McCoy: Guardians top Rays in Game 1 of AL Wild Card series

It is seldom that a baseball game follows a pre-game script, but that’s exactly what happened Friday afternoon in Progressive Field.

The Cleveland Guardians and Tampa Bay Rays put on a pitching and defensive extravaganza in Game 1 of the American League Wild Card series.

In a battle of Shanes, Cleveland’s Shane Bieber outdueled Tampa Bay’s  Shane McClanahan, but not by much, as the Guardians grasped a 2-1 victory in the best of three series.

Bieber muzzled the Rays on one run and three hits over 7 2/3 innings, striking out eight during his 99-pitch day.

McClanahan held the Guardians to two runs and seven hits over seven innings with five strikeouts.

The pitching was as expected, argued between a pair of Cy Young candidates who are almost as similar as a pair of wax candles lit side-by-side.

During the season, Bieber was 13-8 with a 2.88 earned run average. McClanahan was 12-8 with 2.54 ERA.

The only discernible difference. Bieber is right-handed and McClanahan is left-handed.

It was the run production that came as a surprise. Home runs are rare commodities for both teams. Of 30 major league teams, Tampa Bay was 28th in producing runs via home runs and Cleveland was 29th. Kansas City was the only team to hit fewer homers than Cleveland and Tampa Bay.

Yet, all three runs came on home runs. And it was Jose vs. Jose.

The Rays took a 1-0 lead in the sixth inning when No. 9 hitter, former Cincinnati Reds prospect Jose Siri, cleared the right center field wall. He hit only seven homers during the regular season.

That lasted only until the Guardians came to bat in the seventh. With one out, Amed Rosario singled the opposite way to right field.

The Guardians are the youngest team in the majors, but their old man is 30-year-old star Jose Ramirez. He followed Rosario’s single with a drive into the left-field seats, a two-run home run and a 2-1 lead.

With two outs in the eighth inning, pinch-hitter Isaac Parades singled to left field. That brought up Siri. In addition to his home run off Bieber, he flied to the center field wall his first time up and seemed to have a bead on Bieber.

Cleveland manager Terry Francona took no chances. He brought in closer Emmanuel Clase, the first time this season he came into a game before the ninth.

He retired Siri on a soft liner to third base.

Clase, of course, returned for the ninth with his 100 mph fastball and knee-buckling 92 mph slider.

During the season, Clase led the majors with 63 scoreless appearances. Make it 64.

The pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to close it out, striking out Yandy Diaz, retiring Wander Franco on a grounder to short and ending it on a lazy fly ball to left by Randy Arozarena.

Other than Siri’s home run, Bieber put a firm silencer on Tampa Bay’s bats. No runner reached second base. His one walk, a one-out issue to Ji-Man Choi in the second, was erased on an inning-ending double play.

The only other base runners came on a leadoff single in the fifth by Harold Ramirez, but he remained anchored on first as Bieber got a pop-up, a fly to left and a strikeout.

The Guardians had an early opportunity of back-to-back one-out singles in the fourth from Andres Gimenez, but Owen Miller grounded into a double play.

Game Two is Saturday at noon in Progressive and a Guardians win knocks Tampa Bay out of the playoffs and earns Cleveland a match-up in the American League Division Series against the New York Yankees.

Cleveland sends Tristan McKenzie to the mound and Tampa Bay’s hopes ride with Tyler Glasnow.

About the Author