Cleveland vs. Chicago: AL’s Longest Rivalry

Cleveland vs. Chicago: AL's Longest Rivalry
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

GLENDALE, AZ.  — Steven Kwan singled on the game’s first pitch and the Cleveland Guardians never looked back in a 9-6 win over the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday, continuing AL’s longest rivalry. Umpires called the game in the top of the ninth due to wet conditions.

Minor-league outfielder Jonathan Rodriguez raked a three-run homer and veteran catcher Zack Collins followed with a solo shot in the seventh inning to break open the first spring meeting between teams expected to battle the Minnesota Twins for the American League Central title this year.

Starter Aaron Civale and relievers James Karinchak, Caleb Simpson and Michael Kelly each worked one scoreless inning for Cleveland. The White Sox bunched five of their six hits and one run off young Xzavion Curry. Dusten Knight yielded a three-run homer to Chisox minor-leaguer Zach Remillard in the seventh as a cold drizzle turned a dreary weather day worse. Minor-league lefty Adam Scott gave up two runs on two hits, two walks and a hit batter in a ragged bottom of the eighth.

Nine players had one hit apiece for Cleveland (2-4). Chicago dropped to 2-3. But AL’s longest rivalry didn’t originate in Spring Training.

The First Game in American League History Sparks AL’s Longest Rivalry

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The White Sox beat the visiting Cleveland Blues, 8-2, in the first game in AL history on April 24, 1901. The teams got that honor when the three other scheduled games were rained out. It was played in a spiffy one hour and 30 minutes as ballplayers then didn’t need a pitch clock to make them get busy. The first pitch was made by right-hander Roy Patterson to Blues right-fielder Ollie Pickering. It was ruled a ball by umpire Tommy Connolly in front of an announced crowd of 9,000. If Chicago manager Clark Griffith disagreed with that or any call, he had no “instant replay” recourse and could not even ask Connolly to check with the other umps. Connolly worked the game alone as was the custom.

Pickering made an out and left-fielder Jack McCarthy followed with a sharp single off the glove of third baseman Fred Hartman for the first hit in AL history. Blues starter Bill Hoffer was rocked for seven runs in the first two innings. He was 30 years old with a sore arm and a shadow of the strapping right-hander who went 31-6, 25-7, and 22-11 in 1895-97 for the vaunted National League powerhouse Baltimore Orioles.

The Long, Long Cleveland-Chicago Rivalry Series

Cleveland went 12-7 against their rivals a year ago but Chicago leads all-time, 1,115-1,111, in an amazingly competitive 2,226 games. Cleveland has dominated since 2010, going 134-101– its best stretch since a 125-94 mark in the 1930s. Chicago dominated from 1950 to 1989, going a combined 343-232.
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Each team, not surprisingly, has dominated at home. The White Sox have a 588-521 record in Chicago but are only 527-590 in Cleveland. Again, very much evenly balanced.

Hall of Fame manager Al Lopez played a key role for each team. From 1951 through 1956, he guided Cleveland to a 570-354 record (.617), winning the 1954 pennant and finishing second every other year to the mighty New York Yankees. Then it was off to Chicago and an 840-650 (.564) mark, the 1959 AL pennant, and five more second-place finishes.

Hall of Famers Minnie Minoso and Early Wynn played well for Lopez in both cities. Minoso was dealt by Cleveland to Chicago in 1951, back to Cleveland in 1957 (for Wynn), and again to the White Sox in 1959 in a series of multi-player trades. In 314 games for Cleveland, he batted .302 with 46 homers. In 1,277 games for the Chisox, he hit .304 with 135 homers and 171 steals– and made thousands of friends in the stands.

As dominant as Wynn was in Cleveland (164-102, 3.24 ERA, four 20-win seasons), his best year was 1959 for Lopez in Chicago. The burly right-hander won the Cy Young Award, going 22-10 with five shutouts and a 3.17 ERA. He went back to Cleveland in 1963, gaining his 300th win.

Guardians Reliever Sam Hentges Ailing

Sam Hentges, who emerged as a key component in Cleveland’s outstanding bullpen last year, has an inflamed left (throwing) shoulder. Manager Terry Francona told reporters the reliever will be evaluated on a week-to-week basis. That designation makes it sound more serious than the usual spring training soreness encountered by a pitcher listed as day-to-day.

Hentges had a 2.32 ERA over 62 innings in 2022, allowing only 41 hits and 19 walks with 72 strikeouts. He held lefty hitters to a paltry .143 average and right-handers hit only .215 against him. He is the only lefty penciled in to Cleveland’s bullpen for 2023. It opens the door for non-roster invitees Phillip Diehl and Caleb Baragar and minor-leaguers Tim Herrin, Konnor Pilkington, or perhaps Joey Cantillo, normally starters, to fill the lefty role in the pen.

One Way to Get Steven Kwan Out

Cleveland’s young hit machine got charged with an automatic strike by plate umpire Lew Williams with two strikes against him in the third inning. That made it a strikeout against the outfielder, who had more walks (62) than Ks (60) a year ago as a rookie. He seemed confused at the call and chatted with Williams before going to the dugout. Kwan, who hit .298 in 2022, .played several years in the minors with the pitch clock.

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