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American League Wild Card Preview from The Sports Network



Wednesday, October 2nd (All times Eastern)

Tampa Bay Rays (92-71) at Cleveland Indians (92-70), 8:07 p.m.

Probable Starting Pitchers: Tampa Bay - Alex Cobb (11-3, 2.76) Cleveland - Danny Salazar (2-3, 3.12)

(SportsNetwork.com) - No team was hotter than the Cleveland Indians down the stretch. The Tribe shoots for an 11th straight win on Wednesday when they welcome the Tampa Bay Rays to Progressive Field for the American League wild card game.

Cleveland won its final 10 regular-season games to earn the No. 1 wild card position. The Indians also became the sixth team in major league history to finish a season on a winning streak of 10 or more games.

Prior to the Indians, the last team to do it was the 1971 Orioles.

Cleveland also went a major-league-best 21-6 in September. It was the first time Cleveland won 20 games in a month since doing so twice in 1995, a year in which the Indians reached the World Series.

"This is what you play for," Indians pitcher Justin Masterson said on Sunday. "You play to win a World Series, but you've got to get there first, get to the playoffs. So you play to get to the playoffs, and here we are with that opportunity. It's just been incredible. The ups and downs of this organization the last few years, we couldn't ask for anything better."

Hosting the game may also be a benefit for the Indians, who were 51-30 in front of their fans this season. However, Cleveland was an absurd 36-52 against teams with .500-or-better records this season.

"It's been a long time since Cleveland's had something like this," Indians first baseman Nick Swisher said after Cleveland clinched the wild card spot on Sunday. "I hope the fans are as excited as we are."

The 92 wins for the Tribe were quite a contrast from a year ago when they lost 94 games.

General manager Chris Antonetti made a bevy of offseason moves, but none may have been bigger than landing manager Terry Francona, whose leadership and calm presence has helped the Indians back to the postseason for the first time in six years.

"I have no doubt," Antonetti said, "that we would not be in the position we are without Tito's leadership."

As big of an impact as Francona has had on Cleveland, it was the team's starting pitching staff that carried them to the finish line. Cleveland's 3.16 ERA since the All-Star break was the second best in the American League and the fourth best in the majors.

During the 10-game winning streak, Indians pitchers held the opposition to two runs or less seven times.

One of those starters, right-handed rookie Danny Salazar, gets the call for the Indians on Wednesday.

"This is awesome," said Salazar, who has never faced the Rays. "The team has trust in me. I'm just going to do my best there."

Salazar has been brilliant since joining the rotation in July, boasting a 3.12 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 65/15 K/BB ratio over 52 innings. He pitched to a 2.53 ERA in five September starts and recorded 33 strikeouts over 25 innings in that span.

"He's not a finished product," Francona said. "The finished product is going to be special, but he's comfortable on the mound. We wouldn't do it if we weren't comfortable."

If there's one drawback to Salazar it's the fact that the 23-year-old has pitched more than six innings in only one of his 10 starts.

So, Francona's bullpen will have to be ready and it's a unit without a leader at the moment, as the Indians will likely employ a closer-by-committee arrangement after Chris Perez was demoted from the closer's role following an awful final month that saw him pitch to a 9.64 ERA.

"I'm here to help the team," Perez said. "I went into (Francona's) office the other night and said, 'I'm not going to cost this team a playoff spot. You need to make a change right now. You've got four or five guys who are throwing the (heck) out of the ball. I don't have an ego. Make the change.' And he did."

One player who could emerge as a huge factor in the bullpen is Masterson, who missed most of September with a strained oblique, but threw three scoreless innings of relief upon returning.

Tampa, meanwhile, needed an extra game to get into this position, as it defeated Texas, 5-2, on Monday in a tiebreaker game to secure the second wild card spot.

"Get your 92nd win, you go to Cleveland against a really good ballclub," Rays manager Joe Maddon said after his team's win on Monday. "They're rested. I like the notion that we've pretty much been playing this (elimination-type) game for about a week now."

David Price went the distance for the fourth time this year and Evan Longoria belted a deciding two-run homer to pace the Rays, who are back in the postseason for the fourth time in the past six years.

