CLEVELAND, Ohio — For seven innings Cal Quantrill experienced how the other half lives. Then Steven Kwan came to the rescue.
The Guardians, trailing 1-0 with one out in the eighth inning, came from behind to beat the Rays, 2-1, Thursday night at Progressive Field. The win, Cleveland’s ninth in the last 10 games, spoiled Tampa Bay’s plans to celebrate clinching a wild card spot.
Rookie Will Brennan started the rally with a pinch-hit single. Myles Straw bunted him to second and Kwan, another rookie, doubled to left to tie the score at 1-1. Kwan took third on a ground out by Amed Rosario and Shawn Armstrong (2-3) intentionally walked Jose Ramirez to bring rookie Oscar Gonzalez to the plate. Gonzalez sent a grounder to first that Ji-Man Choi couldn’t field as Kwan scored the go-ahead run on the base hit.
Taking the lead was difficult. Holding it was even more so.
Trevor Stephan, pitching the ninth because Emmanuel Clase had pitched the first two games of the series, walked the bases loaded with one out. But he came back to strike out Choi and retired Isaac Paredes on a fly ball to short right field for his third save.
Enyel De Los Santos (5-0) was the winner after pitching a scoreless eighth.
The Guardians were held scoreless for seven innings by lefty Jeffrey Springs (six innings) and Armstrong (one inning) before they finally brought bat to ball.
“You have to take away all the other at-bats (that have come before),” said Kwan, when asked about the eighth inning. “Every at-bat is an independent opportunity. You just have to go in there with a clear mind and get after it.”
Kwan hit a 94 mph fastball down the left field line for his 23rd double of the season. He’s hitting .315 (29-for-92) from the eighth inning on. It’s the fourth highest batting average for rookies, according to FanGraphs, with at least 50 plate appearances.
Stephan, with the bases loaded and one out, exhaled after extracting himself from a tense situation.
“When you get the lead like that in the ninth, you want to get in their quick and get the job done,” he said. “But they made it tough on me. They made me work and I was lucky to get out of there tonight.
The Guardians are 36-16 in games decided from the seventh inning on. They are 29-11 in their last at-bat and have 37 comeback wins.
Cleveland won the series from the Rays, 2-1. All three games were one-run contests, two of them going into extra innings.
They won the season series, 4-2, over Tampa.
The Guardians’ offense, hardly a bottomless pool of runs, has overwhelmed Quantrill with support this year. He entered Thursday night’s game against the Rays leading all big league pitchers with 6.47 runs of support per nine innings this season.
But the well went dry on a cold damp September night. Quantrill, in one of his best starts of the year, allowed just one run in the first inning, but until the eighth it seemed like that would be enough to beat him.
The Rays could have clinched a wild card spot with a win. There is still a chance the AL Central champion Guardians and Rays could meet in a best-of-three wild card playoff starting on Oct. 7.
Quantrill’s 10-start winning streak, which started on July 11 against the White Sox, remains intact with Thursday’s no decision. He also remains undefeated at Progressive Field in 43 games, including 33 starts.
“I didn’t win this one,” said Quantrill. “The boys played hard. It’s been our MO all year long. You can’t put us away. It’s quality at-bats the whole way through. Myles taking one for the team, sacrificing his at-bat. Kwan coming through like he always has. I don’t think we’re a very fun team to face.”
The Guardians did not like the thought of the Rays celebrating on their field.
“We don’t want people celebrating in our house, right?” said Quantrill. “That’s a really good team. I know a couple of guys on that team, I like that team. But we don’t want them to celebrate here. They can go celebrate wherever they’re heading next.
“It’s not about proving we can beat them. It comes back to proving that we can continue to play the game the way we want to play it. If we match up against them (in the postseason), great. If it’s the Mariners, great. Whoever it ends up being, fine. I think we’re ready. We’ve shown we can play good baseball in meaningful games. We’ve done it for the last month.”
David Peralta’s two-out single gave the Rays a 1-0 lead in the first. Quantrill started the game with two quick outs, but Wander Franco doubled and took third on a wild pitch after Harold Ramirez was hit by a pitch.
Quantrill allowed one run on three hits in six innings. He struck out five and didn’t walk a batter in 88 pitches. After the first, Quantrill allowed just two runners to reach base.
Next: The Royals visit for a six-game series that will end the regular season on Wednesday. The Guardians will start RHP Aaron Civale (3-6, 5.19) vs. RHP Brady Singer (10-4, 2.99) in the series opener Friday at 7:10. Bally Sports Great Lakes, WTAM and WMMS will carry the game.
Guardians AL Central championship merchandise for sale: Here’s where you can get Cleveland Guardians gear commemorating their AL Central Division title, including T-shirts, hats, hoodies, and much more..
If you or a loved one has questions and needs to talk to a professional about gambling, call the Ohio Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-589-9966 or the National Council on Program Gambling Helpline (NCPG) at 1-800-522- 4700.
More Guardians coverage
Cleveland Guardians, Tampa Bay Rays starting lineups for Sept. 29, 2022
Fair trades for home run baseballs and why the Guardians play the Rays so close: Podcast
Gabriel Arias cashes in on hard work with first big league HR, critical sac bunt in Guardians win against Rays
Guardians beat Rays and the rain, 2-1, on Amed Rosario’s single in the 10th inning.
Wild card, ALDS tickets for Guardians postseason games set to go on sale at 2 pm online
Watch Gabriel Arias launch his first career home run to tie Guardians vs. Rays at 1-1 (Video)
Does September success lead to postseason triumph? What fans of red-hot Cleveland Guardians should know
Looking at potential Guardians MLB postseason roster moves: Podcast
Jim Thome to receive the Louisville Slugger Living Legend Award
Guardians’ win streak halted at seven as Tampa Bay prevails in extra innings with a 6-5 victory
Enyel De Los Santos throws fourth immaculate inning in Guardians franchise history
Catching Rays in the postseason could put Terry Francona in an uncomfortable spot: Guardians Takeaways