AL Wild Card Game 2013: How the Rays' Pitching Will Prove to Be the Difference
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
While both teams are evenly matched in many ways, Tampa Bay's pitching—both their overall rotation and bullpen—will prove to be the difference in the one-game showdown.
The Rays will start Alex Cobb, which bodes well for Tampa considering that his counterpart, Indians pitcher Danny Salazar, began the 2013 season with Cleveland's AA affiliate.
AL Wild Card pitching matchup: Alex Cobb vs. 23-year-old Danny Salazar, who began this season at Double-A Akron. @FOXSports1— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) October 1, 2013
Considering how well Cobb has pitched this season, the matchup edge is clearly in favor of the Rays. All Cleveland can hope for is that Salazar is too unknown a product for Tampa Bay to cope with. That is a lot to ask for considering his lack of experience.
The Indians do boast an impressive lineup, and Cobb will have to do his best to shut them down. This will not be an easy task, yet considering how well he has pitched down the stretch, Cleveland should have their hands full.
If the Rays are able to maintain a lead heading into the latter innings, they can count on a solid bullpen consisting of guys like Jake McGee, Joel Peralta and Fernando Rodney. Alex Torres is Tampa Bay's best middle-relief option having posted a 1.71 ERA in 58 innings.
While Rodney has been a little shaky during the season, the rest of these players are solid in shutting the door over the final three innings. If Cleveland is trailing going into the seventh, their night could be all but over.
Which Rays pitcher has the biggest impact in the AL Wild Card game?
On the other hand, the Indians do not have an established closer, although Joe Smith, who has a 2.29 ERA with 54 strikeouts in 63 innings this season, may be their best option if the game is close.
If pitching wins championships, Tampa Bay has it for Wednesday and Cleveland does not. Both have respectable lineups, yet the pitching will prove to be the vital factor.
For the Rays, it should be enough to get them beyond this one-game playoff.
All statistics and accolades courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.
Peter Panacy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him @PeterMcShots on Twitter.
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