ball, whatever. I know that if I focus on helping the team and others, then everything will fall into place.

Kwan’s slam in the eighth inning barely went over the wall and bounced into play. He wasn’t sure until first base umpire Bruce Dreckman pointed it out. He said his reaction was “Blackout.”

With bigger games to come, Kwan wasn’t ready to reflect on what he and his teammates have accomplished.

“I really want to keep my head down, keep rolling.” he said. “Maybe in a superstitious way, I don’t want to turn away from anything. Keep it up.”

The Guardians defied odds early on and became the first team to win a division with at least 16 rookies making their major league debut.

The season started with low expectations everywhere but inside the Cleveland clubhouse. It may have been naivety, but the Guardians thought they could be special and that’s exactly what happened.

“Since day one they have come together”, Antonetti said. “You go around the clubhouse, the tone that our veteran players set like Jose Ramírez, Amed Rosario, Shane Bieber, Austin Hedges. ‘Tito’ (Francona) said just find a way to help the team win.

“They embraced that mentality.”

The Guardians did it with an offense that puts the ball in play, a solid and often spectacular defense and a bullpen extinguished by the closest Emmanuel Clase (39 saves, the best in the league).

Cleveland hits less than any team in the majors and no one goes from first to third better.

Amid the clubhouse chaos, Antonetti was keen to credit 63-year-old Francona, who won two World Series with Boston and had perhaps his best season ever after facing serious medical issues.

“To think about what he personally overcame to get to this point,” Antonetti said. “This is a special moment for ‘Tito’.”


Guardians: Bieber (12-8, 2.81 ERA) will open a three-game series Tuesday at home against Tampa Bay in a possible first-round playoff preview. Bieber will face RHP Corey Kluber (10-9, 4.30), a two-time Cy Young winner for nine seasons in Cleveland.

Rangers: Play three games in Seattle starting Tuesday. Texas has not announced a starter for the opener against LHP Robbie Ray (12-10, 3.60).

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