SAN DIEGO — After playing their first series at Petco Park in 17 years, nobody should blame the Guardians for wanting to come right back next year.
Cleveland will return to San Diego in 2023 because of a change in Major League Baseball’s scheduling format and, thanks to a five-run fourth inning Wednesday ignited by back-to-back home runs from José Ramírez and Oscar Gonzalez, the Guardians are going to walk through the gates like they own the place.
Ramírez’s third multi-homer game of the season and seven dominant shutout innings from Cal Quantrill led Cleveland to a 7-0 win and a two-game series sweep of the Padres. The victory moved the Guards to 10 games over the .500 mark for the first time this season and opened a 3 1/2 game lead in the American League Central Division with the Twins just getting underway in Houston.
Quantrill said afterwards he likes the way Cleveland is playing lately against playoff-caliber teams.
“That’s a really good team over there,” Quantrill said. “That’s a team that’s in the playoff race and we’re playing really good baseball against teams like that. That’s important. Anyone can go out and beat a bad team or take the series, but this is the barometer. The boys showed up and really put their foot to the pedal these last two games.”
Ramírez fell behind San Diego starter Blake Snell 0-2 in the first but belted a fastball into the seats in left for a 1-0 Cleveland lead. He made the score 2-0 in the fourth when he reached out and pulled a slider over the left field wall for his 25th home run and 102nd RBI.
Ramírez added an RBI sacrifice fly in the seventh for RBI No. 103, matching his output from last season and leaving him two shy of his career high of 105 in 2018.
Gonzalez followed Ramírez to the plate in the fourth and smashed a Snell curveball off the warehouse in left field for his fifth home run and second in as many days. Gonzalez’s blast left the barrel of his bat at 109.7 mph and traveled 403 feet. It was the third time Cleveland hit back-to-back home runs this season and first since Amed Rosario and Josh Naylor did so on July 2 against the Yankees.
Manager Terry Francona said he’s glad Ramírez wears a Cleveland uniform because the plays the game the right way.
“He’s not always going to hit two home runs, but he shows up every day and gives you an honest effort,” Francona said. “That says a lot.”
Naylor and Owen Miller kept the inning going with back-to-back singles that set up Luke Maile’s RBI base hit, and a single by Myles Straw that loaded the bases for Steven Kwan.
Kwan greeted Padres reliever Steven Wilson with a line drive to left that scored a pair for a six-run Cleveland lead. Kwan has hit in 31 of his last 34 games, including 17 of his last 19 road games.
Francona said the solo home runs were great, but he was most pleased with the way Cleveland hitters continued to execute their game plan against Snell in the fourth
“We made a good pitcher work really hard and that’s probably more about us,” Francona said. “We’ll take every home run we can get, but I was really happy about that inning.”
The inning ended when Rosario popped out to right field and Straw was thrown out at the plate trying to tag and score. Straw slid awkwardly into Padres catcher Jorge Alfaro and limped away from the encounter, but stayed in the game, collecting his second hit on a single in the eighth against Josh Hader.
Snell suffered just his second loss since July 1, allowing six runs on eight hits in 3 1/3 innings. Meanwhile, Quantrill was practically unhittable. He became the first Cleveland pitcher to reach 10 wins by striking out five and allowing five hits and one walk across seven innings.
San Diego loaded the bases against Quantrill in the seventh, but the former Padres first-round draft pick fought back to strike out Alfaro on a curveball in the dirt, and pumped both fists and screaming at his Guardians teammates in celebration.
Quantrill admitted that he realized how much beating his former team meant to him in the moments after he walked off the mound.
“Apparently I really did care a lot,” Quantrill said. “It was just really important, I wanted that game to be clean. I didn’t want to trail off. Finishing an inning is important as a starter. Giving (Bryan) Shaw the best chance to succeed, and that’s not with the bases loaded and two out, that’s with a fresh inning. That’s important.”
Shaw and Enyel De Los Santos worked scoreless relief innings to finish out the game. The win clinched the season series for the Guardians against San Diego, 3-1, and moved Cleveland to 12-7 all-time against the Padres. The Guards wrapped up interleague play at 12-8.
Quantrill said wins like Wednesday’s can go a long way for a young club in showing players how to finish things off.
“We’ve talked about putting your foot on guys’ throats, really trying to establish that we’re on top and you’re going to have to fight your way back,” Quantrill said. “That brand of baseball works for us. We’ve celebrated a lot of late-inning wins. But we have a good pitching staff and ultimate faith in our bullpen to get ahead early, hold it and win a game.”
Next: The Guardians open a four-game weekend series on Thursday in Seattle with a 1:10 scheduled first pitch at T-Mobile Park. Right-hander Triston McKenzie (9-9, 3.11) takes the mound for Cleveland while the Mariners will start lefty Marco Gonzales (8-12, 4.08). The game will air on YouTube TV, WTAM 1100 AM, WMMS 100.7 FM and the Guardians Radio Network.
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