Even invincible closer Clase hitting bumps with Guardians | Jeff Schudel

·2 min read

May 13—Nobody thought the Guardians would be a home run juggernaut even with the addition of Josh Bell and Mike Zunino. The pair combined for 60 home runs in 2021 — Bell 27 with the Nationals and Zunino 33 with the Rays.

Bell and Zunino have a combined five home runs. The Guardians have the fewest number of home runs in the majors with 20. The Guardians are 17-21, but despite their record they are still just 3 1/2 games behind the AL Central-leading Twins and a half-game behind the Tigers.

The mystery for the Guardians is closer Emmanuel Clase. He led the majors with 42 saves last year and he is leading with 13 saves in 2023, but he has also blown four save opportunities. He took the mound in the top of the ninth inning May 12 with the mission to protect a 4-3 lead, but he gave up two runs and the Guardian hitters didn't answer with the bases loaded when it was their turn.

Manager Terry Francona was encouraged by the way Clase pitched against the Angels despite the right-handed flamethrower getting tagged with the loss.

"They have pretty good hitters," Francona said after the game. "I thought tonight was the best stuff he's had all year. When you get into a situation like that in a one-run game when a guy (leadoff hitter Mike Trout) hits a double, everything is magnified. They have a good lineup."

Clase threw 27 pitches — 19 of them for strikes. Thirteen of his pitches were 100 mph or faster.

The Guardians scored four runs for just the second time in their last 11 games. Just as Francona was encouraged by Clase, he viewed his team getting 11 hits as a positive sign. They walked five times and struck out only three times.

"We had some better at-bats," Francona said. "We hit some balls hard. I thought it was encouraging."

The Guardians have lost six of their last seven series. They have to beat the Angels on May 13 and 14 at Progressive Field to avoid making it seven of their last eight before heading out for a six-game road trip with three against the White Sox and three against the Mets.