"It's a whirlwind, like it always is," said Longoria, who was on base in four of his five at-bats. "We went through so much in the last three days, the ups and downs and the emotions, that it kind of feels like the whole season. We've had a lot of disappointment here, and to be able to celebrate here, it's pretty fitting."

Longoria could be getting hot at the right time for the Rays, as he is 11- for-19 (.579) with seven homers, 11 RBI and nine runs scored over his last five games.

Price (10-8), who came in sporting an ugly 10.26 ERA in four career starts in Arlington, made sure the Rays moved on by limiting the Rangers to two runs on seven hits. The ace struck out four, walked one and retired 11 of the last 12 batters he faced to finish off his gem.

"My last time against these guys, I beat them as well, so that kind of gets lost in it, just getting that first game out of the way," said Price. "Getting that first win against a team you've never beat, that's huge. Last time on this mound, I beat those guys. We did it again tonight. It's pretty special."

Getting the call for the Rays on Wednesday will be righty Alex Cobb, whose season was almost derailed back in June when he was hit in the face with a line drive.

The young hurler returned after missing two months and ended the year 11-3 with a 2.76 ERA. Cobb was unbeaten over the final month, going 3-0 with a 2.57 ERA and tossed seven scoreless innings his last time out against the New York Yankees.

"He pitched extremely well once again," Maddon said. "Curveball outstanding, changeup ... I think he was having a hard time command-wise with the changeup early. ... Then he started using his fastball more, which I thought was a great move. But overall, a fantastic performance."

Cobb is 2-1 with a 2.70 ERA in his career against Cleveland. This year, he faced the Indians once and beat them, 6-0, with seven shutout innings on April 6.

Pitching continues to be the Rays' calling card. They threw a team-record 17 shutouts this season, including four in their past 18 games. Their 32 shutouts over the last two years are tied with the Dodgers for most in the majors. They are the first AL team with 15 shutouts in consecutive seasons since the 1989-90 A's.

Tampa won four of its six matchups with the Indians this season.

10/02 10:19:26 ET

  • NFL: San Diego at San Francisco

    Tonight at 8:25 on WRAL-TV

  • NFL: Panthers vs. Cleveland

    Monday at 1:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • NHL: Canes vs. NY Rangers

    Tonight at 7:00 on 99.9 The Fan

  • CBB: NC State at West Virginia

    Tonight at 9:30 on WRAL-FM

Scoreboard
Local
Final
UNC 82
OSU 74
Final
MVSU 60
NCCU 94
 
7:00pm Tonight
UNCW
ECU
7:00pm Tonight
CAR
NYR
7:00pm Tonight
CHA
UTA
9:30pm Tonight
WVU
NCSU
Final
NYK 90
PHO 99
7:00pm Tonight
NOP
POR
7:00pm Tonight
CHA
UTA
8:00pm Tonight
HOU
ATL
8:30pm Tonight
DAL
SAN
9:00pm Tonight
DEN
IND
10:30pm Tonight
LAC
MIL
Final
LALAF 16
NEV 3
Final
UTEP 6
UTST 21
3rd
COLST 10
UTAH 24
 
1st
AFA 0
WMICH 3
 
9:15pm Tonight
BGU
SALABAMA
Final
GEOR 81
CHAR 78
Final
WKENT 67
LOU 76
Final
MICH 51
SMU 62
Final
CIN 47
VCU 68
Final
BSU 77
ABCHRIST 33
 
