Cleveland Guardians Overcome Longshot Odds to Make MLB Playoffs

The Cleveland Guardians begin their Wild Card playoff series on Friday when they host the Tampa Bay Rays at Progressive Field.

The Guardians overcame the steepest odds of MLB’s six division winners: 10-to-1 from Caesars and BetMGM as Spring Training broke in early April. A $100 bet on Cleveland to win the AL Central on opening day would have paid $1,000.

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The Guardians are favored by DraftKings to win their American League Wild Card Series over the Tampa Bay Rays at -125, and as much as -135 according to the BetMGM. Over at FanDuel, the Guardians’ price is set at -128.

The Guardians will host Tampa Bay in the three-game wild card series, which will be played Friday, Oct. 7 through Sunday, Oct. 9, if necessary. MLB’s new Wild Card rules call for a best-of-three series with all games played in the ballpark of the higher seed. The Guardians are the No. 3 seed in the AL. The franchise, which was renamed Guardians before the 2022 season, is seeking to win its first postseason game since 2017.

The Guardians are seen as long shots by the oddsmakers to win the World Series. DraftKings has Cleveland at +3500 to win the Fall Classic, the highest odds of the 12 playoff teams. That means a winning $100 wager on Cleveland to capture its first World Series title since 1948 would pay $3,500.

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Pre-Season Odds to win Division Title in MLB

Pre-Season Odds for Eventual 2022 Division Winners

  • Los Angeles Dodgers: -225
  • Atlanta Braves: +120 (odds as high as +500 in June when they trailed the Mets by 10 1/2 games)
  • St. Louis Cardinals: +230 (Brewers were favored at -175)
  • Houston Astros: -165
  • New York Yankees: +230 (Blue Jays were favorites at +180)
  • Cleveland Guardians: +1000 (White Sox were listed at -200 as favorites by BetMGM)

Three of MLB’s six divisions were won by the team with the shortest odds to win them in the preseason (according to BetMGM via the website SportsOddsHistory). The Toronto Blue Jays, Milwaukee Brewers, and Chicago White Sox are the three preseason favorites who failed to finish in first place.

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Odds for AL Central Title Dropped Steadily as Guardians Proved Themselves

Even when the Guardians first went into first place in the AL Central in April, BetMGM kept the team as high as +1100 to win the division. On June 30, Terry Francona’s team came to within one game of first-place Minnesota, dropping BetMGM odds to +250.

Since Aug. 10, the team has been in first place alone all but one day, and oddsmakers at BetMGM gradually reduced the number to +275 in August, and finally to -200 on Sept. 1. The Guardians clinched their first division crown since 2018 on Sept. 25.

The White Sox were the overwhelming consensus pick to finish first in the AL Central, considered by many experts to be the weakest in baseball.

Cleveland World Series Odds Stayed Near +10,000 All Season

The odds on the Guardians to win the World Series were +10000 in the preseason. Surely there must be some optimistic Cleveland baseball fans holding betting slips that would pay them $10,000 if their favorite team ended the 74-year title drought, the longest in Major League Baseball.

For the longest time, sportsbooks were wary of the Guardians, keeping the odds for them winning the Fall Classic at +10,000 until July, when it dipped to +8000. But when the Twins and White Sox threatened to snatch the AL Central away, the odds drifted back to +10,000, until BetMGM dropped odds to +4000 on Sept. 1.

No. 6 Seed Tampa Bay vs. No. 3 Seed Cleveland, Wild Card Preview

WHAT: 2022 AL Wild Card Series 
WHEN:
Oct. 7, Oct. 8, and Oct. 9 (if necessary)
AT STAKE: Winner faces the No. 2 seed Yankees in AL Division Series

Probable Starting Pitchers

  • Friday, Oct. 7: Shane McClanahan (12-8, 2.54) vs. Shane Beiber (13-8, 2.88)
  • Saturday, Oct. 8: Tyler Glasnow (0-0, 1.35) vs. Triston McKenzie (11-11, 2.96)
  • Sunday, Oct. 9: Corey Kluber (10-10, 4.34) vs. Cal Quantrill (15-5, 3.38)

The Rays have yet to announce a Game 3 starter, while Cleveland has not officially named McKenzie for Game 2. These assignments are subject to change.

Series Preview

The Rays are rolling the dice with Game 2 starter Glasnow, who has made only two appearances in 2022 after Tommy John surgery kept him on the shelve for more than a calendar year. It’s a gutsy call by the Rays, who need some life injected into a team that lost 18 of their last 26 games in the regular season.

The Guardians may have what they need in facing lefty McClanahan in the opener: confidence. In July when the Rays southpaw pitched against Cleveland, he was battered for five runs and seven hits in a 10-4 loss.

Our Pick

The Guardians have the series’ best player: José Ramírez. That and home-field advantage should be enough to swing this brief series for Cleveland.

AP Photo/Ron Schwane

About the Author

Dan Holmes

Dan Holmes has written three books about sports. He previously worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Major League Baseball. He enjoys writing, running, and lemon bars. He lives near Lake Michigan with his daughters and usually has an orange cream soda nearby.