AL Wild Card Preview: Rays vs. Indians
After a victory in Texas on Monday night, the Tampa Bay Rays will take on the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field in Cleveland for the right to go to the American League Division Series. David Price pitched a complete game gem against the Rangers, so the Rays will pitch Alex Cobb (11-3, 2.76 ERA) in the game against the Indians. Cleveland will counter will rookie Danny Salazar, who has registered a 2-3 record and an impressive 3.12 ERA. Salazar has also averaged more than a strikeout per inning in his brief career.
The Rays are a sound team all-around. Offensively, they are just where they need to be going into the postseason. Third baseman Evan Longoria is in prime form as he has hit .321 in his last seven games, including a double and a homerun in the tiebreaker game in Texas. Second baseman Ben Zobrist will also be a key offensive cog. He is known for his timely hitting and his ability to steal a base when you need it. Outfielders Wil Myers and David DeJesus will see their first postseason action on Wednesday and will need to keep their poise in order to maintain their incredible value they have had for the Rays this year.
Alex Cobb has been the Rays best pitcher in 2013, putting up gaudy numbers all year and flat out dominating teams at times. He will look to exploit some of the more inexperienced elements in the Indians lineup and give way to Fernando Rodney, who has been stellar as the closer all season.
Cleveland is desperate for a victory, after suffering from mediocrity for the past few seasons and showing such promise down the stretch. Michael Bourn is the spark plug at the top of the lineup. With his blazing speed, he could be on second in a blink if Alex Cobb can’t keep him off the base paths. Nick Swisher, Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana are all adept at getting runners in and have substantial power. With Joe Smith and Chris Perez anchoring the back of the bullpen, Danny Salazar just needs to give the Indians six or more solid innings in order for them to have a chance.
If Salazar can throw a gem, the Indians will have a great opportunity to win this game. However, I’m skeptical about a rookie having the composure to pitch effectively in such a crucial do-or-die game. I’ll take the Rays to move on and play the Boston Red Sox on Friday in the ALDS.