McKenzie’s 8 Ks, Maile’s HR puts Guardians over Astros 1-0

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CLEVELAND — Triston McKenzie held Houston to two hits and struck out eight in eight innings, Luke Maile homered for the first time in three years and the Cleveland Guardians defeated the Houston Astros 1-0 on Sunday.

McKenzie (8-8) retired 15 straight hitters before pinch-hitter Kyle Tucker walked with one out in the eighth. Pinch-hitter Jose Altuve then bounced into an inning-ending double play, and McKenzie let out a yell and pounded his right hand into his glove as he headed to dugout behind a loud ovation from 22,688 fans.

McKenzie walked one and threw 91 pitches. He struck out Alex Bregman to begin the second, but Trey Mancini and Chas McCormick followed with one-out singles to put runners at first and second. McKenzie struck out Mauricio Dubon and Jake Meyers to end the inning.

The 25-year-old right-hander was 3-1 with a 1.34 ERA in July, but had allowed a three-run homer in each of his last two starts – both losses.

Maile’s fifth-inning home run off Christian Javier landed on the home run porch in left field for his first homer since May 20, 2019.

Emmanuel Clase struck out two of the three hitters he faced in the ninth for his 24th save in 26 opportunities.

The win gave Cleveland a split of the four-game series against the AL West leaders. Houston won the first two games of the series by a combined score of 15-3 and is an AL-best 36-23 on the road. Javier (6-8) is 0-5 over his last six starts. The right-hander gave up six hits, struck out four and didn’t walk a batter over six innings.

BAKER UPDATE

Bench coach Joe Espada spoke on the phone Sunday morning with Astros manager Dusty Baker, who was out for the series after testing positive for COVID-19 on Friday.

“He’s in good spirits,” Espada said. “He’s feeling a lot better. Hopefully he gets to travel back to Houston sometime this week.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: Altuve and 1B Yuli Gurriel were out of the starting lineup. Houston is off Monday. Mancini started at first while Diaz played second.

Guardians: OF Steven Kwan returned after not playing Saturday and being pulled from Friday’s game after fouling a ball off his leg. Kwan was 0 for 2 on Friday, ending his 18-game hitting streak. The rookie singled in the third and fifth Sunday.

UP NEXT

Astros: Houston opens a three-game home series against Texas on Tuesday night. RHP Jose Urquidy (10-4, 3.82) is the scheduled starter.

Guardians: RHP Shane Bieber (6-6, 3.39 ERA) is scheduled to start in the opener of a three-game series in Detroit on Tuesday.

Royals fire manager Mike Matheny after 65-97 end to season

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Cal Eldred were fired by the Kansas Cty Royals on Wednesday night, shortly after the struggling franchise finished the season 65-97 with a listless 9-2 loss to the Cleveland Guardians.

The Royals had exercised their option on Matheny’s contract for 2023 during spring training, when the club hoped it was turning the corner from also-ran to contender again. But plagued by poor pitching, struggles from young position players and failed experiments with veterans, the Royals were largely out of playoff contention by the middle of summer.

The disappointing product led owner John Sherman last month to fire longtime front office executive Dayton Moore, the architect of back-to-back American League champions and the 2015 World Series title team. Moore was replaced by one of his longtime understudies, J.J. Picollo, who made the decision to fire Matheny hours after the season ended.

Matheny became the fifth big league manager to be fired this year.

Philadelphia’s Joe Girardi was replaced on June 3 by Rob Thomson, who engineered a miraculous turnaround to get the Phillies into the playoffs as a wild-card team. The Angels replaced Joe Maddon with Phil Nevin four days later, Toronto’s Charlie Montoyo was succeeded by John Schneider on July 13 and the Rangers’ Chris Woodward by Tony Beasley on Aug. 15.

In addition, Miami’s Don Mattingly said late last month that he will not return next season.