February 26, 2024

Tampa Bay Rays and Cleveland Guardians will kick off the wild card series on Friday at Noon. The Rays and Guardians have faced each other once in the postseason. It was the 2013 AL Wild Card game at Progressive Field. The Rays shut out the Guardians to move on to the AL Division Series. It was Terry Francona’s first year as the Indians/Guardians manager, and he won his first AL Manager of the Year award.

However, we’re in 2022. Nine years later, it’s a different team and a different series. Yes, I can’t stand the name “Guardians.” I prefer the “Indians” but it is what it is. 

Anyway, in the last three seasons, the Rays have had their number in the regular season (12-2). But the postseason is a whole different season and intense pressure.

Shane McClanahan will take on Shane Bieber in Game 1 of the wild card series. Both pitchers are terrific. The Rays have a better rotation than the Guardians, but the Guardians have a better lineup and know how to put the ball in play and get on base better than the Rays.

The Rays will have a lot of work cutting for them; they’re coming off a nine-game road trip and will head to Cleveland for another three-game road trip if they manage to get one in Cleveland.

Josh Naylor, Steven Kwan and Andres Gimenez must step up in this series. It doesn’t matter if they lack experience. Guardians will need those guys to come through to have success. The biggest X-Factor for this team is their starting rotation. Pitching wins titles. Can Bieber, McKenzie, and the rest of them get the job done? Will they answer the bell? We will have to wait and see.

Progressive Field is going to be rocking this weekend. There are going to be sold-out seats. Cleveland fans are one of the most dedicated and cheerful fans when it comes to postseason play. Guardians will feed off the crowd and will play their absolute best baseball.

My prediction is that Cleveland will win this series, 2-1. I won’t count out the Rays because they can crash the party. So, I’ll give them the respect that they could win one game on the road. The Guardians need to cash in those rules, keep the lines moving and pitch great. Their bullpen is also lethal. Therefore, they have the upper hand. October Baseball is here!

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