Guardians look to stay hot vs. Athletics

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Guardians ride a three-game winning streak into Oakland, where the Athletics are hopeful a little home cooking can erase season-opening offensive woes as the teams open a three-game series.

The Guardians rebounded from a 3-0 loss on Opening Day in Seattle to take three straight from the Mariners. Cleveland followed up 9-4 and 2-0 wins with a 6-5, 10-inning triumph on Sunday.

Newcomer Mike Zunino was one of the difference-makers Sunday, collecting two doubles and a home run, scoring twice and driving in three runs. Zunino also was partially responsible for the game-tying run in the seventh inning, when he doubled and gave way to pinch-runner Will Brennan, who scored on a Steven Kwan RBI single.

Both Zunino and Kwan will be experiencing homecomings in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Zunino was born in Florida, but his father, Greg, was a former standout at the University of California-Berkeley just north of Oakland.

Meanwhile, Kwan was born and raised in the South Bay before heading to Oregon State.

A rookie last season, Kwan went 3-for-9 in two games at Oakland. He had a hit in all five meetings with the A’s last season, going 8-for-21.

He’s already had a five-RBI day this season, that coming in Friday’s 9-4 win, but noted he was proudest of his nine-pitch at-bat that resulted in a strikeout as the game’s first hitter.

“I try to let our guys see more pitches,” he explained. “I remember last year, at the beginning of the season, people said, ‘You’re why Josie (Ramirez) is doing really well right now. He gets to see pitches before he even gets up there. That’s really valuable.’

“I take that to heart. There’s only so much I can do in a leadoff at-bat. But if I can set the tone for everybody else, that’s really important.”

Kwan held the upper hand on right-hander James Kaprielian, Oakland’s series-opening starter, in two meetings last season, reaching base in two of four at-bats to help trigger 7-3 and 8-4 wins.

Kaprielian went 8-5 with a 4.07 ERA in his first full season in 2021 before slipping to 5-9 with a 4.23 ERA last season. He has gone up against the Guardians twice over that span — both times last season — with an 0-1 record and 7.71 ERA.

The Guardians are expected to counter with righty Zach Plesac, who like Kaprielian is hoping to bounce back from a losing season (3-12) a year ago after having been a winner (10-6) in 2021.

Plesac has faced the A’s twice in his career, including getting a no-decision last June when he went six innings, allowing three earned runs, in a 10-5 home loss. He’s 1-0 with a 3.75 ERA in his career against Oakland.

He will be encountering an A’s offense that managed just three runs in losing two of three to the Los Angeles Angels to open the campaign.

“Offense is momentum,” A’s manager Mark Kotsay insisted after Sunday’s 6-0 loss. “We haven’t been able to put it together and string hits together in a big inning yet.”

Oakland had just four extra-base hits in its first three games, including a double and a home run by Ramon Laureano.

–Field Level Media

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