Cleveland hitting coach Chris Valaika said he knows how the Guardians need to play baseball.
“We have to play with our hair on fire,” he told Bally Sports.
The Guardians have lost six of their last seven games, including 6-0 to the visiting Minnesota Twins in the nightcap of a doubleheader on Tuesday. They’ve fallen three games behind Minnesota in the AL Central division.
“We’ve gotten away from our identity,” Valaika said.
He said he believes Cleveland needs to “do the little things, move baserunners” and “hit with runners on base.”
“We have to get back to who we are,” Valaika said.
The Guardians went 7-2 on a nine-game trip against the Twins, Colorado Rockies and Los Angeles Dodgers. They’ve come home to their longest homestand of the season and have fallen flat. They’ve lost two of the first three games to Minnesota, with games Wednesday and Thursday.
Cleveland will face right-hander Dylan Bundy (4-4, 4.80 ERA) on Wednesday. Bundy is 4-1 with a 2.82 ERA in five career appearances (four starts) against the Guardians, and 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in two games (one start) at home.
It might not be the best time to face Bundy. Cleveland managed just five hits in the second game of the doubleheader, two by Oscar Gonzalez.
Guardians right-hander Cal Quantrill (4-4, 3.76) will oppose Bundy on Wednesday. Quantrill is 2-0 with a 3.90 ERA in seven career appearances (four starts) against the Twins.
Despite the three-game lead in the division, Minnesota isn’t getting too high or low with the way the team is playing.
“I think we’ve got 100 games left,” Twins starting pitcher Sonny Gray said recently. “If you’re going to scoreboard-watch now, good luck.”
Maybe they should be feeling good about things. In the first three games of the series, Minnesota has seven home runs, including two by hot-hitting Carlos Correa. The Guardians have yet to go deep.
The Twins have gotten outstanding starting pitching in the first three games against Cleveland. However, they will lose their pitching coach at the end of this series.
Wes Johnson will step down after Thursday’s game to become LSU’s pitching coach.
Gray’s feelings were varied when he heard the news.
“I was mad at him a lot today,” he said after Monday’s game. “I was happy for him a lot today. I used every emotion and everything (I) was going through and kind of used it to pour it into the game.”
Cleveland has lost its starting catcher, Austin Hedges, who was placed on the seven-day injured list with a concussion.
Luke Maile was the only catcher on the active roster. So the team acquired former Guardians catcher Sandy Leon, who was catching at Triple-A Louisville for the Cincinnati Reds. Leon caught the first game of the doubleheader Tuesday and went hitless in three at-bats.
The Guardians have been longing for All-Star third baseman Jose Ramirez to get out of his slump. He had one hit in both games Tuesday but has driven in just one run in his last 10 games. He still leads the AL with 63 RBIs.
“He’s human,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said.
–Field Level Media