Blake Snell's teammates did him a huge favor by knocking Corey Kluber out in the second inning of Monday night's dramatic win by the Tampa Bay Rays over the Cleveland Indians.
Now, Snell, emerging as more and more of a Cy Young Award contender, can help himself when he faces the Indians -- and Carlos Carrasco -- in the finale of a three-game series at the Trop on Wednesday.
The Rays had their 12-game home winning streak stopped and moved a step closer to postseason elimination as the Indians won 2-0 on Tuesday night as Cleveland moved a step closer to clinching the American League Central.
"It is a little weird," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "But, you know what we can start another one here, we can get going. The guys have played really, really well."
The Indians, who added Josh Donaldson to their lineup Tuesday, reduced their magic number for clinching a third straight division title to three with their 15th shutout of the season. Rookie Shane Bieber struck out a career-high 11 and improved to 10-3.
Donaldson went 0-for-4 with a strikeout in his Indians debut in a game that saw Edwin Encarnacion reach the 30-homer mark for a seventh straight season.
Snell, 18-5 with a 2.06 ERA on the season, is 6-0 with a 1.42 ERA in seven starts since coming off the disabled list.
"I really think this team can do it,' Snell said Tuesday. "I think we can prove a lot of people wrong. Just got to keep playing the baseball we've been playing."
On Sept. 1, he beat the Indians in Cleveland, working 6 2/3 innings while allowing eight hits and one unearned run -- his first career victory in three career starts against Cleveland. He is 1-1 with a 1.83 ERA in three career starts against the Indians.
In his last start, a win over Baltimore, Snell had his streak of 14 consecutive home starts of one run or fewer allowed snapped by a two-run homer by Joey Rickard in the sixth inning. But he is 17-8 with a 2.45 ERA in 32 career starts at Tropicana Field with opponents hitting .212 against him in those outings.
Carrasco is coming off a 14-strikeout game in his last start and comes into this one 16-8 with a 3.41 ERA. He lost to the Rays on Sept. 2, yielding five runs on nine hits in 6 1/3 innings and is 4-4 with a 3.21 ERA in 10 games (nine starts) against the Rays in his career.
However, while Snell loves pitching at the Trop, so does Carrasco, who comes into this start 4-0 with a 1.11 ERA in five games (four starts) at Tropicana Field.
The Tampa loss, combined with yet another Oakland win, dropped the Rays 8 1/2 games behind the A's for the second wild-card spot. Oakland comes to St. Petersburg this weekend, but the lead appears insurmountable.
The Indians announced Kluber will be skipped this weekend, giving him rest for the upcoming playoffs.
"At some point Corey was going to have an extra two days off," manager Terry Francona said before Tuesday night's game. "There was no way around it. So Carl (Willis, pitching coach) and he decided that this week he'll take it."
Kluber, closing in on a possible third Cy Young Award, wasn't thrilled, Francona said, "So, he's going to get a week (off) this week, which is too long. Now, the good news is he can throw a good side (session) and all that, but barring anything crazy, he can go into a playoff game with one extra day's rest, which is what he wants. And that was the only way to do it."
Trevor Bauer, out with a right fibula stress fracture, is slated to throw off the bullpen mound as he starts his road back.
For Tampa Bay, Matt Duffy missed his second straight start with back stiffness, pinch hit but is likely to rest again Wednesday. Kevin Kiermaier (illness) also missed his second straight but was on deck to hit when the game ended.
Cash was ejected for the first time this season for arguing a balk in the eighth inning.
Tampa's Tommy Pham extended his hitting streak to a career-high 15 straight games.