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Guardians return home to face Rays in potential playoff preview

Half a game separates the Rays and Mariners in the AL Wild Card race

Cleveland Guardians v Texas Rangers Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

The Guardians return home from their six-game road trip as champions of the AL Central for the first time since 2018. From now until the end of the regular season on Oct. 8, it will be all tuning and preparing for the youngest team in baseball as they look to make a deep run into the postseason.

This three-game series against the Rays has almost nothing on the line for the Guardians other than a minuscule chance to take the No. 2 seed in the American League, but it could be a potential playoff preview. The Rays’ recent struggles have put them neck-and-neck with the No. 6 seeded Mariners who, coincidentally, have also looked bad lately. If the Guardians can beat Tampa Bay soundly over the next three days, it would open the door for the Mariners to take over the No. 5 seed and potentially play the Toronto Blue Jays in the AL Wild Card. That would, in turn, put the Rays at No. 6 and playing three games against the Guardians in Cleveland.

To do that, though, the Guardians are going to have to go through an old friend as Corey Kluber opens the series on the mound for the Rays. Kluber, now 36 and with his third team in three years since the Guardians traded him to the Rangers for Emmanuel Clase, has a 4.30 ERA over his 29 starts. The Rays have mostly kept a lid on his starts at 6.0 innings this season, but he’s pitched through 7.0 in two of his last four starts.

Kluber faced the Guardians once this season already, when he struck out 10 and allowed four earned runs in a victory on July 30. This will, however, be Kluber’s first start in Cleveland as a member of another organization, which will hopefully prompt the Guards to give him a nice tribute video to commemorate his nine years of success with the organization. Success that includes a pair of Cy Youngs and two excellent starts in the 2016 World Series (and one we will not be discussing further).

If there is an advantage to be gained in this series, it might be in the favor of the Rays seeing the pitchers that Cleveland would likely use in a playoff series. The Guardians purposefully swapped Shane Bieber and Triston McKenzie’s starts so they’ll line up for games one and two of the Wild Card, and if there’s a game three you can bet it will be Cal Quantrill on the bump. The Rays, meanwhile, are probably not going to start Corey Kluber in a playoff series, and Tyler Glasnow is making his 2022 debut tomorrow.

Jeffrey Springs, starting the third game of this series for the Rays, would probably start a game for the Rays in the Wild Card round. He’s a fastball-changeup-slider lefty with a penchant for getting batters to chase, thanks in large part to a slider and changeup that move on almost the exact same horizontal plane in opposite directions. Not to get too ahead of myself here, but if these two do play in the Wild Card round and it’s a 1-1 series with Springs on the mound, it could be A Problem for the Guardians.

Team at a glance

  • Record: 84-69 (5th in AL)
  • Runs Scored: 643 (11th in AL)
  • Run Differential: +62 (5th in AL)
  • Last 10: 4-6
  • Slash: .242/.311/.381
  • wOBA: .3305 (11th in AL)
  • wRC+: 103 (6th in AL)
  • ERA: 3.40 (3rd in AL)
  • SIERA: 3.56 (2nd in AL)
  • K/BB%: 17.0% (3rd in AL)

Projected starters

Tuesday, Sept. 27, 6:10 p.m. ET: RHP Corey Kluber vs. RHP Shane Bieber
Wednesday, Sept. 28, 6:10 p.m. ET: RHP Tyler Glasnow vs. RHP Triston McKenzie
Thursday, Sept. 29, 6:10 p.m. ET: LHP Jeffrey Springs vs. RHP Cal Quantrill



How many games will the Guardians win against the Rays?

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  • 8%
    (10 votes)
  • 54%
    (64 votes)
  • 31%
    (37 votes)
  • 5%
    (7 votes)
118 votes total Vote Now