Tampa Bay-Cleveland: A War Of Attrition

Tampa Bay-Cleveland Is Baseball On Fast Forward

The Tampa Bay-Cleveland series has been about pitching and defense. Guardians Tristan McKenzie is shutting down the Rays through the first three innings
The Tampa Bay-Cleveland series has been about pitching and defense. Guardians Tristan McKenzie is shutting down the Rays through the first three innings Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to baseball where Adam Sandler uses his “Click” remote to fast forward the game. Tampa Bay-Cleveland started 11:07 Central, but the way these games move if you went to get a cup of coffee you would miss two at bats. Tyler Glasnow and Tristan McKenzie made sure of that through the first four innings. Game two is on a similar pace to yesterday’s game, the shortest playoff game since 1999.

Tristan McKenzie’s efficiency, while not as good as Shane Bieber‘s, has still been impressive. He allowed just two base runners, one walk, one hit through five innings. He struck out seven. His mix of the curveball, slider, and high fastball definitely has kept Tampa Bay off balance.

The Rays needed Tyler Glasnow to be efficient, to take stress off their bullpen. Glasnow mowed down Cleveland through five, allowing just two hits. He punched out five and showed good velocity considering this is just his third start after Tommy John surgery. How much longer he remains in the game is the question now for Rays manager Kevin Cash.

Rays Bullpen Works Its Way Into, And Out Of, Trouble In Sixth

Tampa Bay-Cleveland game hinged, for the Rays, on how far starter Tyler Glasnow could go. Thanks to his strong, efficient outing the Rays bullpen is set up for the late innings
Tampa Bay-Cleveland game two hinged, for the Rays, on how far starter Tyler Glasnow could go. Thanks to his strong, efficient outing the Rays bullpen is set up for the late innings Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Pete Fairbanks relieved Glasnow in the sixth. Every reliever walks a tight rope, given how small the margin of error is on every pitch in this series. Fairbanks, unexpectedly wild, walked Steven Kwan and Myles Straw. The Rays just pulled him due to an issue with his finger or hand. Jason Adam is put in a tough spot due to the unexpected injury to Fairbanks. He immediately hits Amed Rosario.

The one Guardian you must be careful with, Jose Ramirez, now steps to the plate. He strikes out, on an excellent change up, for the first out of the inning. Adam then induces a ground ball double play from Josh Naylor on a high fastball, after getting ahead 0-2 on four straight change ups. Could this be a turning point for the Rays?

Tampa Bay-Cleveland Now Turned Over Completely To Bullpens

Thought runs were hard to come by so far in this series? It will not get any easier in the late innings. The game now becomes a battle of the bullpens, and both are strengths for these teams. Austin Hedges helps out James Karinchak by throwing out Manuel Margot, who walked.

Adam stays in for his second inning. Oscar Gonzalez‘s lead off single is wiped out, as Andres Gimenez strikes out and Will Brennan grounds into a double play. Ji-Man Choi and Wander Franco turned a pretty twin killing. Adam gave the Rays just what they needed from him.

How Will These Teams Score?

Already in the top of the eighth the question turns to how either of these teams score. One runner has made it as far as third base in this game. Trevor Stephan looks the way every other pitcher has so far in this series. He quickly sets down the Rays in the top of the inning.

Drew Rasmussen looks to keep things going pitching wise for the Rays, in a game where every hit and walk is a rally. Say it with me, “Three up, three down for Cleveland.” If you want to expand your horizons and learn a new language, great pitching performance is gran actuacion de lanzadores in Spanish.

Emmanuel Clase does the expected in the top of the ninth, setting the Rays down in order. “Jose Jose Jose” chants for Ramirez as he comes up with one out in the bottom of the ninth for Cleveland, but he promptly grounds out. Garrett Cleavinger relieves Rasmussen to face Josh Naylor. As expected, the way this series is going, Cleavinger strikes out Naylor on three pitches. This feels like a playoff hockey game between two hot goalies. Someone will have to give up a cheap run to win this game.

