Home > Game Previews > AL Wild Card Preview: Cleveland rocks

AL Wild Card Preview: Cleveland rocks

While Cleveland may have the superior record, it shouldn’t be controversial for me to say that I think the Rays are the better team in this matchup. Tampa Bay, after all, didn’t have the advantage of playing the Twins and White Sox 19 times apiece, and they also didn’t get to go the entire month of September (minus one game) without facing a playoff team. Cleveland deserves some credit for winning the games they had to win, but the fact remains that in their last 22 games, they only faced one halfway decent team–Kansas City–and that team beat them four out of six times.

On top of all that, they aren’t exactly running their ace out there. Justin Masterson is working his way back from an injury and may serve as the team’s closer, while Ubaldo Jimenez started the last game of the regular season and would probably only be available as an absolute last resort. They’ll give the ball to rookie Danny Salazar, and while he’s looked good in his 52 innings of work this season, you have to think that he’s at least the third guy that Terry Francona would give the ball to in an ideal situation.

On the other side, while they don’t have David Price, the Rays do have Alex Cobb. He actually led the team in ERA this season–albeit in just 22 starts–and you’d have to think that the Rays feel better about Cobb than Cleveland does about Salazar. On top of that, while he isn’t starting, Matt Moore should certainly be available out of the bullpen; I’d take his arm in a critical spot over anyone the Clevelanders can offer, and it really isn’t close.

So with all that said, why am I picking Cleveland to win this game? Because baseball is weird. Because anything can happen in a single game. Because I think Joe Maddon has gotten a little more mainstream in his thinking, and will probably put the ball in the hands of Fernando Rodney, even if Moore is ready and waiting. Most of all, it’s because I’m a Red Sox fan first and foremost, and the thought of facing Price and Moore two times each in a five-game series scares the living crap out of me. Cleveland 6, Tampa Bay 4.

Sportspun: Cobb has been very good this year, but I think Goog’s understating how good Salazar might be (and certainly how good he has been this year). Salazar has been in the Indians’ organization since 2007, but I’m not inclined to hold it against him that he hasn’t really broken out before the ripe old age of 23 (and with Tommy John surgery in 2010, I’m inclined to discount past performances even more). He’s outpitched Cobb in just about every metric on Fangraphs, though I’ll concede that he can give up some hard-hit balls and benefits from a  more forgiving ballpark than he might encounter in future playoff starts. But in a one-game sample, I like the guy who throws strikes and misses a lot of bats; Salazar shouldn’t leave much to BABIP luck.

His problem is going deep into games. And again, I think the Indians’ bullpen may not be getting its fair respect. Vinnie Pestano? Disappointing after a few good years. Chris Perez? Gasoline on late-inning fires. But with Masterson now getting consideration for high-leverage spots, and great options like Bryan Shaw, Cody Allen, and Joe Smith, Salazar only needs to give the Tribe a solid five innings.

That said, I would sort of like to see the situation you described, with Friday’s starter Matt Moore forced into service and the Rays forced to use Jeremy Hellickson to open the ALDS. But I’d like even more to see the Rays go home tonight, and in a matchup that looks as equal as games get, What the hell? I’ll base my prediction on hope instead of literally flipping a coin. Cleveland 4, Rays 3

Categories: Game Previews Tags: , , ,
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: