WTAM 1100 Cleveland Indians beat reporter Nick Camino breaks down five things he’ll have on his mind when the Tribe battles the Tampa Bay Rays at Progressive Field in their one-game playoff Wednesday night at 8:07 pm ET.
The optional and official team workouts are complete. Speeches by both respective managers have been given to their clubs. It’s time to finally play some baseball. For Cleveland, the most meaningful game this late in a season since 2007 when they came within one game of the World Series.
When the Indians and Rays clash in Wednesday’s one-game playoff at a sold out Progressive Field to see who travels to Fenway Park to battle the Boston Red Sox in the ALDS, there are five things I’ll definitely be pondering…well, maybe more than just five; but here are some important thoughts…
1. Familiar foes: Watching how Terry Francona and Joe Maddon manage this one-game affair of win-or-go-home will be interesting. Both of their clubs will have well rested bullpens and players off the bench, so there could be a ton of mixing and matching throughout the evening. Francona and Maddon have mutual respect for each other having faced off plenty of times while Tito was in Boston not only in the regular season, but also the Playoffs. During Tuesday’s press conferences both were complimentary of each other, which is not surprising, but very telling of just how good these guys are in their craft. I don’t think Maddon would have spoken as highly of say, Ned Yost. Francona and Maddon have proven year after year that they are two of the better managers in all of Major League Baseball and their track records prove it.
2. Pitching and defense: The Rays and Indians are actually mirror images of each other. Both teams have received strong contributions from their starting staffs and bullpens (Tampa Bay’s ‘pen is better), while also playing great defense. Francona has said all season long if his club plays a clean game (error free, crisp baseball), they are difficult to beat. This is true, but it seems like Maddon’s club always plays a clean game. Wednesday night’s one-game playoff should be low scoring and it probably will come down to who is more dominant between Alex Cobb and Danny Salazar, as well as the bullpens. The Tribe certainly has a dangerous weapon in the ‘pen now in Justin Masterson. These teams are very much alike, it’s why they’ve reached this point and it’s why Wednesday night’s showdown will be a close match up.
3. Ready for a long game: Be ready for a five hour game…seriously. No sarcasm involved. With Francona and Maddon having fresh bullpens and full benches, they will use every man on the 25-man roster if they have to. This will be treated like a Game 7, as it should be. Both managers have a ton of weapons to use in a lot of different facets of this game and both intend to use them all.
4. Swisher/Bourn/Cabrera: The three highest paid position players on the Indians this season are Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn and Asdrubal Cabrera…now is their time to shine. Yes, all three have been solid throughout this 2013 season and in the second half guys like Swisher and Cabrera really put the pedal to the metal. However, the postseason is when your highly paid starts need to rise to the occasion. Yes, guys like Salazar, Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley will be vital to this Indians club’s success…but the big money players must show up for Cleveland.
5. Packed house: For only the third time this 2013 season Progressive Field will be sold out on Wednesday night for the one-game playoff. The park holds just over 41,000 these days and with the way Progressive field is built architecturally, getting a lot of fans with energy in that place makes it one of the most difficult places to play in Major League Baseball. Opposing players have told me, when Progressive Field is sold out…the ballpark literally shakes. Hopefully fans are into it, I’d expect them to be. And hopefully this draws more people for future games whether it is the Playoffs or next season. Low attendance needs to be fixed and it’s a combination of the fans and the Cleveland Indians needing to revisit some things in the offseason. Nevertheless, Wednesday should be fun!
- Nick Camino