Which Team Breaks Through In Extra Innings?

Ji-Man Choi walks to start the 10th for Tampa Bay. Nick Sandlin may turn out to be the weak link for Cleveland’s bullpen with his high walk rate. Taylor Walls pinch hit for Isaac Paredes, trying to get a bunt down. Vidal Brujan pinch ran for Choi. Brujan stole second as Walls struck out on a four seam fastball. Margot grounds out to Gimenez, and the Rays finally get a runner to third base. Sandlin gets up awkwardly after trying to field the grounder, and Eli Morgan replaces him. Francisco Mejia hits a hard line drive, but Straw who has seen the most action of any fielder in center field, flags it down. Tampa Bay had the right idea trying to bunt and steal, but could not come through.

Cleavinger continues for the Rays, as pitchers now have an even bigger advantage with shadows falling over home plate. He fans all three in the bottom of the tenth, and all four batters he faced. This is only the third time in the Wild Card era that a game went to extra innings scoreless, according to the ESPN broadcast. 24 innings, between the Houston Astros and New York Mets, is the longest game with no score in MLB history. This game might take as long for either team to score, as Morgan sets down Tampa Bay in order for Cleveland in the top of the 11th.

Remember when I said every hit feels like a rally? Tampa Bay’s Shawn Morgan made sure Straw’s single did not turn into one, fanning Kwan and Rosario. If you want runs Seattle-Toronto starts in less than twenty minutes. At least the Mariners scored yesterday.

Will These Teams Run Out Of Pitchers?

Enyel De Los Santos steps to the mound in the 12th for the Guardians. He came the closest any pitcher has to giving up a run, but Ramirez and Naylor combined to make a spectacular play to get Margot. That was the second runner, this time it was Harold Ramirez, the Rays stranded at third.

Armstrong struck out Ramirez, and Brooks Raley replaced him to face Josh Naylor. 14 pitchers, 31 strike outs combined between the two teams now. Raley added two more to the total with Naylor and Gimenez. He worked around hitting Gonzalez. Will the 13th be cursed for one of these teams pitchers?

More nice defense by Ramirez and Naylor gets Sam Hentges out of the top of the 13th. Two more strike outs are added to the total as well. Corey Kluber on for Raley, gets the final two outs in the bottom of the inning. Raley, I think spends time in the penalty box for allowing a base runner. I know its not a rule but for this game maybe it should be?

A very strange double play ends the top of the 14th as Wander Franco stopped running on a ground ball to Gimenez. Gimenez threw to Naylor for the out at first, and then Naylor fired back to Rosario, who tagged out Franco. Kluber sets down the Guardians in order and we move to the 15th! According to MLB.com both teams have two to three relievers left. Who tires enough to finally allow a run or is someone going to have to be pulled out of the stands?

Guardians Win On A Walk Off By Oscar Gonzalez

Oscar Gonzalez ended the Tampa Bay-Cleveland series with a first pitch, walk off home run in the bottom of the 15th. The win sends the Guardians to New York to face the Yankees in the ALDS

In a game that must have drained both teams and their fans, it took all of one pitch in the bottom of the 15th for Oscar Gonzalez to send Cleveland to New York for the ALDS. He hit a low off speed pitch well out to left, sending the fans into a delirious feeling of relief and excitement. Cleveland’s bullpen and defense saved the day and allowed them to advance. The offense must show far more than it did in this series to have any chance against the Yankees.

Rays fans may turn some of their anger towards Kluber, but Tampa Bay could not get a run across despite having a runner on third in the 12th, 13th, and 15th. They managed just one run and nine hits in 24 innings. The two teams combined for just 22 hits and four runs in the series, striking out a combined 39 times today. The Rays offseason will be spent figuring out just how much of their issues revolved around injuries. Never take for granted what Tampa Bay’s front office does to put a competitive team together in baseball’s toughest division, the AL East.

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