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Triston McKenzie Dominates Houston, Continues Incredible Summer

Cleveland Baseball Insider on FanNation logo Cleveland Baseball Insider on FanNation 8/7/2022 Brendan Gulick
© Provided by Cleveland Baseball Insider on FanNation

McKenzie overwhelmed Houston on Sunday, retiring 18 in a row in perhaps the best performance of his career.

At first glance, Triston McKenzie doesn't look like the kind of guy that you think you can build your pitching staff around.

He's likely been reminded his entire life about his size. Affectionately referred to as "Sticks", McKenzie stands at 6-foot-5 and just 165 pounds.

In Sunday's 1-0 win over Houston, he pitched like he was Bob Feller.

"Sticks" gave up back-to-back singles to Trey Mancini and Chas McCormick in the second inning on Sunday afternoon before pitching like Nolan Ryan from that point forward. He retired the next 18 in a row before walking pinch-hitter Kyle Tucker in the eighth. A few of the Astros his the ball hard, but none of them could find an opening. 

McKenzie finished the day with his best stat line of the year (considering the quality of his opponent): over eight brilliant innings pitched (tying a career-high) he scattered just those two aforementioned hits, allowed no runs, walked only one and struck out eight. He needed just 91 pitches to get through those eight frames and he induced 15 swings and misses.

The thing is, Sunday's effort hasn't been all that uncommon.

McKenzie doesn't have "overpowering" stuff, but he's incredibly effective. Since breaking into the Big Leagues in 2020, McKenzie has held opposing hitters to a .197 average. That's the third lowest mark in MLB for any pitcher that's thrown at least 250 innings during that time.

He also ranks third in the American League this season with a 1.07 WHIP, trailing only New York's Gerrit Cole and Tampa Bay's Shane McClanahan - both of whom were all-stars last month.

Sunday's fabulous effort against one of the best offenses in baseball was another in a long line of great performances this year, and it got him going again after a couple of slightly below average efforts against Boston and Arizona his last two outings. But when combined with allowing only one total run over his previous four starts (26.2 innings), it's easy to see why the club is so high on him.

Cleveland has taken such pride in developing top-tier talents on the mound and McKenzie is the latest example. While Shane Bieber is the leader of this staff, his season has been a bit more up-and-down than he'd like. Zach Plesac is probably the most athletic player on the team, and he's gotten incredibly little run support this year, but his numbers haven't been very good. Aaron Civale has dealt with two separate IL stints this year. Cal Quantrill has had a very good season and figures to be a part of the rotation moving forward, but he has a different style than McKenzie.

It's amazing that McKenzie's fastball sits in the low 90's and that his body seems to hold up so well throughout the season.

I'm not sure if he will be a true front of the rotation starter in his career, but he's going to be a mainstay in Cleveland ... but with extremely coveted prospects Daniel Espino and Gavin Williams nearly ready behind him, the Guardians appear to have an extremely bright future in the center of the diamond.

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