The Tampa Bay Rays have made the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. The Cleveland Guardians rolled to their first AL Central title since 2018. These two teams will face off in the AL Wild Card Round with their best-of-three series scheduled to begin Friday afternoon. All three games will be played at Cleveland’s Progressive Field. DraftKings Sportsbook has installed the Guardians as the favorite (-130) in this series.
The Rays will lean on its starting pitchers — namely AL Cy Young candidate Shane McClanahan, 2021 ace Tyler Glasnow, and breakout star Drew Rasmussen — to advance in this series. That’s because their offense is very inconsistent and contains a lot of swing-and-miss, so they will need to win low-scoring games in the playoffs. Glasnow is the key here. He just recently came back from Tommy John surgery and although he has looked strong, he hasn't pitched at least four innings in either of his two outings. Can he dominate for five-plus frames? That would be a huge boost for Tampa Bay. Offensively, the Rays have Wander Franco and Randy Arozarena to lead the way, but they will require contributions across the board, especially in the wake of Brandon Lowe’s season-ending back injury.
Like the Rays, the Guardians are led by their pitchers. Shane Bieber is the household name, but fellow starters Triston McKenzie and Cal Quantrill have been legit stars for most of this season. And when those guys have finished, the Guardians can turn to middle reliever James Karinchak and all-world closer Emmanuel Clase to shut down any game.
Neither team crushes a ton of home runs, but that’s almost by design for Cleveland, which makes contact at the plate better than any team in the league. Steven Kwan, Andres Gimenez and Oscar Gonzalez are quality supporting pieces, but this lineup will go as Jose Ramirez takes it. The best offensive player in this series by far, this series could hinge on his performance at the plate.
Guardians vs. Rays schedule
Game 1: Rays at Guardians, Friday, Oct. 7, 12:07 p.m. ET, ESPN
Game 2: Rays at Guardians, Saturday, Oct. 8, 12:07 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Game 3: Rays at Guardians, Sunday, Oct. 9, 4:07 p.m. ET, ESPN (if necessary)