One day after ending an eight-game postseason losing streak, the Cleveland Guardians will look to record another milestone when they face the visiting Tampa Bay Rays in Game 2 of the best-of-three American League wild-card series on Saturday.
Cleveland moved one win from advancing to the Division Series with its 2-1 victory on Friday. Jose Ramirez belted a two-run home run and Shane Bieber pitched 7 2/3 innings to lead the Guardians.
The teams entered the postseason heading in opposite directions, and that trend continued in Game 1. Tampa Bay has lost six straight games while the American League Central champion Guardians have won 25 of their last 31 games.
Cleveland boasts the youngest team in the majors, but manager Terry Francona said the team’s rookies aren’t easily intimidated.
“Everything they do this year, a lot of it’s for the first time,” Francona said. “All the things we try to live by, they do. And hopefully that will carry us a while longer.”
Tampa Bay will look to bounce back behind right-hander Tyler Glasnow (0-0, 1.35 ERA in the regular season), who rejoined the team’s rotation last week after missing nearly 14 months because of Tommy John surgery.
Glasnow was impressive in two starts, allowing one run, four hits and two walks while striking out 10 over 6 2/3 innings.
“Everybody knows what the stuff is, but there aren’t any words for it,” Rays pitcher Jeffrey Springs said. “He’s one of the best when healthy, so we’re really excited to have him back. He’s a special talent for sure, and his stuff is as unique as it comes.”
Glasnow threw 64 pitches in his last outing and will likely be limited to 80-85 pitches on Saturday. The 29-year-old is 2-5 with 6.56 ERA in eight postseason starts.
Ramirez is hitless in seven at-bats against Glasnow, who is 0-2 with a 2.12 ERA in three career starts versus Cleveland, including 0-1 with a 1.80 ERA in two outings at Progressive Field.
Cleveland will counter with Triston McKenzie (11-11, 2.96) in Game 2. The right-hander set career bests in starts (30), innings (191 1/3) and strikeouts (190) this season.
McKenzie has been especially strong in the second half of the season, recording a 2.19 ERA in 17 starts since the beginning of July.
“Good young players grow and you kind of see it right in front of your eyes,” Francona said. “A lot of times with veterans, you’re trying to get them to where they are and then hopefully they hold it. With younger guys, you’re watching them get better. It’s very satisfying.”
McKenzie, 25, tossed five innings of one-run ball in his final regular-season start on Oct. 3 against the Kansas City Royals.
Saturday’s outing will mark McKenzie’s second career postseason appearance, following his relief outing in Game 2 of the 2020 wild-card series versus the New York Yankees.
McKenzie has posted a 2.25 ERA in two previous starts against Tampa Bay, covering 12 innings.
Tampa Bay is aiming for a quick start against McKenzie after being held to three hits in Friday’s loss. Left fielder Randy Arozarena went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and has two hits in his last 34 at-bats.
“We’ve just got to keep doing our work and keep sticking to our routine,” Arozarena said. “Tomorrow is a whole different day. Everybody in here still wants to keep on playing and keep on winning.”
–Field Level Media