The Cleveland Indians are the hottest team in the MLB postseason as of Oct. 2. Since the Indians carry a 10-game winning streak into the AL wild card game against the Tampa Bay Rays, who already won a play-in game on Sept. 30 just to get here, it seems everything is breaking well for Cleveland. Of course, that’s usually when things go wrong for the city, and the Indians still have a lot to prove.
While the Indians have been perfect over the last week-and-a-half, they didn’t play anyone with a winning record in that span. Unfortunately for Cleveland, every team left had a winning record this season, including Tampa Bay. Since the Rays already won a do-or-die game on the road and are much more used to October baseball, another victory in Cleveland wouldn’t be an upset.
The Indians haven’t been to the postseason since 2007, when they blew a 3-1 ALCS lead to the Boston Red Sox. Back then, Cleveland had C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee on its roster, but everything fell apart as soon as Boston completed its comeback. Yet after five years of misery, it took a former Boston manager in Terry Francona to bring Cleveland back -- and now Francona and the Indians are in line to play the Red Sox in the ALDS by beating the Rays.
Cleveland doesn’t have a Sabathia or Lee to send to the mound this year, as it is sending 2-3 Danny Salazar to face Tampa Bay. The Rays just got a complete game from David Price to beat the Texas Rangers, and is counting on 11-3 Alex Cobb to keep up the momentum. At the least, the Rays’ bullpen will be very well rested if Cobb doesn’t go the distance.
The Pittsburgh Pirates went 21 years without a playoff berth, yet easily handled the more experienced Cincinnati Reds in the NL wild card game on Oct. 1. If the Pirates could give their starving fans an overdue taste of October glory, the Indians can hope to do it against the more experienced Rays as well.