Rays vs Guardians AL Wild Card Game 1 Picks and Predictions: McClanahan Losing Strikeout Edge

Shane McClanahan hasn't had his best swing-and-miss stuff since returning from a shoulder injury four starts ago and as such, we're going Under his strikeout total for Game 1 of the Wild Card round. Read more in our MLB picks and predictions below.

Josh Inglis - Betting Analyst at Covers.com
Josh Inglis • Betting Analyst
Oct 7, 2022 • 09:47 ET • 4 min read

The Cleveland Guardians host the Tampa Bay Rays as short -125 home favorites in the early game Friday of the Wild Card Round.

Shane McClanahan will take on Shane Bieber on the mound, but is the Tampa lefty back to his Cy Young form after coming back from a shoulder injury that shelved him for most of August?

Find out where my best bet lies in my free MLB picks and predictions for Rays vs. Guardians.

Rays vs Guardians best odds

Rays vs Guardians picks and predictions

Shane McClanahan is not missing as many bats since returning from a shoulder injury four starts ago. Over his last 19 innings, he has a strikeout rate of just 15% which is well off his career mark of 29%.

Before the injury, he had a 34% called strike whiff percentage but that number has fallen to 23% over his last four starts. The main concern here is with his swinging strike (whiff) percentage which has dropped to 9.8% from 17% pre-injury.

He’s struck out just 12 batters over his last 19 innings and with a possible shorter leash thanks to the high stakes and a rested bullpen, I can’t see him hitting the Over on his 5.5 strikeout prop.

The juice is heavy at -166, but considering he is facing the Guardians who led the league with the lowest strikeout rate in baseball at 18.2%, roughly seven points lower than the highest team (LAA), it’s worth the tax with very few markets open. 

Only FanDuel has a prop out for this market so there might be a better price released, but the -166 might also be the best line. I'd take the Under 4.5 at +115 or better, as well.

My best betShane McClanahan Under 5.5 strikeouts (-166)

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Rays vs Guardians Wild Card odds

Teams Odds to win series
Steelers Tampa Bay Rays -105
Browns Cleveland Guardians -115

Rays vs Guardians moneyline analysis

The Guardians opened as -130 home favorites but moved to -125 — and as long as -120 — shortly after. The Guardians won the season series 4-2 and went 2-1 at home. Shane Bieber closed as a -150 home favorite in a September 27 home start vs. the Rays, but Shane McClanahan is the reason this line is closer, but should it?

McClanahan has not looked exactly like the Cy Young pitcher he was before a shoulder injury cost him three weeks. He's missing fewer bats and his K-rate has plummeted to 15% from nearly 30% on the season. 

Shane Bieber has been in better form of late with a 2.44 ERA over his last seven starts and I honestly give the starting pitching advantage to Cleveland. McClanahan relies heavily on his strikeout stuff and facing the hardest team to punch out in baseball is a tough matchup. The Guardians also have the advantage in the bullpen, offense, and defense. 

Cleveland finished fifth in ERA and fourth in WAR with its bullpen while the Rays’ relievers failed to repeat last season’s numbers where they were second in WAR compared to 14th this season. Both teams have elite late-inning arms but Emmanuel Clase and James Karinchak are about as good as it gets.

Offensively, the Rays might be the worst group in the postseason. Their .377 slugging percentage was good for 27th in baseball this season and with the temperatures dropping, the edge goes to the Guardians who put a ton of balls into play and finished with a Top-6 batting average. The Guardians also stole the third-most bases in baseball this season and have a very good “postseason” lineup.

Defensively, the home side also has the edge. This outfield is elite with Myles Straw, Steven Kwan, and Oscar Gonzalez, and the team as a whole finished third in defensive runs saved.

This moneyline price is heavily influenced by McClanahan but I don’t think he's the elite swing-and-miss lefty he was before the shoulder injury. If this was Corey Kluber or Jeffrey Springs vs. Bieber, this line would be closer to -145.

Rays vs Guardians Over/Under analysis

This total opened at 6.5 but has started to hit 6 at some key books. Over the last three meetings, which were just 10 days ago, the totals closed at or around 6.5 so the move to 6 isn’t a huge adjustment.

Both bullpens are great and fully healthy while Progressive Field will be a pitcher-friendly 53 degrees Friday afternoon.

On the season, neither team was profitable to the Over with the Guardians averaging 8.22 total runs per game and the Rays at 7.90. Neither offense finished in the top half of the league in runs per game while both starters went a combined 24-32 O/U on the season.

This could be the lowest-scoring series in the Wild Card round that consists of elite bullpens, great defense, and lineups that need to cluster hits for run production as both Tampa and Cleveland finished in the Bottom 6 in home runs hit on the season.  

Rays vs Guardians trend to know

The Rays are 0-5 in their last five overall. Find more MLB betting trends for Rays vs. Guardians

Rays vs Guardians game info

Location: Progressive Field, Cleveland, OH
Date: Friday, October 7, 2022
First pitch: 12:07 p.m. ET

Starting pitchers

Shane McClanahan (12-8, 2.54 ERA): McClanahan was in the running for the AL Cy Young before a mid-August shoulder injury sidelined him for three weeks. Since his return, he owns a 5.21 ERA across four starts and has just 12 strikeouts. This was one of the best strikeout pitchers in baseball but since coming back, is striking out just 15% of the batters he’s faced. He's also thrown more than 76 pitches in those four starts. The lefty saw the Guardians once this season and allowed five runs and recorded just 13 outs.

Shane Bieber (13-8, 2.88 ERA): Bieber posted a 2.44 ERA over his last seven starts but did give up four runs over six innings to the Rays two starts ago. Bieber will look to rebound after his only postseason start in 2020 where he gave up nine hits and seven earned runs vs. the Yankees. Bieber has allowed more than three runs just once over his last 13 starts and doesn’t get enough respect as the 2020 AL Cy Young winner. 

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