With baseball going through yet another one of its self-inflicted existential crises because the people who bring you baseball are clearly ashamed of the product it provides, it is good to know that the one thing baseball still has going for it is an almost unlimited inventory. Which brings us to things like Guardians-White Sox.
And right there we’ve stopped you, because you’re making a quick sweep of the cobwebs surrounding your brain since you forgot that the Guardians are what the Cleveland baseball team is now called, and that they play in the traditionally forlorn American League Central, the place where interest goes to Detroit for a home-and-home doubleheader with the A’s. Yeah, they’re doing that to hide the fact that they tried not to have a season at all but couldn’t carry it off.
But we digress. This is about the Guardians and White Sox and how Cleveland’s first baseman and designated Big Lug Josh Naylor (5′ 11″, 250 pounds, which is pretty luggy) drove in eight runs after the seventh inning to power Cleveland to a 12-9 win over the White Sox. Yeah, eight runs after the seventh inning. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that is the first time this has happened since RBIs were invented in 1920; before that, the people who ran baseball just called them turnips, or buggy whips, or the Whig Party, or something.
Anyway, this was just another quiet AL Central game on the blustery South Side of Chicago, where the best thing going for the neighborhood is that the Cubs play somewhere else. The White Sox scored in the first inning and held a lead until Naylor, known to Guardians fans everywhere as “One of the ones who isn’t Jose Ramirez,” hit a two-double down the left field line to score Steven Kwan and make it 5-2 in the eighth. The White Sox scored three in the bottom of the inning, though, to make sure you still didn’t care.
Only the Guardians cobbled together a rally sufficient to bring Naylor back up in the ninth inning as the eighth hitter, at which point he rocketed a first-pitch fastball from White Sox closer Liam Hendriks for a grand slam that tied the game at 8-8. He was prevented from batting in the 10th inning because baseball is an utter bastard, but came up in the 11th with magic baserunner Myles Straw at second and Ramirez at first after being walked by Ryan Burr. There were two outs, and Burr could have chosen to avoid Naylor, who had clearly been French-kissed by God, and pitched to pinch-runner/pinch-hitter Ernie Clement and his .200 average (10 for 50). Manager Tony La Russa even admitted to considering it, but decided to let Burr be Burr, because Naylor was already done all his hitting for one night.
Except, well, you know. Burr offered up a 1-0 cutter that Naylor clocked beyond the right-center field wall to give Le Guardianes a win they had no business having. He even screamed in triumph as though he had fallen into a cactus garden because he remembered along his route around the bases that he’d collided with an outfield wall in Minneapolis last June and incurred multiple right fibula fractures and torn ligaments that cost him the rest of his season.
Naylor still has days when his leg would like some pool time. “I mean we all see some days it’s a little harder for him to move around a little bit and that’s understandable,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said after the game. “But he looks really good in the batter’s box (slash line: .347/.370/.534). And you can tell when things happen how much it means. He’s really emotional. I get it. He missed playing baseball. He missed playing with his teammates. It means a lot to him.”
And he saved all of it for four innings of a game that most of the 17,168 had abandoned well before that because, well, it’s 5-2 and then it’s 8-2, and there’s work tomorrow, and you’ve got school, and the beer stands are closed and, well, screw it, we’re done here.
Teammate Franmil Reyes explained it best when he told his mates afterward, “You know we’re never going to see that again, right?” But at some point we almost surely will because baseball never stops throwing games up at you whether you want them or not, and if you’re just willing live to be 137, it’ll come around again. Amazing stuff just magically appears when you least expect it. I mean, the Cincinnati Reds just put together their first two-game winning streak of the year, and here it is only May 10. Big times in Ohio, kids. Strap in.