Tuesday, October 1, 2013
A capsule look at the Rays-Indians wild-card game
A look at the American League wild-card playoff between the Tampa Bay Rays and Cleveland Indians:
Schedule: Wednesday, at Cleveland (8:07 p.m. EDT) (TBS).
Season Series: Rays won 4-2.
Rays: LF David DeJesus (.260, 2 HRs, 11RBIs, 10 doubles in 35 games), RF Wil Myers ( .293, 13, 53, 50 runs in 88 games), 2B Ben Zobrist (.275, 12, 71), 3B Evan Longoria (.269, 32, 88, 39 doubles), 1B James Loney (.299, 13, 75), DH Matt Joyce (.235, 18, 47), CF Desmond Jennings (.252, 14, 54, 20 stolen bases), C Jose Lobaton (.249, 7, 32 in 100 games), SS Yunel Escobar (.256, 9, 56).
Indians: CF Michael Bourn (.263, 6 HRs, 50 RBIs, 23 SBs), RF Nick Swisher (.246, 22, 63), 2B Jason Kipnis (.284, 17, 84), 1B Carlos Santana (.268, 20, 74), LF Michael Brantley (.284, 10, 73), SS Asdrubal Cabrera (.242, 14, 64), DH Jason Giambi (.183, 9, 31) 3B Mike Aviles (.252, 9, 46) OR Lonnie Chisenhall (.225, 11, 36), C Yan Gomes (.294, 11, 38).
Rays: RH Alex Cobb (11-3, 2.76 ERA).
Indians: RH Danny Salazar (2-3, 3.12 ERA, 65 strikeouts in 52 innings).
Rays: RH Joel Peralta (3-8, 3.41, 80 appearances), RH Fernando Rodney (5-4, 3,38, 37 saves in 45 opportunities), RH Brandon Gomes (3-1, 6.52), RH Roberto Hernandez (6-13, 4.89, 33 appearances, 24 starts), LH Jake McGee (5-3, 4.02), LH Cesar Ramos (2-2, 4.14), LH Alex Torres (4-2, 1.71, 62 Ks in 58 innings), RH Jamey Wright 2-2, 3.09), RH Jeremy Hellickson (12-10, 5.17, 32 appearances, 31 starts).
Indians: Chris Perez (5-3, 4.33 ERA 25/30 saves), RH Justin Masterson (14-10, 3.45, 29 starts, 3 relief appearances), RH Bryan Shaw (7-3, 3.24, 70 games), RH Cody Allen (6-1, 2.43, team-high 77 games), RH Joe Smith (6-2, 2.29) LH Rich Hill (1-2, 6.28), LH Marc Rzepczynski (0-0, 0.89, 27 games).
The winner advances to meet AL East champion Boston Red Sox in best-of-five series that begins Friday. ... The Rays are in the playoffs for the fourth time in six seasons, joining the Yankees, Cardinals and Phillies as the only teams to make it at least four times since 2008. They also were a wild card in 2011, earning the spot on the final night of the regular season when Evan Longoria homered in the 12th inning. Tampa Bay also earned berths as AL East champions in 2008 and 2010. Since making a surprising run to the World Series in their first postseason appearance, Tampa Bay's last two October's ended with losses to Texas in the divisional round. ... The Indians are making their first postseason appearance since 2007, when they lost to Red Sox in ALCS. ... With one of baseball's deepest rotations leading the way, the Rays won 14 of their last 19 regular season games to rebound from a stretch in which they dropped 13 of 17 and fell out of contention for a third division title in six years. Since the wild card was added to the playoff format in 1995, only four other teams have pulled out of stretches in which they went 4-13 in the closing weeks of a season to earn a postseason berth. The Yankees did it in 1995 and 2000. The 2000 Mariners and 2008 Braves were the others. ... The Rays finished with 90-plus wins for the fourth straight season, the longest active streak in the majors. Tampa Bay took two of three in Cleveland. ... Manager Terry Francona, who signed with Cleveland in October after taking one-year layoff and working as broadcaster, won two World Series titles with Red Sox. He helped end an 86-year championship drought in Boston and the Curse of Bambino. ... The Indians haven't won World Series since 1948. ... The Indians reeled off 10 straight wins to end regular season and clinch wild-card spot. ... Cleveland's 92 wins are a 24-win jump from 2012. ... Salazar began season at Double-A Akron, but zoomed through system. He had a dazzling debut, carrying a no-hitter into sixth inning on July 11 against Toronto. Indians have no hesitancy in handing a 23-year-old the ball because of his fastball and fearlessness. The Rays have not faced Salazar. ... The Indians were outscored 30-23 by Rays. ... Cobb struck out six in 7 1-3 innings against Indians on April 6. ... Swisher is career .300 hitter (3 of 10) in 12 plate appearances against Cobb.
