CLEVELAND -- Tyler Glasnow has been here before.
In 2020, he started series-clinching games against the Blue Jays in the American League Wild Card Series and vs. the Yankees in the AL Division Series, with both starts ending in on-field celebrations to commemorate the Rays advancing to the next round of the postseason.
And while Saturday's start won’t result in the Rays celebrating in the middle of Progressive Field’s diamond, Glasnow will be doing everything in his power to stop the Guardians from holding an on-field celebration of their own.
After a go-ahead home run from José Ramírez pushed Cleveland to a 2-1 win over the Rays on Friday afternoon in Game 1 of the AL Wild Card Series, Glasnow will toe the rubber on Saturday afternoon with Tampa Bay needing a win to extend the series.
“In the back of my mind, it’s nice knowing I have been in this situation like that a few times,” Glasnow said prior to Friday’s game. “It helps me to prepare. I'm a few years older, I have a few more years of experience and physically I feel good. So that gives me a lot of confidence going in for sure.”
Glasnow’s start will be his second this year against the Guardians, as the 29-year-old allowed one run in three innings in his season debut at Progressive Field on Sept. 28. Glasnow made one more start in the regular season, throwing 3 2/3 innings against the Red Sox on Oct. 3.
“It’s good timing for sure. It was a nice way to line up,” Glasnow said. “It's nice to be able to see them again.”
After Glasnow threw 50 and 64 pitches, respectively, in his first two starts, manager Kevin Cash said that the Rays are hoping to add “another inning and 15 to 20 pitches” to Glasnow’s Game 2 start. That said, Tampa Bay should have almost everyone available out of the bullpen thanks to Shane McClanahan’s strong Game 1 start (seven innings, two runs allowed, five strikeouts).
If Glasnow falters early, normal starters Drew Rasmussen or Corey Kluber could be called upon to soak up innings out of the bullpen. Garrett Cleavinger was the only reliever Cash had to use on Friday.
“It feels good to hand it over to Glasnow,” Cash said. “It feels good that Shane was so good that we basically have a whole fresh bullpen ready to go.”
Friday’s start was also a lesson in how tough Cleveland’s lineup can be, as McClanahan put together five strong innings before surrendering the lead on a hanging changeup that Ramírez blasted to right-center field in the sixth.
In Glasnow’s previous start against Cleveland, his lone blemish came via a solo home run from Gabriel Arias. In total, Glasnow threw 50 pitches in that outing and allowed one run on two hits and one walk, striking out three. His fastball was consistently clocked at 98-99 mph.
“[The Guardians are] a good team,” Glasnow said. “They’re one of those teams that you face where you can tell their only goal is to score runs. They grind hits together to try and put some runs together. They feel identical to us.”
After managing only three hits against Shane Bieber in Game 1, Tampa Bay’s offense faces another tough task against Game 2 starter Triston McKenzie. While the Rays' offense is mired in a weeks-long slump, there’s still reason for optimism. Despite going a combined 0-for-8 on Friday, Randy Arozarena and Yandy Díaz have proven track records of performing in the postseason, while Jose Siri’s homer on Friday was a bright spot at the bottom of Tampa Bay's order.
“The confidence [in Glasnow] is a thousand percent,” Díaz said through interpreter Manny Navarro. “The only thing we need to do is score more runs.”
In the Rays’ aforementioned 2020 World Series run, Glasnow threw 2 1/3 innings in Game 5 of the ALDS on two days’ rest to help push them to a series win over the Yankees. While his start on Saturday won’t be under identical circumstances, another gutsy start will go a long way in helping Tampa Bay extend its season.
“I think anybody would feel really good with Tyler Glasnow on the mound,” McClanahan said.