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Guardians Series Preview: Old Friends Return

Kluber returns to Cleveland on Tuesday, Glasnow returns to Rays on Wednesday.

Houston Astros v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Rays finished their last homestand with a series split with the Toronto Blue Jays. Now the Rays head to Cleveland — a city where they could end up playing in the first round of the playoffs.

With nine games remaining in the season the Blue Jays hold a 2.5 game lead over the Rays for the top wild card and the Seattle Mariners sitting 0.5 game behind the Rays. The Baltimore Orioles trail the Mariners by 3.5 games and the Rays by 4.0 games for the final playoff spot.

The Rays magic number to lock in their spot in the playoffs is five and FanGraphs gives them a 99.7% chance to make the playoffs. Technically the Chicago White Sox (8.0 games behind the Rays) aren’t eliminated yet but would take a near perfect run for them to sneak in. The Cleveland Guardians clinched the American League Central and third seed after their victory on Sunday.


Tuesday 6:10 PM: Corey Kluber vs Shane Bieber
Wednesday 6:10 PM: Tyler Glasnow vs Triston McKenzie
Thursday 6:10 PM: Jeffrey Springs vs Cal Quantril

Tuesday night is a matchup of current Cleveland ace Shane Bieber and their former ace Corey Kluber. Bieber has rebounded from an injury plagued 2021 season with a 2.81 ERA/2.87 FIP/2.99 xFIP season. His strikeout rate has fallen to 25.4% but his walk rate has plummeted to 4.7%. Bieber has never relied on elite velocity but his 91.3 mph four-seam fastball is nearly three mph slower than it was during his peak. When he needs a swing and miss he goes to a 84.9 mph slider against right handed batters and a 82.0 mph curveball against left handed batters.

Triston McKenzie has lived up to his prospect hype in 2022 after a disappointing start to his major league career. Over 180.1 innings he’s posted a 3.04 ERA/3.72 FIP/3.81 xFIP. He has posted a 25.7% strikeout rate and 6.1% walk rate. The improved control is where he’s taken a major step forward after posting a 11.7% walk rate last year. McKenzie throws a 92.5 mph four-seam fastball, 87.4 mph slider, and 79.5 mph curveball. He’s willing to throw all three pitches against all batters but does decrease the slider usage against left handed batters.

Cal Quantril has posted a strong ERA but the FIP and xFIP have been well below average. Over 175.1 innings he’s posted a 3.49 ERA/4.26 FIP/4.44 xFIP. He has struck out 16.5% of batters while walking 6.4% of the batters he’s faced. Quantril works primarily as a two-pitch pitcher leaning on a 93.6 mph sinker and 88.5 mph cutter. Against left handed batters he adds a 85.3 mph changeup. He will also throw a low frequency 82.6 mph curveball that comes in sub 5% usage against batters from both sides of the plate.

The Guardians rely on a productive top of the lineup.

The Guardians have hit .252/.315/.383 and put up a 98 wRC+ this season. They have the lowest strikeout rate in the league (17.9%) and don’t hit for much power (second fewest homers). They are aggressive on the bases and their 112 stolen bases rank third in the majors.

Andres Gimenez was one of the primary pieces the Guardians received in the Francisco Lindor deal and leads their team in wRC+ (145) and fWAR (5.9). Jose Ramirez continues to be one of the best contact hitters in the league posting a 136 wRC+ and 5.6 fWAR. Steven Kwan (124 wRC+) fits in with the Cleveland style of contact with little power breakout season.

Amed Rosario (103 wRC+) was the second piece the Guardians received in the Lindor trade. He’s very aggressive at the plate (3.9% walk rate) but can hit and run. Josh Naylor (117 wRC+) was one of the major pieces they received from the San Diego Padres in the Mike Clevinger trade. He’s their biggest power threat outside of Ramirez.

The bottom of the lineup is filled with a combination of roster filler that outside of Myles Straw (63 wRC+, +15 DRS, and +14.1 UZR) changes from day to day.