CLEVELAND, Ohio — Terry Francona admits that he used to be fearful for the opening recreation of the World Series again in 2016 in Cleveland. So a lot that he went out to the dugout an hour ahead of recreation time to ease his anxiousness.
“Nap (Mike Napoli) was out there and I asked what he was doing,” Francona mentioned. “He goes ‘I’m scared to death.’ And I said ‘Me too.’”
When the Guardians and Rays open up the 2022 American League wild card series Friday, Francona says he’ll most probably be scared to demise in all places once more.
“That’ll never change,” he mentioned. “But as long as it doesn’t get in the way, that’s OK. You want to use it to your advantage if you’re a player. You don’t want to back away now. You don’t want to shy away.”
Cleveland and Tampa Bay will meet for the 2nd time in postseason play with the Rays having received the simplest different matchup in a one-game wild card playoff in 2013.
Francona and the Guardians are in a position for the opener. They’ve had 11 days since clinching the AL Central Division name to get themselves in a position, and 3 to arrange for the Rays, an opponent that they defeated two instances in 3 video games somewhat greater than every week in the past.
Guardians coaches labored into the wee hours of the morning after Wednesday’s steady season finale, getting ready knowledge to be dispersed to gamers all through Thursday’s exercise day.
“Once we had that meeting, personally, I’m able to relax,” Francona mentioned. “There are no guarantees that we’re gonna win. But I know how I feel, we knew what our roster is gonna be. These are the conversations we need to have. And it makes it more like, ‘OK, let’s go play baseball.’ I like that part of it. It’s fun.”
Below is a preview of this weekend’s matchup between the Guardians and Rays.
Tampa ranks 6th in the AL in offense whilst the Guardians rank tenth consistent with FanGraphs. The Rays had been eleventh in house runs with 139 whilst Cleveland ranked 14th out of 15 groups at 127. But Cleveland’s 18.2% strikeout price used to be the lowest in baseball, whilst Tampa fanned 23.2% of the time. Both groups had been round the center of the pack in the AL so far as run introduction is going, with Tampa’s weighted runs created(+) of 101 rating 7th, whilst Cleveland checked with a wRC+ of 99.
“The way our guys have done it, they’ve been pretty consistent all year about the approach,” Francona mentioned of his offense. “Everybody has peaks and valleys. We just have to stay true to who we are. We just have to fight for everything we get and make them fight for everything they get.”
Entering their steady season finale in Boston, the Rays had been averaging 3.35 runs consistent with recreation for the higher a part of a month, rating closing in the AL and twenty ninth in the majors, simplest forward of the Reds (3.06). Tampa scored 3 runs (or fewer) in 61% of its video games since Sept. 3. But Francona is aware of the Rays can nonetheless put force on a protection.
“They’re very athletic and they’re not afraid to run,” Francona mentioned. “Our pitchers are going to need to pay attention to that. If they start trying to have a track meet, like we do, it could create some issues.”
Cleveland boasts Gold Glove-caliber defenders in heart and left box in addition to 2nd base, rating 3rd defensively at the back of the Astros and Yankees in the AL, consistent with FanGraphs. The Rays, in the meantime, completed 9th in overall protection with 3 outs above reasonable.
But enjoy can be a issue right here, with Tampa having performed in a postseason surroundings in each and every of the closing 3 seasons.
“Everybody always talks about the Rays being so young, but they’re more experienced than we are,” Francona mentioned. “They’ve been in the playoffs four years in a row. I’m sure they’ll try to use that experience.”
Andrés Giménez, in line for his first Gold Glove at 2nd base, will have to be a weapon for Francona in opposition to Tampa’s left-handed hitters. Fielding Bible has credited Giménez with 17 runs stored, greater than any 2nd baseman in the AL.
Tampa’s Game 1 starter, lefty Shane McClanahan, went 12-8 with a 2.54 ERA and 194 strikeouts in 166 1/3 innings over 28 begins. He used to be the All-Star Game starter for the AL after a dominant first part, however he light a little bit after the wreck with a 4.20 ERA in the 2nd part and used to be misplaced for 2 weeks with a left shoulder impingement. Cleveland were given to him for 5 runs on seven hits in 4 1/3 innings on July 31 in his simplest get started of the season in opposition to the Guardians.
McClanahan allowed 9 earned runs in 14 innings throughout his ultimate 3 regular-season begins, together with 5 runs in opposition to Houston on Sept. 20. Francona cautioned to not forget the proven fact that the lefty tossed 161 innings and allowed simplest 112 hits.
“That’s a pretty good one right there,” Francona mentioned.
Cleveland’s starter, Shane Bieber, completed sturdy down the stretch, posting a 9-2 file with a 2.04 ERA over his ultimate 13 begins. He held fighters to a .215/.237/.325 slash line whilst fanning 88 and strolling simplest 10 in that span.
“It’s a good team,” Bieber mentioned of the Rays. “They play in a tough division and I’m excited for the matchup. They throw the ball extremely well so I expect some tight ballgames and my expectation out of myself and the rest of the starters is to stay competitive throughout the game as long as possible and be able to hand off to our bullpen.”
Cleveland’s bullpen ranks 2nd in the AL at the back of Houston whilst the Rays test in at 8th, consistent with FanGraphs. Both devices are noticed as a power for his or her respective golf equipment. The Guardians received two of 3 conferences at Progressive Field in overdue September due to sturdy efforts via their relievers, who allowed two runs in 13 innings of labor with 19 strikeouts.
Cleveland’s bullpen options the main league chief in saves, Emmanuel Clase (42), and a left-right combo in James Karinchak and Sam Hentges that has given opposing lineups suits in the 2nd part of the season. Karinchak posted a 24 2/3-inning scoreless streak from July 9 to Sept. 7, and Hentges didn’t allow an earned run over his closing 13 appearances of the steady season. Hengtes’ .186 opponent batting reasonable is the the lowest amongst all MLB left-handed relievers.
Tampa’s pen, in the meantime, is somewhat beat up, with six pitchers on the injured record, together with Colin Poche, who pitched in two video games in opposition to Cleveland closing week. Regardless, Francona mentioned the Rays can come at a staff in various tactics in the overdue innings.
“You’re gonna have to have some balance in your lineup, because they’re gonna come at you, not just with left-right, but different ways of left-right,” Francona mentioned. “You need to keep in mind that bullpen’s out there and how they’re configured.”
Experience will have to no longer topic a lot, however familiarity may upload a wrinkle on the subject of technique in the matchup of 2 longtime buddies in the opposing dugouts.
Cash is 15-15 in postseason video games, having taken Tampa to the playoffs in each and every of the closing 4 seasons, together with a World Series run in 2020. Francona has the edge in postseason video games controlled, helming his 72nd (40-31) with 3 journeys to the World Series and two titles beneath his belt.
But as soon as issues get underway, Francona says each managers can be preventing their toughest to win.
“I am really proud of where he’s come and what he’s done. Same thing with (Rays bench coach Matt Quatraro),” Francona mentioned. “They’re good people and they’re really good baseball people. But when the game starts, we’re going to try and win and so are they. I’m going to love Cashie and Q tomorrow and the next day and the next week. Just, for about three hours both of us are really going to want to win bad.”
Guardians AL Central championship products on the market: Here’s the place you’ll be able to get Cleveland Guardians tools commemorating their AL Central Division name, together with T-shirts, hats, hoodies, and a lot more.
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