Guardians clinch 2022 American League Central title

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ARLINGTON — The Guardians were the ultimate underdog of the 2022 season.

After an Opening Day loss to Kansas City, FanGraphs predicted Cleveland would win 77 games, with just a 6.4 percent chance of winning American League Central. Fast forward to Sunday afternoon at Globe Life Field and baseball’s youngest roster turned into kids in a candy store, piling on top of each other in the middle of the field as they clinch their Premier League title since 2018 when the White Sox fell to the Tigers moments before the final in Cleveland’s 10-4 win over Rangers.

Maybe Cleveland never doubted the success he could have this season, but it’s not hard to see why one would. The team’s only acquisitions during the offseason included the return of right-hander Bryan Shaw, the signing of right-hander Enyel De Los Santos to a Minor League contract, and the inking of backup receiver Luke Maile to a one-year deal.

Although the Guardians front office insisted they had financial flexibility, no big deal was done. Mix that with a young group of kids who had little to no big league experience and it looked like the club were destined for a tough rebuilding season. Instead, Cleveland proved that age is just a number as rookies played like season veterans as they learned an old-school approach can compete in the game. ‘today.

It began (and largely ended) with Steven Kwan. He stole the show and gave everyone a taste that Cleveland would be in the headlines this season when he saw 116 pitches to start his career before swinging and missing. He’s been a constant for the Guardians throughout the season, helping lift the team to their 11th title since the AL Central’s inception in 1994 with their first career Grand Slam on Sunday. And with Andrés Giménez settling in to be the player Cleveland knew he could be when the team acquired him and the sudden emergence of Oscar Gonzalez, the offense has become far more threatening than expected.

The Guardians are now the first team in AL/NL history to win a division or league title while seeing at least 16 rookies make their Major League debuts, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. MLB.com’s Sarah Langs and Elias also confirmed that the Guardians are now the eighth team to qualify for the playoffs as the youngest team in MLB (weighted by plate appearances and hitters faced), and the first to do so since the Mets in 1986.

The Guardians had their first big test in June. They were scheduled to face the Rockies, Dodgers and Twins on a nine-game road trip, and when Cleveland went 7-2, it gave a glimpse of what this team was capable of. Despite hitting lows throughout the season, most recently earlier in September losing eight out of 10 games, the young group never fell apart. Instead, it was a wake-up call that sparked an incredible run to win the division title.

The Guardians have won 18 of their last 21 encounters. They also extended their winning streak to seven games – the longest since June 2018. That year, the club hoped to build on their 91-game winning streak with a special post-season series. Instead, it ended after just the AL Division Series.

The Guardians have a very different team this time around. It’s only been four years, but the only two faces left from the last division-making roster are José Ramírez and Shane Bieber. This time around, these two will be looking to lead this young group to heights no one expected this team to achieve.

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