The first game of the 2022 MLB postseason is in the books. Friday afternoon the Cleveland Guardians outlasted the Tampa Bay Rays to earn a 2-1 win (box score) in Game 1 of their Wild Card Series. Cleveland leads the best-of-three series 1-0. The winner will advance and take on the New York Yankees in the ALDS.
Shane outdueled Shane and José outslugged Jose to give the Guardians the Game 1 win. The briskly-paced pitchers' duel lasted only two hours and 17 minutes, making it the shorted postseason game since the Atlanta Braves needed only two hours and 13 minutes to beat the Houston Astros in Game 2 of the 1999 NLDS.
Here are four takeaways from Game 1 between the Guardians and Rays.
Bieber was dominant
Every team is looking for their ace to set the tone in Game 1 and would be difficult to be better than Shane Bieber was Friday. The 2020 AL Cy Young winner cruised through 7 2/3 innings, with a sixth inning Jose Siri solo homer the only blemish. He was able to hand the ball directly to closer Emmanuel Clase for the four-out save.
Bieber is the first Cleveland pitcher to complete seven innings in a postseason game since Roberto Hernandez (i.e. the pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona) went nine innings in the club's 11-inning win over the Yankees in Game 2 of the 2007 ALDS.
This year, Bieber pitched to a 2.88 ERA with 198 strikeouts in 200 innings on the nose. His average fastball velocity was 91.8 mph in Game 1, up a tick from his 91.3 mph regular season average. Chalk it up to postseason adrenaline. Bieber's heater averaged 94.1 mph during his Cy Young season. The velocity hasn't come all the way back following last year's shoulder injury, but Bieber's command is so good and his secondary pitchers are so sharp that he's able to dominate anyway.
Ramírez had the big swing
Siri gave the Rays a 1-0 lead in the top of the sixth that lasted only a few batters. In the bottom half of the inning, Amed Rosario knocked a one-out single to set perennial AL MVP candidate José Ramírez up for the go-ahead two-run home run. The ball landed in almost the exact same spot as Siri's homer. Here's the video:
It should be noted the Rays challenged whether Rosario stepped on second base as he rounded the bag on Ramírez's homer, and the replay crew at MLB headquarters eventually ruled that he did. The two-run homer stood and it proved to be the game-winner.
McClanahan was otherwise very good, striking out five in seven innings. That is the deepest a Rays starter has pitched into a postseason game under manager Kevin Cash, who famously yanked Blake Snell in Game 6 of the 2020 World Series while he was cruising against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Cash has been at the helm since 2015.
Tampa's offense continues to struggle
The Rays really limped to the finish in the regular season, losing 12 of their final 16 games. Nine times in those 16 games, they scored no more than one run and only four times did they score more than three runs. Sure enough, they were then held to just the one run on Siri's homer in Game 1 on Friday. Two singles, one homer, and one walk won't win you many postseason games if your pitchers are anything less than flawless. Tampa finished 21st in runs per game during the regular season, and either the bats will wake up in Game 2, or they're going home.
Cleveland's bullpen is set up
Because the Game 1 win wasn't enough, Cleveland's bullpen is in excellent shape heading into Game 2. Clase threw only 11 pitches to get the final four outs, so there's no reason to think he won't be available Saturday. Furthermore, ace setup men James Karinchak and Trevor Stephan did not pitch. It's not unreasonable to think they could be asked to get 4-5 outs apiece if there's a chance to close out the series in Game 2.
Cleveland now holds a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series. They'll send righty Triston McKenzie to the mound in Game 2 while Tyler Glasnow will try to save Tampa's season. Glasnow returned from Tommy John surgery in September ( ) and has yet to throw more than 64 pitches in a game. That ensures bullpen will be involved.