The Guardians Are Down to Their Last Chance

An upcoming head-to-head matchup could decide the AL Central: Will the Twins put it away, or can the Guardians claw back into the race?

Jose Ramirez
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 16: Cleveland Guardians third baseman Jose Ramirez (11) is congratulated by Cleveland Guardians second baseman Andres Gimenez (0) after hitting his second home run of the game during the second inning of the the Major League Baseball game between the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Guardians on July 16, 2022, at Progressive Field in Cleveland, OH. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

On Saturday night, the Guardians came from behind to walk off the Rays. After a long and hard-fought battle, Steven Kwan hit a sacrifice fly to bring home the winning run. His teammates swarmed him on the field.

It was one of Cleveland’s most thrilling victories of the season. More importantly, it was a reminder that this team isn’t dead – at least not yet. Despite their losing record, the Guardians still have a chance in the weakest division in baseball.

With the win on Saturday, Cleveland secured its third straight series victory against a powerful AL opponent: first the Blue Jays, then the Twins, and now the Rays. The Guardians have kept themselves alive amidst a challenging portion of the schedule. But the challenge isn’t over.

With 26 games left to play, the Guardians sit five games back of the Twins. That’s a towering hill to climb with such little time left. Most sources (FanGraphs, ESPN, Baseball Reference, etc.) put their postseason odds at about 5%.

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One Last Chance

However, the Guardians have one golden opportunity remaining: a final series at home against the Twins. Three games that could change the course of the division race.

If the Twins win the series, they’ll gain at least another game on the Guardians. If they sweep, they’ll gain three, with only 22 games to play on the calendar.

But what if Cleveland wins?

By taking two of three, the Guardians will keep their playoff hopes alive. If they sweep, they’ll have a legitimate chance to catch the Twins over the final weeks of the season.

This series is especially important because of the games that come afterward. Following this matchup, Minnesota only has six games remaining against contending teams. Conversely, Cleveland will have another 12 matchups with contenders. Minnesota also has an additional three games left at home.

The Twins should have little trouble protecting their lead at Target Field against the Mets, Angels, and Athletics. Meanwhile, the Guardians will have a tough time banking wins against the Giants, Rangers, and Orioles.

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TeamGames Remaining
TwinsMets (3), Rays (3), @ White Sox (4), @ Reds (3), Angels (3), Athletics (3), @ Rockies (3)
Guardians@ Angels (4), @ Giants (3), Rangers (3), @ Royals (3), Orioles (4), Reds (2), @ Tigers (3)

Can the Guardians Pull It Off?

So, can the Guardians do it? They’ve certainly played well as of late. They also have home-field advantage working in their favor; the Twins have been much worse on the road this season (.463) than at home (.580).

New waiver-wire addition Lucas Giolito will make his debut for Cleveland on Monday, taking on Pablo López in the series opener. Tanner Bibee will face off with Sonny Gray in game two. Finally, Gavin Williams will take the rubber against Joe Ryan for the last game of the series.

Those are the Twins’ three best pitchers, but the Guardians are countering with three talented arms of their own:

Sonny Gray76157.02.923.712.824.6
Lucas Giolito711153.24.454.514.941.4
Pablo López97164.23.723.163.453.6
Tanner Bibee103124.23.033.633.692.5
Joe Ryan108137.04.203.354.122.0
Gavin Williams1565.03.464.304.001.0
via FanGraphs

Ultimately, Minnesota is the better team. It’s hard to argue otherwise. The Twins have a much stronger offense than the Guardians, and they’ve been the favorites in the division all year long.

Still, this is baseball we’re talking about. I don’t need to tell you that the favorites don’t always win. Just look at Cleveland in Major League. Or Major League II. Or the 2022 season. Sometimes, the underdogs come from behind. It’s why they play the games.

The Guardians are down to their last chance, but that’s the keyword: chance. They’re still alive, and maybe – just maybe – they can make things interesting.

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It all starts tomorrow, 5:10 pm CT, at Progressive Field.