After splitting the final home series of the regular season with the Blue Jays, the Tampa Bay Rays departed for their final road trek of the 2022 campaign. The first stop is Cleveland, where they’ll start a three-game series against the Guardians on Tuesday.

At 84-69 0n the season, the Rays enter play 15 games above .500 and running third in the American League East. They hold a 0.5-game lead over the Seattle Mariners for the second AL Wildcard spot with a magic number of five and nine games left to play.

It was an awkward series for the Rays against the Blue Jays. Tampa Bay ran the table offensively across the first two contests, putting up 22 runs against Toronto’s pitching staff. Yet, they crossed the plate just twice on Saturday and Sunday. Granted, they were outmatched against Alek Manoah on the 24th, but the Rays did have their chances in the series finale. The BABIP luck dragons, however, actively worked against them. Tampa Bay boasted a .334 xBA against starter Ross Stripling, against whom they barreled up the ball nine times. More often than not, though, those barreled up balls found gloves and Tampa Bay ended the day with a frustrating one run on seven hits, and with a .292 BABIP despite putting 28 balls in play — many of which were hot off the bat.

Over the last week, the Rays put up a sub-average .226 BA/.310 OBP/.335 SLG/.645 OPS line, with a 91 wRC+ and a -4.6 wRAA. A line like that will not be tenable against a team like the Guardians, who has performed 31% better over the last week thanks to a .270 BA/.337 OBP/.456 SLG/.793 OPS slash line, with a 122 wRC+, and a 6.7 wRAA. Cleveland continues to do what it’s wont to do: put the ball in play, walk at a decent clip, and not strike out. All told, Cleveland is in the midst of a seven-game win streak and has won 13 of the last 15 contests.

The Rays dropped two of three to the Guardians previously, while Cleveland put up a +3 run differential and 4.33 runs per game against Tampa Bay’s pitching staff.

Pitching Probables

Over the next three days, Kevin Cash will turn to Corey Kluber (10-9, 4.30 ERA), Tyler Glasnow (0-0, 1.29 ERA at Triple-A) in his triumphant return to the mound, and Jeffrey Springs (9-4, 2.56 ERA). Terry Francona will counter with Shane Bieber (12-8, 2.81 ERA), Triston McKenzie (11-11, 3.04 ERA), and Cal Quantrill (14-5, 3.49 ERA).

Corey Kluber tossed a seven-inning gem against Houston on Wednesday, allowing up one run on six hits and a walk while striking out two. Kluber went seven strong, relinquishing just a run on Aledmys Diaz’s first-inning single. The right-hander rebounded well after a couple of tough starts, producing his fifth quality start in his last seven turns. Kluber now owns a 4.30 ERA and a 3.59 FIP on the season, with a 6.84 K/BB, a 1.18 WHIP, and 130 punchouts over 155 innings. Kluber surrendered four runs on eight hits (including one home run) across six innings in his previous start against his former team.

Shane Bieber allowed two runs on seven hits and no walks while striking out five batters across 7.2 strong innings against the White Sox on Thursday. Bieber yielded a run in the first inning but didn’t allow Chicago to get back on the scoreboard until Gavin Sheets took him deep for a solo shot in the eighth. The right-handed hurler ended up with his fourth consecutive win and his 11th consecutive quality start. Over that 11-game stretch, Bieber has posted an impressive 1.75 ERA and 8.78 K/BB along with an 8-2 record across 77.1 frames. Overall, he maintains a 2.81 ERA and a 2.87 FIP on the season, with a 1.03 WHIP, and a 5.40 K/BB over 189.0 innings. Bieber allowed one run on five scattered hits and two walks across seven strong innings in his previous start against the Rays. Key Matchups: Ji-Man Choi (5-13, 2 2B, RBI, 2 BB), Yandy Díaz (1-4)

Tyler Glasnow, in his first post-Tommy John surgery return to the bump, will be limited to about 45 pitches (2-3 innings or 10-12 batters). It is possible he could log four or five innings if he stays on turn and pitches the following week in Boston. In his most recent start, on Friday, Glasnow put up a 2.2 IP/0 H/1 BB/6K line on 46 pitches (26 strikes, 57% strike rate). The right-hander fell behind four of the last six hitters, yet he rallied to retire three of the four. Overall, his fastball sat in the 97-98 mph range across his four rehab outings, his curveball was sharp, and his cut slider boasted a ton of deception. All told, he allowed just one run on one hit and four walks (the first three walks came in his first rehab outing) with 14 combined strikeouts across 14 frames.

Triston McKenzie allowed two runs on six hits over eight innings against the White Sox on Wednesday. He struck out 13. McKenzie allowed his runs in the form of a fourth-inning home run off the bat of third baseman Yoan Moncada and a seventh-inning RBI single from Gavin Sheets. The right-hander has thrown seven innings or more eight times in his last 15 starts. In addition, he has generated a lot of whiffs during his last seven outings, recording 56 strikeouts over 45.2 innings. Overall, he maintains a 3.04 ERA and a 3.72 FIP on the season, with a 0.96 WHIP, and a 4.19 K/BB, over 180.1 innings. McKenzie relies primarily on a 93 mph four-seam fastball with good “rising” action, a hard 87 mph slider, and an 80 mph curveball with 12-6 movement. Key Matchups: Randy Arozarena (1-3), Christian Bethancourt (1-3, 2B), Wander Franco (1-3, 2B), Isaac Paredes (1-3)

Jeffrey Springs got the start Friday, although he exited after five innings of work after giving up four runs (three earned) on six hits. Staked to a three-run lead in the fifth, Springs — who previously held Toronto scoreless across two starts this season — gave up back-to-back doubles to Teoscar Hernandez and Raimel Tapia. After a fly-out, Springs walked Danny Jansen. After getting Goerge Springer to strikeout, the hurler served up three consecutive singles, all driving in a run to put the Jays up by a run, if but temporarily. On the season, Springs now maintains a 2.56 ERA and 3.35 FIP, with a 4.53 K/BB, and a 1.10 WHIP across 126.1 innings. Springs surrendered three runs on six hits (including a home run) across five innings in his previous start against Cleveland.

Cal Quantrill allowed one run on five hits over six innings against the Rangers on Friday. He struck out four and walked three. Quantrill was solid for six frames outside of a solo home run he served up to Marcus Semien in the third. The right-hander did walk two batters in the fifth inning but managed to escape without allowing any damage. Quantrill has now won his last 10 decisions and has allowed two earned runs or fewer in five of his last seven starts. He maintains a 3.49 ERA and a 4.26 FIP on the season, with a 1.24 WHIP, and a 2.55 K/BB, over 175.1 innings. Quantrill relies primarily on an 89 mph cutter that has some natural sink and a 94 mph sinker that has a little natural sink, while also mixing in a 94 mph four-seam fastball, and a firm 85 mph changeup. Key Matchups: Christian Bethancourt (1-3, 2B), Yandy Díaz (2-3, 3B), Wander Franco (1-3), David Peralta (2-2), José Siri (2-2, 2B)