Here we go. The Rays find themselves in the postseason for the fourth time in six years, as they ready themselves to take on the Cleveland Indians, Wednesday night. The winner will earn the privilege to head to Boston for the ALDS. The loser? Well, they’ll pack it up for the season.
Both teams are coming into the Wildcard game on a surge of momentum. The Indians are coming off an outstanding 16-4 stretch — though it should be noted that they faced a good number of subpar teams in that stretch. On the other hand, Tampa Bay really improved on their poor showing in August, taking 14 of their last 20 games while playing 21 consecutive games — 13 coming against contenders. From the perspective of intensity in the schedule, the Indians have been participated in a cakewalk, while the Rays were thrown to the wolves.
Their 92 regular-season victories mark the fourth consecutive year the Rays have won at least 90 games. Tampa Bay won the season series over Cleveland, 4-2, winning two games in each three-game set. The Indians have enjoyed one of the majors’ most significant turnarounds after going 68-94 last season. Their 92 regular-season victories are the most since they won 96 and advanced to the American League Championship Series in 2007, their last postseason appearance.
As it relates to production, the Rays’ greatest power threat comes from (surprise, surprise) Evan Longoria. Longo led the team in home runs (32) and RBI (88), though James Loney (75 RBI) and Ben Zobrist (71 RBI) are a threat at the plate as well. Wil Myers’ contributions since his June call-up shouldn’t be overlooked. Myers batted .293 with 13 home runs and 53 RBI in 88 games. Tampa Bay finished fourth in the majors in OBP (.329), though they finished ninth in the AL in runs scored with 700 (Boston led the league with 853).
The Indians, on the other hand, finished tied for fifth in the majors in runs scored with 745. Jason Kipnis leads Cleveland in RBI with 84, while Carlos Santana (74 RBI) and Michael Brantley (73 RBI) also have aided an offense that finished seventh in the majors with a .327 on-base percentage. Cleveland doesn’t have great power numbers, and Nick Swisher (22 homers) and Santana (20) are the biggest threats to go deep.
Oddly enough, the Rays road numbers pair well with the Indians home numbers. On that end, this should be an interesting game.
Alex Cobb will get the start against rookie right-hander Danny Salazar. Suffice it to say, at 11-3 with a 2.76 ERA and 134 strikeouts this season, Cobb has become one of the more dangerous pitchers in the American League. He’s won his past three starts while posting a 2.57 ERA in the month of September. Cobb allowed no runs and four hits in 7-1/3 innings in a victory against the Indians, in April. Danny Salazar is 2-3 with a 3.12 ERA and 65 strikeouts this season. The Indians’ top prospect made his major league debut on July 11 in a victory over Toronto. He was 0-2 with a 4.29 ERA in four August starts and 1-1 with a 2.52 ERA in five September appearances. He has yet to face Tampa Bay in his career.
Danny Salazar: Per Alex Eisenberg, “An undersized, but athletic pitcher, Salazar’s fastball isn’t special because of its velocity. Its special because of the movement he generates at such a high velocity. The pitch has excellent running action and explosive late life. He’s generally around the strike zone with his fastball, though his command will need to improve. However, the combination of velocity and movement gives him more room for error. Salazar has trouble keeping his fastball down in the zone in part because he lacks the leverage to do so due to his height. This is why he’s been a predominantly fly ball pitcher over his career. In the start I saw him, he focused heavily on his breaking ball. It’s an inconsistent pitch with the size of the break varying, but he throws it at a high velocity. The pitch will range from anywhere fringy to average in quality, while flashing above average potential. The change-up is the better of the two secondary pitches, ranging between above average and plus. He maintains his arm speed well, and the pitch has considerable fading action as it approaches home plate. At its best, the pitch just drops off the table. While Salazar’s command can stand to improve, he’s never had much of a problem with his control. He’s generally around the strike zone.”
- Ben Zobrist (.992) and Yunel Escobar (.988) have the best fielding percentages at their positions in AL.
- Price became the fifth pitcher to to record a complete game win in a one-game tiebreaker.
- The Rays hitters led the majors drawing 589 walks.
- We’re hosting an informal watch party tonight at Old Northeast Tavern. The Tavern is located on the corner of Seventh Avenue and Second Street north, in St. Petersburg. Spread the word!
Rays Wildcard Roster
The Rays set their 25-man roster for tonight’s one-game Wildcard playoff, heavy, as expected, with position players. Marc Topkin went on to note that, “This roster is only for tonight – they can, and will, change it if they advance to the Division Series, which starts on Friday in Boston”
Alex Cobb – R
Chris Archer – R
Jake McGee – L
Matt Moore – L
Joel Peralta – R
Fernando Rodney – R
Alex Torres – L
J. Wright – R
W. Wright – L