1. The pitching is everything we could have asked for
Bieber looked sharp from the very start, striking out two in the first to fire up a sold-out crowd at Progressive Field. After Ramírez gave the Guardians the lead in the sixth, Bieber shut down the Rays, starting a 1-2-3 inning with huge back-to-back strikeouts of Randy Arozarena and Harold Ramírez. Bieber’s final line was 7.2 IP, 1 ER, 8 K, and when he finally seemed to tire slightly in the eighth, closer Emmanuel Clase came in, got Siri to line out to third, and slammed the door in the ninth for his first save of the 2022 postseason. If Cleveland is going to make a run, it will be on the back of dominant pitching like this.
McClanahan worked around trouble frequently, with the Guardians threatening in the first, third, and fourth innings. However, thanks to multiple inning-ending double plays, he was able to keep his pitch count down and work deeper in this game than he has since August 19, ending his day with 7 IP, 2 ER, 5 K and a tough loss.
2. Cleveland’s defense is for real – and it might be a game-changer
The outfield defense has been lauded for much of the season, but it was the Guardians’ young infield who set the tone early on. Andrés Giménez made a gorgeous play on a ball that knocked him over on the very first batter of the game. And Cleveland ended the second with a beautiful double play that erased the first baserunner that Bieber allowed when he walked Ji-Man Choi.
3. Tampa Bay needs a spark, desperately
Tampa came into playoffs on a five-game losing streak, and just when it started to look like they had a glimmer of hope, the Guardians did what they have all season and came roaring right back. Siri’s home run seemed to take some of the energy out of the afternoon crowd in Cleveland, but that only lasted a few minutes. A three-game series is short, and they need to come out strong Saturday and jump on Triston McKenzie if they want to right the ship.