And so it all comes down to one more game. In the case of the Tampa Bay Rays, it comes down to one more game again.
Both the Cleveland Indians and the Rays have certain advantages in this game. The Indians are at home, have won 10-straight to close the season and get to avoid David Price, who pitched against the Texas Rangers.
The Rays are plenty experienced in postseason baseball, plenty confident after eliminating the Rangers and have a far more reliable bullpen. Plus, they'll face rookie Danny Salazar, who has made all of 10 big league starts.
It all adds up to an intriguing, exciting matchup. Let's take a look at the schedule, the keys to victory for each team and make a prediction.
|AL Wild Card||Tampa Bay Rays @ Cleveland Indians||Wed, Oct 2||8 p.m.||TBS||Postseason.TV; TBS.com|
Get to Alex Cobb Early
If there is one lesson the Indians can take from last night's National League wild card game, it's that getting to a pitcher early—and keeping the energy of the home crowd high—can make a huge difference.
Just ask Johnny Cueto.
The Indians need to take advantage of the homefield advantage, so keeping the crowd in a frenzy is key. Expect Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher and Jason Kipnis to be aggressive early and look to pounce on any mistakes Cobb may make.
The Indians don't have a great bullpen, which means the Rays will probably try to remain patient, work deep counts and get rookie Salazar out of the game after five or six innings. Likewise, the Indians will hope Salazar can give them at least seven strong innings and turn the game over to the bullpen with a comfortable lead.
Expect Salazar to pitch aggressively, and look for the Rays to be quite patient with the youngster. It will be one of the game's more intriguing subplots.
Which Stars Will Show Up?
Against the Rangers, Evan Longoria was the hero, hitting a home run and finishing with two RBI and three runs scored. He has the ability to lift the Rays all by himself with a big performance, as we've seen him do in the past.
For the Indians, it's all about Kipnis (.284, 17 home runs, 84 RBI, 30 stolen bases) and Carlos Santana (20 home runs, 74 RBI). If Cleveland's middle of the order produces, the Indians should slug their way to the NLDS.
The Rays have the experience to overcome a frenzied Cleveland crowd, but if Cobb gets off to a shaky start, he could quickly become rattled. This Indians lineup can really rake, and they'll advance on the backs of their sluggers.
Cleveland wins, 6-3.