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AL Wild Card Preview: Guardians vs. Rays

The MLB postseason is back in Cleveland

MLB: OCT 05 Royals at Guardians Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Welcome back to the postseason, Guardians fans.

Believe it or not, it has been four years since Cleveland played a full season of baseball and earned a spot in the postseason where they will be able to play in front of a crowded Progressive Field (stop looking at me like that, 2020).

Cleveland enters this series red-hot over the last month of the regular season. They beat their division rival White Sox and Twins so soundly in the last couple of weeks that they both collapsed immediately. The narrow one-game lead they clung to over the Twins on Sept. 5 has morphed into an 11-run domination of the AL Central. They improved their run differential from +19 to +65 over that same span, winning 23 games down the stretch with their own disgusting brand of baseball.

The Guardians didn’t reach 92 wins — their highest total since they missed the postseason in 2019 with 93 — by bludgeoning their opponents to death. In fact, they hardly bludgeon anything, instead relying on sound fundamentals, defense, and pitching. Their speed will power the offense if they go deep into October, as will their superstar, José Ramírez.

The Guards have also been tremendously lucky with health — the only player on the 60-day injured list as of now is reliever Anthony Gose, and they’ve spent most of the year at full power minus some bumps and bruises.

In the dugout on the other side of the diamond is a very similar team. The Rays have more home runs than the Guardians this season (139 to Cleveland’s 127), but that makes them the second-lowest among the 12 teams in the postseason. Their pitching is also excellent, though not as fortunate with health. Tyler Glasnow is starting Saturday’s game, but this is only his second start of 2022 since recovering from Tommy John surgery. Regardless, this is not going to be a Wild Card matchup of baseballs leaving the park and scores reaching the double digits.

Game 1 starter Shane McClanahan is an absolute lefty stud for the Rays. He finished 2022 with a 2.54 ERA and a 30.3% strikeout rate. If it weren’t for some truly outstanding pitching performances from Justin Verlander, Alek Manoah, and Dylan Cease, he’d probably be a Cy Young front-runner. McClanahan utilizes a 97-mph fastball, changeup, curve, and slider. He’s got everything you want in a modern pitcher — good tunneling, deceptive movement, and a curveball and four-seamer that spin on polar opposite planes — with the old-school precision to make it all work.

The Guardians did tag him for five runs over 4.1 innings back in July, though, so don’t give up hope for a good start to the series, especially with Shane Bieber on the mound for Cleveland.

There is no rain in the forecast right now for the three-game series, but it’s still going to be cold. The Guards and Rays are looking at around 53 degrees for the nooner on Friday, and not much higher on Saturday.

Team at a glance

  • Record: 86-76 (6th in AL)
  • Runs Scored: 666 (11th in AL)
  • Run Differential: +52 (6th in AL)
  • Last 10: 2-8
  • Slash: .239/.309/.377
  • wOBA: .302 (11th in AL)
  • wRC+: 101 (7th in AL)
  • ERA: 3.41 (3rd in AL)
  • SIERA: 3.55 (3rd in AL)
  • K/BB%: 16.9% (3rd in AL)

Projected starters

Game 1: Friday, Oct. 7, 12:07 p.m. ET: LHP Shane McClanahan vs. RHP Shane Bieber
Game 2: Saturday, Oct. 8, 12:07 p.m. ET: RHP Tyler Glasnow vs. RHP Triston McKenzie
Game 3: Sunday, Oct. 9, 4:07 p.m. ET: TBD vs. RHP Cal Quantrill



How many games will the Guardians win against the Rays?

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  • 87%
    (326 votes)
  • 5%
    (22 votes)
  • 6%
    (24 votes)
372 votes total Vote Now