Guardians March Into Playoffs As One Of Longest Shots To Win World Series

Wild card round series vs. Rays, starting Friday, sees host Cleveland barely favored
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In its first season as the Guardians, Cleveland’s Major League Baseball team has reached the postseason.

Back when it had a different name, this franchise experienced its share of hard luck in the playoffs. Between that history and the expectation before this season began that the Guardians would not be a serious contender, the mobile sportsbook apps are offering long odds on these AL Central Division-winning Guardians making a deep playoff run.

FanDuel has the Guardians tied with San Diego, Philadelphia, and Seattle at +3000 for the longest odds to win the World Series. On the opposite end of the spectrum, FanDuel has the Los Angeles Dodgers with the shortest odds (+300), followed by Houston (+380) and Atlanta (+500).

The Guardians are also considered longshots to win the AL pennant. FanDuel offers odds of +1100 on both Cleveland and Seattle while pegging Houston as the favorite to represent the AL in the World Series at +160. In between those two extremes, FanDuel has the New York Yankees (+210), Toronto Blue Jays (+650), and Tampa Bay Rays (+750).

At other sportsbooks, the odds vary slightly. BetMGM pays +2800 on Cleveland, San Diego, and Tampa Bay winning the World Series. Caesars Sportsbook has a better payout for Guardians backers, +3500. Only Philadelphia, which didn’t clinch an NL wild card berth until Monday, has longer odds at +4000. Caesars lists odds of +1300 on the Guardians to win the AL.

The Guardians (91-70) secured the No. 3 seed in the AL and will take on the Tampa Bay Rays (86-75) in a best-of-three matchup beginning Friday, with all games to be contested at Progressive Field. FanDuel and DraftKings both see this as the closest call of the four wild card series, with the latter posting a -130 price on Cleveland to win while the former has the Guardians at -120. A bet on the Rays to advance pays +110 at DK and +102 at FD.

Guarded optimism for Guardians

The Guardians have shown over the course of the season that there’s plenty of talent on their young roster. A more seasoned Chicago White Sox team was projected to win the division, but Cleveland defied preseason projections, running away from Chicago, Minnesota, and Detroit.

All-Stars Shane Bieber and Jose Ramirez lead the Guardians. Both have playoff experience and will need to make their presence felt.

Bieber, who entered the season looking to return to 2020 Cy Young Award-winning form, is anticipated to be on the mound for the opener after he finished the regular season with a 13-8 record, recording a team-leading 198 strikeouts while only walking 36 in 200 innings of work. Bieber closed out the regular season with a 2.88 ERA. He’s the anchor among three key starting pitchers.

Right-hander Cal Quantrill owns a team-best 14-5 record after matching Bieber for most starts with 31. He has a 3.42 ERA, fanning 124 and walking 47 in 181.1 innings of work.

Right-hander Triston McKenzie has matured into a reliable pitcher in Cleveland’s starting rotation. He pitched 191.3 innings, striking out 190 while walking only 44 en route to posting an 11-11 record with a 2.96 ERA. He’s expected to start the second game of the wild card series.

“Every year I prove to myself that I can compete at this level and I can compete day in and day out,” said McKenzie. “This year was a testament to that for me.”

Ramirez led the team in home runs and has shown that he can carry an offense, while Steven Kwan made a significant impact as a rookie, batting around .300 for most of the season.

Matching up against the Rays

The Guardians faced Tampa just last week and took two out of three, with all three finishing as one-run games. For the season, the Guardians went 4-2 vs. the Rays. The Cleveland-Tampa Bay playoff pairing is taking place only for the second time; Tampa Bay knocked Cleveland out of the postseason when they met in a one-game wild card showdown in 2013.

Tampa Bay enters the playoffs as one of MLB’s top hitting clubs, led by Randy Arozarena, Isaac Paredes, and Yandy Diaz. Ace Shane McClanahan, who will get the start Friday, has averaged 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings and finished the regular season with a 2.54 ERA.

Photo: Ken Blaze/USA TODAY


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