Pa Jordan Shusterman
Posted by FOX Sports MLB

It was never a winning affair.

A cold, overcast day in Cleveland with two aces named Shane on the mound was a tough assignment for Tampa Bay Raysand Cleveland Guardianslines from the first performance on Friday Game 1 of the Wild Card series.

Despite the common name, Reiss is left-handed Shane McClanahan‘s and Guardians right-handed Shane BieberThe operations could not be more different. McClanahan threw at Cleveland hitters with pure power, unleashing fastballs up to 99 mph with an ungodly array of secondary stuff. Bieber’s approach was more surgical, topping out at 93 mph and meticulously locating every offering in and around every part of the strike zone. It was a wonderful contrast of styles and a terrific warm-up performance of the caliber we’ll be seeing all postseason.

The first five innings flew by in just over an hour — a pace hard to fathom in 2022, especially for postseason play — with minimal offense from both sides. The only authoritative kick on the ball was from the bark Jose Siri in the third inning when he launched a single straight into center field which eventually landed harmlessly in the glove of the Guardians center fielder Miles Straw.

​​​​​​​​While the fast pace of the game may have felt unfamiliar in October, a far more telling theme of the postseason emerged in the sixth inning: Even when pitching is masterful, a well-timed dinger can make all the difference. That’s true even if the teams playing aren’t used to showing much power (Tampa Bay and Cleveland are 25th and 29th MLBrespectively, in home runs during the regular season).

The Rays struck first in the top of the sixth, again courtesy of Seera, who sent Bieber’s 107.5 mph fastball over the right-center field fence for a 1-0 lead.

Leave it to the Rays to have their 9-hole hitter take the two biggest swings of the game.

Fortunately for Cleveland, they have bona fide star power on their roster in the form of a perennial MVP candidate Jose Ramirez. After striking out and going weak in his first two at-bats against McClanahan, the face of the ‘Guardians’ franchise came to the plate in the bottom of the sixth with Amed Rosario on first base. He watched two pitches go by before making a changeup — a pitch McClanahan rarely allows damage on — to right field, a spot where Ramirez rarely hit homers from the right side of the plate.

Baseball isn’t basketball, where you can often count on the best players to make the biggest impact in the biggest games. Star baseball players just don’t get the same amount of opportunities LeBron James or Steph Curry can make 25 shots per game. But sometimes in baseball’s postseason — especially tight games like this one — all it takes is one great player to do something amazing.

Ramirez did just that.

Cleveland went up 2-1 and the Rays never countered. Bieber, who had been nothing short of terrific all day except for Cira’s two innings, got two outs in the eighth Emmanuel Clase, the AL’s top reliever this season, who promptly made a four-run save to put Cleveland up 1-0 in this best-of-three contest.

Faced with elimination, the Rays will turn to Tyler Glasnow Art Game 2 to try and save their season. On paper, there don’t seem to be many pitchers you’d favor this season, and everyone’s favorite doppelgänger Tommy Shelby has looked just as bad in two starts with the Rays since his return from Tommy John surgery. Still, anyone, no matter how talented, can be asked to pitch a shutout game in his third major league game since surgery.

Cleveland, meanwhile, can afford the luxury of passing the ball to someone who has excelled in 30 starts as a right-hander Tristan McKenziewho will look to send the Guards into the ALDS vs Yankees.

With two more arms on the mound and temperatures at Progressive Field forecast to dip into the 40s on Saturday, I expect the ballgame to be similar to Game 1 — but probably not one that lasts just 2 hours, 17 minutes .

Jordan Shusterman is half @Cespede’s BBQ and baseball writer for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter @j_shusterman_.


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