The Tampa Bay Rays nearly had the first wild card spot in the American League wrapped up, but a loss late in the final week of the year led to the Texas Rangers forcing a 163rd game of the season to decide who wins the second wild card spot. The Rays finished the season 92-71 following the win at Texas in game No. 163.
On the other side of the diamond, the Cleveland Indians have proven to be for real this season, winning 90-plus games and making the playoffs for the first time since 2007. Not many people believed they could do it, including myself, but they have proven to be a serious contender in the American League.
Tampa Bay will run out Alex Cobb, a second-year player facing the biggest start of his career. Hitting the road and playing at Cleveland requires a lot of mental toughness for this young team that just won a tough road game to save its season. Cobb’s ERA is 2.76 and with an 11-3 record and 134 strikeouts, he gives the Rays the best chance to win outside of David Price.
Cleveland will be running out Danny Salazar to face off against the talented Rays. Salazar is a talented first-year player who has had just 10 career starts. With a 3.12 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 10 games, the young pitcher from the Dominican Republic will be a force to be reckoned with.
Tampa Bay has a solid offense behind Evan Longoria who will be the X-factor for the Rays. He could be the difference in this series as he has power and average to bring them to the next level. For the Indians, Michael Brantley will be the X-factor — he’s a guy who can basically do it all.
The Tampa Bay Rays will travel to Cleveland to take on the Indians at 8:07 p.m. EST on Wednesday, Oct. 2. The game will be broadcasted on TBS.
PREDICTION: Rays 3, Indians 2