Oscar Gonzalez, Guardians chase another win vs. A’s
Cleveland Guardians right fielder Oscar Gonzalez has played a total of 13 games in his major league career and already has made a major impression.
The 24-year-old rookie will aim to extend his hot start on Friday when the Guardians host the Oakland A’s in the second game of a four-game series.
Gonzalez has hit safely in 12 of his 13 games since he was promoted from Triple-A Columbus, becoming the first Cleveland rookie to accomplish the feat since Roger Maris in 1957.
The 6-foot-4, 240-pounder from the Dominican Republic went 4-for-4 on Thursday in the Guardians’ 8-4 victory over the A’s. He raised his batting average to .404.
Gonzalez put a scare into the Cleveland organization when he crashed into the right field wall in the eighth inning on a double by Oakland’s Christian Bethancourt. He said after the game he was OK, which means he should be available on Friday.
Gonzalez said his four-hit game was “super exciting.” He was happy he got some “meaningful hits. This is a dream come true.”
When Gonzalez arrived from the minors, Cleveland coaches told him not to worry about getting walks.
“We want to see how many good swings you can get on good pitches,” manager Terry Francona told him.
Francona added, “He has bat speed. He can hit the ball the other way. He’s not like a lot of right-handed power hitters. He doesn’t pull off the ball very much. He’s ultra-aggressive. If he swings in the zone, he’s going to do some damage.”
Gonzalez is one of several rookies making contributions to Cleveland. Left fielder Steven Kwan went 3-for-4 on Thursday, and Richie Palacios had a pinch-hit, two-run double in the crucial eighth inning.
“It’s fun to watch this youthful enthusiasm,” Francona said.
Right-hander Triston McKenzie (3-5, 3.10 ERA) will be on the mound for the Guardians on Friday. He will oppose right-hander Paul Blackburn (5-2, 2.62).
McKenzie is 1-0 with a 1.46 ERA in two career starts against Oakland.
Blackburn is 1-1 with a 4.41 ERA in three career starts against Cleveland, 0-1 with a 11.25 ERA in one start at Progressive Field.
The A’s managed eight hits in the first game of the series against Cleveland, but they are still batting a major-league-low .210.
Bethancourt finished 3-for-4, with a two-run homer and two runs. Ramon Laureano had a 12-game hitting streak snapped by going 0-for-5. Elvis Andrus, who is batting .349 in his career against the Guardians, was 1-for-3.
Francona remembers A’s manager Mark Kotsay from their time in Boston. The Red Sox, then managed by Francona, traded Kotsay to the Chicago White Sox in 2009.
“I remember literally shedding tears when we did it,” Francona said. “It was hard.”
The two managers have become good friends. Kotsay said Francona’s managerial style influenced him.
“Tito is a man of emotion,” Kotsay said. “He cares about his guys, probably to the point where it impacts them physically, and I would say there is some of that in myself.”
–Field Level Media