MLB AL Wild Card Game 1 Picks: Rays vs. Guardians and Mariners vs. Blue Jays

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Starting pitcher Shane Bieber #57 of the Cleveland Guardians pitches during the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles. Nick Cammett/Getty Images/AFP.

The new-look MLB playoffs open on Friday with four Wild-Card series. We are here to break down the two American League games. Which way to lean at BMR’s top-rated sportsbooks

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Tampa Bay Rays vs. Cleveland Guardians

Friday, October 07, 2022 – 12:07 PM EDT at Progressive Field 

Cleveland's Roaster

ESPN has the telecast. I would argue that Cleveland is the most surprising playoff team in the majors.

The Guardians (their first year called that) were given an over-under win total of 76.5 entering the year. They were expected to have a good pitching staff led by former Cy Young winner Shane Bieber, who starts Game 1, but the lineup was a huge question mark.  

However, third baseman Jose Ramirez had an MVP-caliber season, shortstop Amed Rosario had a major breakout year, and Steven Kwan is an AL Rookie of the Year candidate in the MLB odds.

It's the first time in the postseason for Cleveland since losing the 2020 Wild-Card series in a sweep against the Yankees. 

Tampa Bay's Organization

Tampa Bay is the best-run organization in the majors considering its tiny payroll and lousy attendance and is in the postseason for a fourth straight season.

They won at least one game in each of the previous three.  

The Rays didn’t end the season well in losing their final five, which was their longest skid of the year, and were an AL-worst 8-18 since Sept. 10.

This is not a great offensive team with just one player, Yandy Diaz, owning an OPS over .800. Starting second baseman Brandon Lowe was recently lost for the season.  

Teams' Stats

Cleveland won four of six regular-season meetings, including two of three at home.

The Rays start excellent lefty Shane McClanahan (12-8, 2.54) and normally it would be tough to fade him, but he only made two starts in September off some neck issues and wasn’t good in his most recent outing on Sept. 25, allowing 4 runs in 5 innings.  

The Guardians’ Bieber (13-8, 2.88 ERA) allowed 2 or fewer earned runs in five of his final six. Cleveland has maybe the best closer in the majors in Emmanuel Clase, who had an MLB-high 42 saves and a 1.36 ERA in 72 2/3 innings. 

Tampa Bay was 11 games under .500 this year. That’s the decider for the MLB picks. The Rays are 0-6 in their last six road games vs. a right-handed starter. 

MLB Pick: Guardians (-115) at BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)

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MLB Pick: Under 6.5 Runs (-125) at BetOnline 

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Seattle Mariners vs. Toronto Blue Jays

Friday, October 7, 2022 - 04:07 PM EDT at Rogers Centre 

ESPN has the telecast of this first-ever postseason matchup between the franchises.

Seattle hadn’t made the postseason since 2001, which was easily the longest drought in not just MLB but the NHL, NBA and NFL as well.

Hard not to feel sorry for Mariners fans as they don’t even get a home game unless Seattle advances to the Division Series.

Teams' Stats

The Blue Jays made the playoffs as recently as 2020, but were swept two games at Tampa Bay. This will be Toronto’s first home postseason game since 2016 and those fans are going to be nuts. 

One aside: Had this matchup been about two weeks ago, any Mariners player who was unvaccinated for COVID would not be allowed in Canada, but that has since been dropped by the government.

Seattle won the season series 5-2, but that was in large part to a four-game home sweep from July 7-10 when the M’s were in the midst of their 14-game winning streak. 

Injury Report

There are a few injury notes. For Seattle, starting outfielder Jesse Winker is out for the series with a neck injury. He had 14 homers and 53 RBIs but hit only .219 on the year.

Super-utility man Sam Haggerty is also out. He played all three outfield positions and second base for the Mariners this season.

The Jays are hoping to activate both infielder Santiago Espinal and outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr., but no word on that yet. Gurriel Jr. would be the bigger one. 

Teams' Lineups

The lineups don’t appear to be close. Led by George Springer and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the Blue Jays topped the American League in on-base percentage and OPS. The Mariners’ engine is sure-fire AL Rookie of the Year Julio Rodriguez. He’s fantastic, but rookies often struggle in their playoff debut

Trade acquisition Luis Castillo (8-6, 2.99 ERA) starts for Seattle. In 11 starts since coming over from Cincinnati, he was 4-2 with a 3.17 ERA.

It’s Alek Manoah (16-7, 2.24) for Toronto. In his final two regular-season starts, Manoah didn’t allow a run and just 6 hits over 13 innings. 

Generally, you should pick the home team in a playoff game unless there’s a clear pitching mismatch. Seattle is 1-8 in its past nine series openers. 

MLB Pick: Blue Jays ML (-140) at BetOnline

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*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.