Rays: Longoria is the face of the Rays, however Myers has had a huge impact as a rookie. Tampa Bay went 56-38 after Myers was promoted from Triple-A Durham on June 18. The key acquisition in an offseason trade that sent pitcher James Shields to Kansas City, Myers has led the team in RBIs (53), runs scored (50) and doubles (23) since being called up. He's second in hits (98) and homers (13). ... Myers and Zobrist led the Rays with .294 batting averages after the All-Star break. ... Reigning AL Cy Young Award winner David Price (10-8, 3.33) pitched the Rays into the playoffs with a 5-2, complete-game victory over Texas in Tuesday's wild-card tiebreaker. ... Cobb, Wednesday's starter, missed nearly two months with a concussion after being hit in the head by a line drive. He beat the Rangers, Yankees and Orioles in his past three starts, pitching to a 1.16 ERA. He's 18-4 with a 2.87 ERA in 33 starts since August 1, 2012. Detroit's Max Scherzer is the only pitcher with a better record during that stretch at 27-4. ... The No. 3 starter is All-Star Matt Moore, a 17-game winner with a 3.29 ERA and 143 strikeouts in 150 1-3 innings. ... The Rays are 11-14 in postseason games, 5-8 at home and 6-6 on the road. Longoria is the only player on the roster who's appeared in all 25 games.
Indians: A roller-coaster regular season ended with a scintillating sprint in the final two weeks as the Indians swept the White Sox, Astros and Twins to go 21-6 in September and edged Texas and Tampa Bay in a three-team tussle that carried through the month. ... Francona's hiring last fall was followed by a stunning winter spending spree by Cleveland ownership. The Indians spent $117 million on free agents Bourn, Swisher, DH Mark Reynolds and RH Brett Myers. ... They lack power in middle of lineup, but the Indians have depth and hidden power from top to bottom with 10 players hitting at least 10 homers. ... They don't have any superstars, however, Indians have nice blend of talent and have embraced Francona's team-first mantra. ... Cleveland struggled against teams with winning records, but went 56-18 against teams under .500. ... The Indians had knack for drama, winning 11 times on walk-offs with nine different players taking turns as star. ... A suspect starting rotation entering the season became team's strength. Masterson was selected an All-Star, Ubaldo Jimenez dominated in the second half and Scott Kazmir, Zach McAllister, Corey Kluber all overcame injuries to make major contributions. ... Francona has called 42-year-old Jason Giambi the team's MVP, mostly for his affect on the organization. Giambi delivered the season's most stunning moment, a ninth-inning homer to beat Chicago last week, but it was his work behind the scenes as a clubhouse leader that meant most. ... Perez was stripped of his closer role in final series at Minnesota after he gave up six runs in two outings. His 7.52 ERA since Aug. 1 was reason enough for Francona to make move.
- Defense Sets Tone: The Rays are built on pitching and defense. They committed 59 errors, second fewest to Baltimore's major league-record 54. Tampa Bay also would have broken the old mark of 65 by the 2003 Mariners. Zobrist led AL second basemen with a .9928 fielding percentage, .0001 ahead of Boston's Dustin Pedroia. Escobar, meanwhile, led all major league shortstops with a .989 fielding percentage after being acquired in an offseason trade. The pitching staff set a club record with 17 shutouts. The Rays have 32 over the past two seasons, tied with the Dodgers for the most in baseball.
- Glad To Be Here: Wright is an 18-year veteran playing with his 10th team, but this is his first postseason appearance. No active player has gone longer without playing in the playoffs. DeJesus was obtained in a trade on Aug. 23 and is in the playoffs for the first time in his 11-year career. His streak of 1,277 regular season games without a postseason appearance is fifth among active players.
- Masterson In Relief. The right-hander was sidelined three weeks with a side injury, and because he hasn't logged many innings, Francona will use him out of bullpen. If Salazar gets in trouble, Masterson is the safety net. "We went from losing our best pitcher to having a weapon in the bullpen," Francona said. "We'll use it." Masterson relieved for Francona when both were in Boston, and it was fitting the ace recorded the final outs when the Indians clinched the wild-card spot.