LIVE on ESPN: Rays-Guardians Game 1 FAQ, lineups

October 7th, 2022

CLEVELAND -- The Guardians and Rays are going to challenge each other … and perhaps everything we know about what it takes to advance in the postseason.

Neither one of these clubs facing each other in the American League Wild Card Series Friday at Progressive Field is oriented around power. The postseason itself, however, is definitely oriented around power. In the past four years, 86.2% of games have gone to the team that outhomers the other (compared to 77.5% in the regular season). The Rays ranked 25th in MLB in home runs this season, while the Guardians ranked 29th. So if either of these clubs outhomers the other, it might be 1-0.

“I wish we did hit some three-run homers or more homers,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. “But we have what we have. And so rather than make excuses, we’re trying to find a way to win. Just deal with what you have.”

So we are more likely to see small ball from a pair of contact-oriented offenses with premier pitching, beginning with 2020 AL Cy Young winner Shane Bieber and 2022 AL Cy Young candidate Shane McClanahan in Game 1.

This looks to be a closely contested series. These two clubs just played each other two weeks ago, and all three games were decided by a single run. Look for more of that.

When is the game and how can I watch it?

Game 1 of Rays-Guardians is available live on ESPN.

All series are available in the U.S. on MLB.TV with authentication to a participating Pay TV provider. Games are not available live internationally (archives are available approximately 90 minutes after the game ends).

What are the starting lineups?

Rays: Manager Kevin Cash wrote out 158 different lineups this season, matching last year’s total. The Rays will seek advantageous matchups and mix up their batting order to gain whatever edge they can against the Guardians’ loaded pitching staff. The key to the series, though, might be the performances of Yandy Díaz, Wander Franco and Randy Arozarena atop the order.

Guardians: Unlike his good friend Cash, Francona has been pretty consistent when it comes to his lineups this season. Despite constantly rotating new guys into the order throughout the year, the team has found a solid three to rely on atop the lineup, while sometimes mixing the meat of it around a spot or two, depending on who is on the rubber. But if José Ramírez can keep hitting like he did in the final regular-season game on Wednesday, this offense is in decent shape heading into the series.

Who are the starting pitchers?

Rays: will start Game 1. He emerged as the Rays’ staff leader, a hard-throwing ace with a legitimate four-pitch mix, during an outstanding first half that led to him starting the All-Star Game. The left-hander took a step back in the second half, recording a 4.20 ERA in 10 starts around a left shoulder injury that cost him two weeks. But McClanahan is back at full health, and Tampa Bay is counting on him to return to form in the postseason. When he’s on his game, he’s as tough to hit as anyone in baseball.

Guardians: . In the blink of an eye, Bieber has become one of the most experienced players on the team, wrapping up his fifth season and now pitching in his second postseason. There were concerns at the beginning of the year that he wasn’t going to be an ace-like hurler in 2022 when he came out of the gate averaging 89 or 90 mph on his fastball. But even though the velocity slowly increased (and still only went up to about 92 or 93, steadily), he figured out ways to be as elite as the Bieber he was the last four seasons, especially in the second half of the year. Since July 29, the 27-year-old righty pitched to a 2.04 ERA with 88 strikeouts in 88 1/3 innings and 10 walks.

Any injuries of note?

Rays: A whole bunch of them. The nine players on the 60-day IL are Nick Anderson, Shane Baz, J.P. Feyereisen, Kevin Kiermaier, Andrew Kittredge, Brandon Lowe, Brendan McKay, Ryan Thompson and Mike Zunino. They will also be without lefties Colin Poche and Ryan Yarbrough and outfielder Roman Quinn, who are on the 10/15-day IL. Lefty reliever Jalen Beeks is expected to return from a leg injury for the series. Leadoff man Yandy Díaz should be back in action, but he’s worth monitoring after being severely limited down the stretch due to a left shoulder injury.

Guardians: The only injury the Guardians are still dealing with is left-hander Anthony Gose, who had to undergo Tommy John surgery a few weeks ago. He’ll be out for at least another year recovering. But the team has the rest of its roster intact heading into the postseason.

Who is hot and who is not?

Rays: Díaz has been hot when he’s been able to play, hitting .361 over his last 20 games. Franco looked a lot more like himself at the end of an injury-interrupted season, batting .328/.403/.493 over his final 19 games. Choi finished a miserable second half on a high note, going 8-for-19 with a homer and four doubles over the last week. Starter Jeffrey Springs recorded a 1.57 ERA over his last seven outings. Reliever Jason Adam was hot all season, and fellow high-leverage arm Pete Fairbanks ended the year on a 22-game scoreless streak.

On the other side is, well, most of the Rays’ lineup. Arozarena finished the season on a 2-for-29 skid. Manuel Margot went 23-for-110 over his last 27 games. Paredes is in a 1-for-29 slump, and the one hit was a single. Jonathan Aranda has three hits in his last 45 at-bats, while Harold Ramírez has two in his last 24.

Guardians: José Ramírez has been showing signs of heating up over the last handful of games, which is a welcome sight for his team. The Guardians are at their best when Ramírez is at his best. While Kwan, Gonzalez and Giménez have done more than enough to keep the offense afloat, Ramírez is the heartbeat of this lineup. Down the stretch, he was struggling, but since his team clinched the division on Sept. 25, he started to trend back in the right direction. Since then, his OPS jumped back over .800 and he had three multi-hit and four multi-RBI games in a little over a week. The icing on the cake was a four-hit performance on Wednesday to end the regular season.

Hedges would have to fall under the “not” category. The Guardians never expected him to be a main source of offensive production this year, as the club values his defense and ability to lead a pitching staff (especially a young one) more. But Hedges has hit just .163 this season and has just one hit in his last 42 at-bats over 16 games.

Anything else I should know?

Rays: They finished the season with a season-high five-game losing streak and dropped 18 of their final 26 games. … Catcher Francisco Mejía went on the paternity list Tuesday, but the Rays expect him to be back for the series. … Including a Sept. 26 travel day, the Rays’ ongoing road trip will extend to at least four stops, 11 games and 13 days and, if they advance any further, could reach five stops, 14 games and 18 days.

Guardians: Just in case you’ve missed it (at this point you probably haven’t), the Guardians are the youngest team in the Majors. At the time the team clinched the AL Central on Sept. 25, it became the first to win a division or league title while seeing at least 16 rookies make their Major League debuts, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Since then, another rookie made his debut, giving the team a total of 17 on the year. The Guardians are the eighth team to qualify for the playoffs as MLB’s youngest team (weighted by plate appearances and batters faced) and the first to do so since the Mets in 1986.