Rust? What rust? Triston McKenzie is unfamilar with such a ridiculous proposition such as rust. Dr. Sticks made his season debut Sunday and it was like he missed no time at all, striking out 10 Twins in Cleveland's 2-1 win over Minnesota.
McKenzie was able to strike out Royce Lewis, Ryan Jeffers, and Willi Castro twice while getting Donovan Solano, Kyle Farmer, Jorge Polanco, and Kyle Garlick once each. Being able to strike out these bats in particular is not all that surprising considering McKenzie's history in previous matchups.
It was only 5 innings of work as McKenzie is obviously being eased back into game action at the major league level. But it was his dominance in those 5 innings that was beyond impressive. The 25-year old right-hander threw 52 of his 79 pitches for strikes, allowing just one hit and walking one in the contest.
The Guardians were not able to get McKenzie the win, as it took them until the 7th inning to score. While getting his first W of the season would have been nice, it is about the big picture here. McKenzie being that sharp in his season debut was able to keep the Twins off the scoreboard giving the bullpen and the bats in the lineup the opportunity to win the game later. If McKenzie was rusty or not quite as precise Sunday, things could be looking a bit different as things stand Monday morning.
Cleveland is currently in second place in the American League Central, trailing by 3.5 games after splitting their four-game series with the Twins. Being able to keep the deficit in the standings below five games is huge considering how the series started and their upcoming homestand against the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros. These next six games against better competition than they have faced recently will certainly impact their short and long term plans for this season. Outings like they got from McKenzie may result in some roster decisions a bit easier to make no matter which direction the season heads in.