Final
PROV 85
UMASS 65
Final
AMER 46
MNTER 45
 
Final
UNC 82
OSU 74
Final
IUPUI 71
SALA 65
 
Final
VILL 82
SYR 77
Final
VT 64
CITA 61
Final
DUQ 79
MLOWELL 63
 
Final
FAIR 61
BEL 73
 
Final
YALE 60
GTDNS 64
 
Final
FD 76
DEL 74
 
Final
PSU 73
DREX 68
Final
UNCG 64
ELON 71
 
Final
ILL 62
MIZZ 59
Final
CAMP 90
MONT 64
 
Final
LONG 106
PSUBEAVER 74
 
Final
HOU 63
SCST 71
 
Final
FSU 75
SFLA 62
 
Final
BING 51
BONA 69
 
Final
RUTG 68
RFLSH 73
 
Final
MCNST 69
TOL 83
 
Final
JVU 84
TRUETT 55
 
Final
GT 65
VANDY 60
Final
INDST 56
EILL 60
 
Final
BUT 73
IND 82
Final
STEPH 94
ARTCH 57
 
Final
OREG 83
DELST 70
 
Final
Terriers 61
FATL 56
 
Final
TXARL 89
HPYN 50
 
Final
KU 96
LAF 69
Final
ARKST 67
MARS 58
Final
MEM 78
ORU 63
Final
KNST 53
UMBC 66
 
Final
NW 67
WMICH 61
Final
MIZST 65
EMICH 77
 
Final
CHIST 77
STJOE 54
 
Final
KENT 83
UCLA 42
Final
COC 68
DAVID 80
 
2nd
RIU 67
DET 51
 
2nd
UCR 74
HOUB 60
 
2nd
MURST 69
ILLST 61
 
2nd
NWST 88
LALAF 84
 
2nd
WAGN 61
MON 65
 
Final
MVSU 60
NCCU 94
 
1st OT
PITT 72
OU 72
 
Final
TENNM 77
PBY 60
 
Final
WYO 57
SOUTH 39
 
2nd
AFA 69
UCD 79
 
2nd
MSST 49
USCU 51
 
Half
JMU 37
HIGH 36
 
Half
TXST 49
HTILL 35
 
Half
DRAK 20
ISU 36
 
2nd
SHU 41
UNH 27
 
Half
SCU 33
NE 42
 
Half
MSU 30
TXSOU 25
 
Half
UF 28
WAKE 19
 
1st
ND 37
PURD 31
 
1st
SHSU 22
PVU 12
 
6:00pm Tonight
AUB
XAV
7:00pm Tonight
AKR
BLUFFTON
 
7:00pm Tonight
DAY
BU
 
7:00pm Tonight
UNCW
ECU
7:00pm Tonight
CLMB
HOF
 
7:00pm Tonight
GMAS
IONA
7:00pm Tonight
TOWS
LAS
7:00pm Tonight
MAN
MRGST
 
7:00pm Tonight
CCST
YALE
 
7:00pm Tonight
PEPP
RICH
7:00pm Tonight
MAR
STJOE
7:00pm Tonight
KYST
TEXAM
7:00pm Tonight
MAST
VALPO
 
7:05pm Tonight
UMKC
INCWORD
 
7:30pm Tonight
IDST
CALST
 
7:30pm Tonight
NIOWA
IOWA
7:30pm Tonight
SIUE
UWMIL
 
8:00pm Tonight
TEX
LBSU
8:00pm Tonight
TCU
TXSA
8:30pm Tonight
ARK
SEMIZ
9:00pm Tonight
NCOL
JVST
 
9:00pm Tonight
ARST
LEH
 
9:00pm Tonight
NMST
NMU
 
9:00pm Tonight
WASH
OKLA
9:00pm Tonight
GRCN
STED
 
9:00pm Tonight
WEBER
WLVRN
 
9:30pm Tonight
WVU
NCSU
10:00pm Tonight
SDST
BST
10:00pm Tonight
GONZ
CPSL
10:00pm Tonight
PAC
FRES
10:00pm Tonight
PORT
MNTST
 
10:00pm Tonight
CSNO
TAMCC
 
10:05pm Tonight
UTST
SDKST
 
11:00pm Tonight
BYU
STAN
11:30pm Tonight
UNLV
UTAH
3rd
LOS 2
ARI 2
 
7:00pm Tonight
CLB
CHI
7:00pm Tonight
BUF
COL
7:00pm Tonight
PIT
FLA
7:00pm Tonight
CAR
NYR
7:00pm Tonight
MON
OTT
7:00pm Tonight
TOR
PHI
7:00pm Tonight
NYI
TAM
7:00pm Tonight
NJD
WAS
8:00pm Tonight
MIN
NAS
10:00pm Tonight
VAN
CAL
10:30pm Tonight
SJS
STL
Half
WAS 10
PHI 14
 
8:25pm Tonight
SFX
SDC