The postseason is here, getting underway on Friday afternoon with a matchup of aces in Cleveland. Shane Bieber and the AL Central-winning Guardians play host to Shane McClanahan and the Rays in Game 1 of the Wild Card Round, as these two young teams fight for an ALDS matchup with the Yankees.
Let’s take a look at starting lineups, betting odds, and predictions for Friday’s game at Progressive Field.
Tampa Bay Rays vs. Cleveland Guardians Betting Odds
The Guardians enter as slight home favorites at -130 on the moneyline, with the over/under set at 6.5 runs.
Cleveland always produces a fun postseason environment, and it’s enough to make the Guardians narrow favorites to open this series. McClanahan has also been much shakier over his last three starts after dealing with shoulder and neck issues, so it’s an understandable line. McClanahan’s recent struggles might be a reason to consider the over with 6.5 being such a low figure.
Tampa Bay Rays Starting Lineup
3B Yandy Diaz R
SS W. Franco S
1B H. Ramirez R
DH R. Arozarena R
LF D. Peralta L
RF M. Margot R
C C. Bethancourt R
CF Jose Siri R
2B Taylor Walls S
Tampa Bay Rays vs. Shane Bieber
Shane Bieber won’t win a Cy Young Award this year, but he proved his pandemic-shortened Cy Young season in 2020 wasn’t a fluke. Over 200 innings, Bieber posted a 2.88 ERA, 2.87 FIP, and 1.04 WHIP. His strikeout rate dipped dramatically from 13.2 K/9 between 2020-2021 to 8.9 K/9 this year, but Bieber kept home runs and walks low.
With just 36 walks over 200 IP, Bieber forces opposing hitters to beat him by stringing together hits. That’s pretty much what the Rays did when they faced Bieber last week. The Guardians ace didn’t issue any walks, but six different players registered a hit in Bieber’s six innings.
The Rays have a middle-of-the-pack contact lineup, sitting 17th in baseball with a .239 AVG. That figure would be higher if Wander Franco and Manuel Margot didn’t both miss large portions of the season. With the pair now healthy alongside Randy Arozarena and Harold Ramirez, the Rays should be positioned to put some men on base against Bieber, but that’s something they’ve struggled to do over the past month. Since the start of September, Tampa is hitting .231 with a .302 OBP.
Cleveland Guardians Starting Lineup
LF Steven Kwan L
SS Amed Rosario R
3B Jose Ramirez S
RF O. Gonzalez R
2B A. Gimenez L
DH Owen Miller R
1B G. Arias R
C A. Hedges R
CF Myles Straw R
Cleveland Guardians vs. Shane McClanahan
Shane McClanahan was one of this season’s breakout stars, emerging as a Cy Young contender and the ace of the Rays’ staff. McClanahan posted a 2.54 ERA over 28 starts (166.2 IP), with a 3.00 FIP, 0.93 WHIP, and 194 strikeouts. He was more of a strikeout artist than Bieber this season, averaging 10.5 K/9, and he did a terrific job of limiting contact with just 6.3 hits per nine.
The numbers were even better for McClanahan early in the season, before he posted a 7.07 ERA in his final three starts. McClanahan’s final month was marred by a brief IL stint due to a shoulder injury and later a minor neck issue.
If he’s fully healthy, McClanahan is exactly what the Rays need against this Guardians lineup. Cleveland is 8th in baseball with a .253 AVG, and the Guardians strike out less than any other team. The McClanahan of earlier in the season would be an ideal option to counteract those trends. If he isn’t at that level, a Guardians lineup that can string together hits might be an issue.
Jose Ramirez is a perennial MVP candidate, but some new names have made the difference for Cleveland this season. Rookie Steven Kwan had a .373 OBP this season, and fellow rookie Oscar Gonzalez hit .296 with a .789 OPS. Andres Gimenez has quietly emerged as one of the better all-around players in the AL with a 7.2 bWAR.
The Guardians have five players with 18+ stolen bases, giving them a 2014-2015 Royals type of makeup that plays well in the postseason.
Tampa Bay Rays vs. Cleveland Guardians Picks & Prediction
My pick: Guardians -130
It’s tough to bet on Shane McClanahan and the Rays until we see McClanahan prove he can pitch like he did before he went on the IL. Shane Bieber has grown from his 2020 postseason struggles and should be better in front of his own fans, plus James Karinchak and Emmanuel Clase have been -nearautomatic at the back end of the bullpen.
These young Guardians hitters have come through in big moments this season and have a better chance at success than Tampa’s lineup. Cleveland looks like a much safer pick at home after such a strong second half.