The MLB playoffs have begun! The Indians take on the Rays in the AL Wild Card game. Take a look at our preview here.
There's plenty of playoff baseball this week. Here's our preview of the AL Wild Card game.
Cleveland Indians v Tampa Bay Rays
Thursday 3rd October from Progressive Field
Live on Fox Sports 3 & Fox Sports 3 HD from 10:00am AEST (see TV Guide for other games and times)
Projected Starting Pitchers:
Danny Salazar (CLE) & Alex Cobb (TB)
After six straight losses for the Cincinnati Reds, the Cleveland Indians are the hottest team in Ohio—and they just happen to be the hottest team in baseball as well. The Indians had a dominant September, winning 21 of 27 games in the final month of the regular season, including 10 straight to close the season and clinch the wildcard berth. Doubters will point to a soft draw, but the Indians don’t care; they are ready to play playoff baseball for the first time since 2007.
While the Indians have been red hot, the Rays have been gaining some momentum of their own. Tampa Bay is 8-2 in their past 10 games including two must-win games to finish the season to secure their spot in the postseason. In effect they have already won a one-game playoff by beating the Rangers in the play-in game on Tuesday.
These teams have met six times during the season, with the Rays winning on four occasions.
The major reason behind the Indians’ superb run of late is their offensive firepower. Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana and Michael Brantley lead a line-up that is on a roll. The Indians have scored 45 more runs during the season than the Rays, and their offense in ranked third for the month of September.
Evan Longoria is one of the best offensive shortstops in the league. He has scored the most runs and hit the most homers out of any of the players that will take the field in this game. Longoria also had three hits in the play in game against the Rangers. The Rays also have young gun Wil Myers, who is in the running for the AL Rookie of the Year award. I will be watching closely to see how he goes in his first playoff game.
Give the Indians the edge with the bats. They have been red hot in the past month, and the Tampa Bay Rays’ offense does not strike fear in the hearts of opposition pitchers.
Two young guns will take the mound in this do-or-die clash.
The Indians will start 23-year-old Danny Salazar. While unproven, Salazar has an ERA of 3.12 in his 10 major league starts. Salazar has not faced a test like this before, and given the fact that he has gone into the sixth inning only six times, expect a lot of pressure to be put on the bullpen to win this game.
The Indians’ bullpen has been solid this season, although Chris Perez has drawn the ire of Cleveland fans with his poor form of late. The former closer has not saved a game since September 17 and has volunteered to give up his role as closer. It will be interesting to see whom the Indians turn to should they need to close out this game in the ninth.
For Tampa Bay Alex Cobb has been dynamic this season, finishing the regular season with an 11-3 record and a 2.76 ERA. Cobb is one of the best pitchers in the league at the moment and he could just be the key to the Rays’ advancing.
The Rays’ bullpen has been pitiful of late, and the Rays’ lack of faith in the group was highlighted when David Price was asked to go nine innings in the play-in game against Texas. Fernando Rodney is nowhere near his best at this point, and neither is Joel Peralta. The Rays will be relying on Cobb to go deep in this game to try and minimise any use of the bullpen.
I’ll give the Indians the edge in the pitching department just based on the fact they seem to have more options in the bullpen.
This is one area where Tampa Bay owns Cleveland. The Rays are one of the best fielding teams in baseball; they simply do not make mistakes. The Indians have committed almost 40 more errors across the season and are not overly impressive on the defensive side of the ball.
For Tampa Bay to be any chance in this contest, Alex Cobb is going to have to shine. Not only does he need to shut down the potent Cleveland offence, but he must also protect the weak Tampa Bay bullpen from being exposed too early.
The Indians are at home with an edge with the bat and on the mound. They have won 10 consecutive games, and I think they will make it 11. I think Salazar produces under pressure, and the Tribe get over the line. Indians 4-3.