AL Wild Card Game 1: Rays vs. Guardians Preview


October 7

The Tampa Bay Rays and Cleveland Guardians are set to collide for Game 1 of the American League wild card round from Progressive Field.Tampa Bay Rays (+104) vs. Cleveland Guardians (-122) Total: 5.5 (O -102, U -120)

Game 1 of the Rays and Guardians series is set to kick off the MLB postseason, and it begins with a tremendous pitching matchup. Both sides are sending bonafide aces to the mound, with the Rays starting left-hander Shane McClanahan and the Guardians countering with righty Shane Bieber. The battle of the Shanes is one of the more prominent pitching matchups of the opening round, and it should provide extra drama between two offenses that aren’t notorious for scoring many runs. The Rays lefty finished the year with a 12-8 record with a 2.54 ERA and 194 strikeouts, while Bieber was 13-8 with a 2.88 ERA and 198 punchouts. Looking at their home and road splits, McClanahan was more consistent on the road, tallying a 2.08 ERA in ten starts, while Bieber had a slightly higher ERA at home, where he posted a 3.22 ERA in 13 starts. Look at Bieber and the Guardians at home, as they finished the year on a more positive note than McClanahan and the Rays. 

Best Bet: Guardians moneyline (-122)

We’ve been looking at game totals for the entirety of the MLB season, and this one stands out, and not for good reason if you’re a fan of offense. Still, those that like a clean pitching duel will probably gravitate toward this game, with the total set at 5.5. Both starting pitchers are dynamite, but the bullpen for the Rays is a question mark, so how deep McClanahan can go into this ball game will be a key to whether or not this game stays low-scoring. Neither starter looked great in their one appearance against the opposition this year, with McClanahan allowing five earned runs against the Guardians and Bieber allowing four against the Rays. This number is extremely low and despite two less then stellar offenses, siding with the over 5.5 is what we’re looking towards.

Best Bet: Over 5.5 (-102)

Playoff baseball is a different animal, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Rays were in the bottom half of MLB in strikeouts per game, which should favor Bieber. The right-hander only faced the Rays once during the regular season, on September 27, which saw him strike out six batters through six innings, despite giving up four earned runs. With Bieber being just two strikeouts shy of 200 on the season, the six or more number for his alternate strikeout prop feels like an excellent value play for a starter that brings that element to the table. 

Best Prop: Shane Bieber 6+ Strikeouts (+100)

Thumbnail photo via Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

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