Oct 2, 2013, 1:11 PM EDT
TAMPA BAY RAYS (92-71) vs. CLEVELAND INDIANS (92-70)
Where: Progressive Field in Cleveland, OH
Gametime: 8:07 p.m.
Radio: ESPN Radio
Weather: Partly cloudy, 69 degrees, wind 6 mph
Starting pitchers: TB – Alex Cobb (11-3, 2.76) / CLE – Danny Salazar (2-3, 3.12)
After taking care of the Texas Rangers in a tiebreaker in Game 163, the Tampa Bay Rays now head to Cleveland for another one-and-done scenario. This time it’s the AL Wild Card game and the winner heads to Boston to battle the Red Sox in a five-game series starting Friday.
Though the Indians haven’t played in two days, they enter the playoffs the hottest team in the majors. They ran off ten straight wins to close the regular season, and took advantage of an easy schedule in September by winning 21 of their 27 games in the final month. The last team the Indians faced that is now in the playoffs was the Detroit Tigers whom they played Aug. 30-Sept. 1.
These teams saw each other six times during the regular season with the Rays winning four of those games. Tonight Tampa gives the ball to right-hander Alex Cobb who has enjoyed a breakout season, this his third year in the majors. The 25-year-old has faced the Indians three times in his career, and is 2-1 with a 2.70 ERA against the club. He won the only game he pitched at Progressive Field – on July 6, 2012 – after allowing three runs through six innings.
The Indians are sending rookie Danny Salazar to the mound for just the 11th start of his young career. The 23-year-old was brought up to make his MLB debut in July, now he’s pitching in a playoff game.
Both these teams feature above average offenses, the Indians ranking fifth in the majors with 745 runs this year. Both teams are disciplined at the plate with the Rays leading MLB in walks with 589 on the season and the Indians placing fifth with 562.
If each team does have a weakness, however, it would be their bullpens. Both teams rank in the bottom half of the league in bullpen ERA. Cleveland’s closer Chris Perez sports a 4.33 ERA and blew five saves this season while Rays’ closer Fernando Rodney blew eight saves of his own. If this game is close, it could easily come down to who’s bullpen can hold on.
COUNTDOWN TO OPENING DAY
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As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
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