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Ben Lively earns career-best fourth straight start as AL Central-leading Guardians beat Nationals 3-2

CLEVELAND – Ben Lively won his career-best fourth straight start and Kyle Manzardo hit a bloop two-run single to lead the Cleveland Guardians against the Washington Nationals 3-2 on Saturday.

Lively (5-2) gave up two runs and five hits in 5 2/3 innings, while striking out four and walking one. The right-handed journeyman is 3-0 with a 1.90 ERA in four starts at home this season.

The Guardians are Lively’s fourth team since breaking into the major leagues in 2017. The 32-year-old also pitched in South Korea for three seasons from 2019-21.

Lively credits his success to keeping things simple.

“I just throw the ball over the plate, and that keeps me rolling,” Lively said. “Stay ready and go with the fastball when in doubt.”

The Guardians won their ninth straight game at Progressive Field and are an MLB-best 20-6 at home this season with the first two games of this series sold out. It is Cleveland’s longest home winning streak since 2017.

“A lot of people show up every night and that gives you a great home field advantage,” said Manzardo, a rookie at first base.

It was also the 12th win in the last 15 games overall for the Guardians, who lead the AL Central.

Manzardo hit a two-out single to left field with two outs in the first inning to open the scoring against rookie lefty Mitchell Parker (4-3), beating José Ramírez and Josh Naylor.

“No, not really,” Manzardo said with a laugh when asked if he thought the ball would fall between four field players for a hit. “I hit him there and somehow he found some grass.”

Ramirez scored from second on a wild pitch in the third inning to make it 3-0 and that run proved decisive. Ramirez had two hits and two runs scored.

“When I saw the ball bounce there, my first reaction was to try to get home,” Ramirez said through an interpreter. “As I was about to enter (third) base, (catcher Riley Adams) was still chasing the ball and that’s when I realized I had a chance to score.”

“I love watching that guy play,” Guardians manager Stephen Vogt said of Ramirez. ‘He’s just fun. Plays the right way. Plays hard. It never ceases to amaze me.”

David Fry extended his on-base streak to 19 straight games when he doubled, walked and was hit by a pitch.

Emmanuel Clase pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his 18th save in 21 chances.

The Nationals scored both runs off Lively in the fourth. Joey Meneses drove in the first run on a groundout and Jesse Winker followed with an RBI single.

Parker also worked 5 2/3 innings, giving up three runs and four hits with five strikeouts and four walks. He had issued just eight walks in 44 1/3 innings in his eight previous starts.

“Mitchell should have gotten out of the first inning without giving up any runs because that ball should have been caught,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said, referring to Manzardo’s bloop. “Today we were sloppy. We didn’t play a good game.”

Luis Garcia Jr. and Nick Senzel each had two hits for the Nationals. Garcia is 10 for 18 (.556) in five career games against the Guardians.

Martinez was ejected for contesting a swinging third down against center fielder Jacob Young to end the third inning. Young swung at a pitch that appeared to hit his bat, but home plate umpire Malachi Moore ruled the pitch struck Young’s right hand.

Nationals: CF Victor Robles was granted unconditional release after being designated for assignment earlier this week. Baseball America ranked him as the No. 5 prospect before the 2018 season, but the 27-year-old hit just .236 in eight seasons with the Nationals.

Nationals: Young was removed from the game in the top of the seventh inning after his hand began swelling. … SS CJ Abrams (locked left shoulder) was a late scratch after being injured Friday while diving for a groundball.

Guardians: LF Steven Kwan was given a scheduled day off after being activated from the injured list on Friday and going 3 for 4 with a walk, raising his batting average to .365. He had been out since May 5 with a strained left hamstring.

Nationals RHP Jake Irvin (2-5, 3.43 ERA) starts Sunday’s series finale against Guardians RHP Carlos Carrasco (2-4, 5.16), who is activated from the 15-day IL after being sidelined since May 16 with neck spasms.

AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb

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