The Guardians are now entering a crucial portion of the schedule.
Since the All-Star Break, the Guardians are exactly .500, having gone 4-4 in eight games against the Red Sox and White Sox.
And now, the Guardians are headed to Tampa Bay to take on the Rays.
The Rays are what the Red Sox were to the Guardians several months back: serious Wild Card threats.
And they’re hitting the Rays at just the right time.
Here’s what to watch for this weekend:
Bats and Balls
While the Guardians bring a decent offense to Tampa, the Rays pride themselves on their pitching.
Just as the Guardians have managed to continually find great pitching talent, so too have the Rays.
And generally (also like the Guardians) the Rays have a history of selling their top pitching talent.
Blake Snell, Charlie Morton, Chris Archer, and David Price are just a few of the excellent names that have suited up for the Rays.
MLB trade deadline in 4 days.
The #Guardians are 2.5 games back of Tampa in the Wild Card and down there for a 3 game series.
They are 2 games back of the Twins in the division, who head to San Diego for 3 games.
Big weekend. #ForTheLand
— Bryan Shaw (@WxShaw) July 29, 2022
And now, Tampa has two top arms in Shane McClanahan and the injured Tyler Glasnow.
Unfortunately for the Guardians, they have to face off against McClanahan.
McClanahan has arguably been the best pitcher in baseball this season, with an ERA of 1.76 and a 4.1 WAR.
He’s 10-3 as a starter with a WHIP of .773.
But the Guardians are no offensive schlubs.
The team ranks seventh in batting and eighth in hits, with strong batters in José Ramirez and Andrés Giménez.
And despite earlier struggles, the Guardians have generally scored more runs since the All-Star game and kept the losses tighter.
Hopefully, they can do the same and eke out a series win against the Rays.
This is a pivotal weekend for the Guardians’ playoff hopes.
A series win is crucial for both the Guardians and Rays, however.
The Guardians are 2.5 games behind the Rays for the last Wild Card spot and just a half-game ahead of the Orioles.
A series win would put the Guardians back in the driver’s seat for the last spot.
A solid showing might also inform how the team fares in the trade market.
The deadline is just days away, and the Guardians could either buy or sit back and wait.
If they come out strong against the Rays, perhaps the Guardians’ front office pulls the trigger on a trade to keep the team competitive.
If the team falls flat and further out of contention, then perhaps it is a sign to wait things out until the winter to make any additional moves.
The first two pitchers up for the Guardians are Shane Bieber and Zach Plesac.
Both are coming off rough recent outings.
Franmil really does just swing and hope for the best#ForTheLand
— Ian (@bennyhanna2467) July 29, 2022
In his last start, Bieber was shelled for six runs, while Plesac coughed up three in five innings.
The Guardians will need both to be excellent to compete with the Rays’ quality starters.
And who exactly will start for the Rays?
The aforementioned McClanahan.
And Corey Kluber.
The former Cy Young winner with Cleveland will face off against his former team on Saturday.
He carries a 3.91 ERA into the contest against Plesac, who has a 4.08 ERA.