Cleveland Indians rookie Danny Salazar will pitch the team’s most important game of the season in a one-game AL Wild Card playoff game against the Tampa Bay Rays tonight at Progressive Field. Game time is 8:07 p.m. on TBS.
Salazar’s rise from Double-A Akron to the playoffs within the same season is reminiscent of Jaret Wright in 1995. Wright started the season by pitching the first game ever at Akron’s Canal Park, and he wound up pitching Game 4 of the World Series against the Atlanta Braves.
At the plate, the Indians’ hitters will face the Rays’ own young fireballer, Alex Cobb (11-3). Both teams boast balanced lineups with leadoff men who are coming off injuries (Michael Bourn for the Tribe, Desmond Jennings for the Rays).
Tampa Bay does have something the Indians lack: a superstar to carry the offense. Evan Longoria led the Rays at the plate in their tiebreaker victory over the Texas Rangers on Monday, including his 32nd home run.
However, Tribe manager Terry Francona has made the right moves all season, and his confidence in Salazar will be well-placed. With a sold-out, red-clad crowd cheering them on, the Indians will score a decisive victory and set their sights on the Boston Red Sox.
Prediction: Cleveland 8, Tampa Bay 2
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