Rays at Indians
October 2, 2013
By Kevin Rogers
The American League Wild Card matchup involves two teams that hooked up in the opening series of the season. The surprising Indians are back in the playoffs for the first time since winning the AL Central back in 2007, while the Rays are in the postseason for the third time in four seasons after winning Monday's tiebreaker at Texas.
The Rangers had won seven straight games to force a play-in contest against the Rays, but David Price shut down the Texas lineup in a 5-2 victory as a short road favorite. Price tossed a complete-game to save the bullpen arms for a potential Wild Card contest on Wednesday, while Evan Longoria drove in a pair of runs as Tampa Bay led from start to finish.
The Indians took care of their business down the stretch by winning each of their last nine games, even though the victories came against the Astros, White Sox, and Twins - three teams who have been eliminated from playoff contention for a while. Terry Francona's club actually came within one game of Detroit for the AL Central championship, but the Tigers owned enough of an edge in the division despite getting swept by the Marlins in the final weekend.
One of Cleveland's keys to success this season was the 51-30 mark at Progressive Field, including a 13-4 record in the final 17 home contests. The Tribe's season comes down to 23-year old right-hander Danny Salazar on the mound, who put together a 3.12 ERA in 10 starts this season. However, Salazar put together just two quality outings, while lasting past the sixth inning only once since entering the rotation in July.
The Rays counter with righty Alex Cobb, who has been on fire in his last three starts. Cobb allowed just three earned runs, while striking out 26 batters in victories over the Rangers, Orioles, and Yankees - all in the favorite role. Since Cobb was drilled in the head with a line-drive against Kansas City in mid-June, the 25-year old is 5-1 in nine starts, which includes five quality outings.
Tampa Bay won four of six meetings from Cleveland this season, which started by taking two of three games at Tropicana Field in early April. One of the home victories by the Rays was started by Cobb, who tossed 7.1 scoreless innings in a 6-0 shutout on April 6. The Rays grabbed two of three at Progressive Field in early June, as Joe Maddon's club scored 20 runs in the two victories, resulting in a pair 'overs.'
Cleveland owns an 11-14 in 25 games as a home underdog this season, while Tampa Bay has won eight of its past 11 times in the road favorite role. The Rays enter tonight's contest as -115 away favorites, as the total is set at 7, shaded to the 'over' at -120. The game will be televised nationally on TBS at 8:00 PM EST.
AL Playoff Notes:
-- The Red Sox are waiting patiently to see if they'll face old friend Francona and the Indians, or have a 2008 ALCS rematch with the Rays. Boston beat Tampa Bay 12 of 19 times this season, while the Sox owned the Indians by beating Cleveland in six of seven meetings.
-- The Athletics lost in five games to the Tigers in the ALDS last October after rallying from a 2-0 deficit to force a decisive Game 5. This time around, Oakland will host the opening two games at O.Coliseum on Friday and Saturday, as the A's won four of seven meetings against the Tigers this season. Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander will start the first two games on the road for Detroit, while the resurgent Bartolo Colon will take the ball in the opener for Oakland.
You can reach Kevin Rogers via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Kevin Rogers can be followed on Twitter at virogers.
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