Wednesday – October 2 – 7:07 PM
Progressive Field – Cleveland
The Tampa Bay Rays get rewarded for winning regular season game 163 over the Texas Rangers in Arlington by heading to Cleveland to play the hottest team in the American League in the month of September. The Indians took their wild card spot from the Rays by going 21-6 that month.
The managers of both clubs no each other very well. Terry Francona may be in his first season with the Tribe, but he has faced Joe Maddon in the regular season and playoffs throughout his tenure with the Boston Red Sox. The winner of this game will move on the face Boston in the ALDS.
The Rays will rely on right-hander Alex Cobb (11-3, 2.76). If the name sounds familiar, Cobb missed two months this season to heal from a concussion caused by a line-drive back in mid-June. Prior to the injury he threw 7 1/3 scoreless innings against the Indians in April. He also has a three game winning streak in his favor.
Major league rookie pitcher Danny Salazar (2-3, 3.12) will make his postseason debut for the Indians. He has only 10 total starts in the big leagues. Salazar has never faced the Rays, plus will have the added pressure of his club’s first postseason appearance since 2007.
Tampa will look for their run production to come from veterans like Evan Longoria, James Loney, and maybe Delmon Young if he is announced to DH. Longoria had a massive hitting performance on Monday to defeat the Rangers. Their All-Star second baseman Ben Zobrist has lead the AL in walks since 2009.
The 92-win Indians have enough hitting power to beat anyone. Michael Brantley is their best hitter with ducks on the pond, .375 with runners on base. No announcement yet for first base, but both Nick Swisher and Carlos Santana could be in the lineup.