Cleveland Guardians outfielder Will Brennan boasts an unremarkable track record, but the 25-year-old Colorado native may hold the key to the team's search for offensive consistency.
Brennan will look to continue his hot streak when the Guardians open a three-game series against the visiting Boston Red Sox on Tuesday. Cleveland has won two straight, while Boston is beginning a six-game road trip after losing the final three in a four-game set against the Tampa Bay Rays.
After batting .204 in April and struggling for most of May, Brennan is 11-for-21 (.524) in his past six games. He made his major league debut last year, appearing in 11 late-season games.
"I'm just growing up every single game up here," Brennan said. "You have to take a step back and look at what's going on. It's pretty awesome to see what you're doing every day. You're playing in the big leagues. Struggle comes along with that."
Cleveland also received a much-needed boost last week from first baseman Josh Naylor and second baseman Andres Gimenez, who were a combined 20-for-50 (.400) as the Guardians went 4-3 on a road trip to Baltimore and Minnesota last week.
Cleveland's biggest need is more production at the bottom of the order. Brennan could help address that issue with his continued development.
"This might sound dramatic," Guardians outfielder Steven Kwan said, "but he might be one of our best players once he gets going. He has contact, power, he can run and has a great arm. If he gets going, I think we can be in a really good position."
The Guardians are beginning a six-game homestand with the series against Boston, which is 30-30. The Red Sox have scored a total of five runs during their three-game skid.
"I don't want to sound pessimistic or negative, but we have to do it," Boston manager Alex Cora said. "We can talk all the talk. We can say that we're better than this and all that. But at the end, we have to be better. We have to go out there and perform."
The Red Sox will send left-hander James Paxton (1-1, 4.26 ERA) to the mound in the series opener. He allowed one run and struck out eight over five innings in a no-decision against the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday.
Paxton pitched a total of 21 2/3 innings over the previous three seasons due to a number of injuries. He has allowed two or fewer runs in three of his first four outings this season, logging 27 strikeouts in 19 innings.
"I really didn't know what to expect," Paxton said. "Coming back through the minor leagues, I think I was topping out at 96, 97 (mph with the fastball). But it's just not the same atmosphere as pitching in the big leagues. I'm just going out there and letting it rip and it's feeling good coming out."
Guardians third baseman Jose Ramirez is 2-for-14 against Paxton, who is 1-3 with a 5.47 ERA in five career starts against the Guardians.
Cleveland will counter with right-hander Shane Bieber (4-3, 3.72 ERA), who allowed seven runs over four innings against the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday.
Bieber has gone 3-3 with a 5.50 ERA in six career games (five starts) vs. Boston. He yielded two runs over seven frames in a 5-2 road victory over the Red Sox on April 28.
Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers is 3-for-13 (.231) against Bieber with two home runs.
--Field Level Media