MLB Picks: AL Wildcard Indians vs. Rays

Willie Bee

Tuesday, October 1, 2013 6:00 PM GMT

It took an extra game to decide the AL Wild Card pairing, and SBR has a free pick and preview for Wednesday's clash between the Indians and Rays in Cleveland.

Not sure how much it bothers you, but it bugs the bejesus out of me when I fail to take my own advice.

Back in February when researching and previewing the American League Central Division, the Cleveland Indians looked like a club that could be vastly improved from a squad that lost 94 games in 2012. After all, the Tribe brought in a proven winner by adding manager Terry Francona to the dugout, and they had an interesting mix of veterans plus youth to enjoy a good season. My conclusion was Cleveland could easily add 15 wins to the 68 a season earlier and finish above .500.

I never did pull the trigger and bet the Indians to go OVER the win total, however, and never in my wildest dreams thought that they could win 92.

Cleveland wound up adding 27 wins to its 2012 win column, good enough to host the American League Wild Card showdown on Wednesday against the visiting Tampa Bay Rays. The Indians will put it all on the line with rookie Danny Salazar on the mound while the Rays turn to Alex Cobb. MLB odds are very near a pick 'em with the Rays -110 favorites and a 7.5 run total priced 25¢ to the UNDER.

Tribe Looks To Extend Improbable Season

Hats off to anyone who thought Cleveland would end 2013 with the same number of wins as the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Indians lost eight of 13 to start the year, then went on a nice streak before falling off again in late-May, early-June to sit 30-33 on June 10 after a loss at Texas. A 5-game skid closed August, but they were still hanging close in the AL wild card chase, close enough at least for a 21-6 showing in September to finish the job.

Cleveland's eventual 92 wins translated to a 26.5 unit return for our MLB picks, tops in the majors, while the Dodgers' 92 brought in less than 20% of that tally, just to give you an idea of how both teams translate in oddsmakers meetings.

For this team to finish 1-game behind the biggest division favorite is crazy enough. It reminds me of an '07 Rockies bunch that burned through the final month, won what was a wild-card play-in clash then, and went all the way to the World Series. Francona sending a rookie with 10 MLB games under his belt makes it even crazier, though it makes perfect sense.

Salazar, Cobb Making First Postseason Appearances

Wednesday's contest is the first taste of postseason for both Cobb and Salazar, though both certainly pitched in pressure situations during September to get their teams to this point. For Salazar, it's the first time the Rays have seen him, a situation that generally favors the pitcher at least the first time through the batting order.

Cobb will be facing the Indians for the fourth time in his young career, and second this season. Arguably the most consistent starter on Joe Maddon's staff, even with the 8-week DL stint, Cobb opened his outstanding campaign vs. Cleveland on April 6, delivering 7.1 innings of 4-hit, scoreless baseball. He also won his only appearance in Cleveland in July 2012 (6 IP, 3 ER).

 

[/]{"component":"oddswidget", "eventId":246629, "sportsbooksIds":[43], "LineTypeId":2, "PeriodTypeId":1}[/]

Final Thoughts & A Pick

The Indians probably would have rather faced the Rangers who were dispatched by the Rays Monday night and lost five of six to the Tribe in 2013. Tampa Bay won four of six from the Indians, including two of three on this diamond as calendars were shifting from May to June. Two of those contests skipped past the total.

We're still more than 24 hours away from the start of the game, but everything looks good right now as far as the weather goes. A few clouds and a first-pitch temp in the upper-60s are part of the current forecast, along with a light NNE breeze (in from left-center).

Salazar's ability to control his emotions, not to mention his pitches, in the first inning or two are key to this game. I think the youngster has it in him to get through the early part of the clash, and Francona has said he isn't afraid to call on Justin Masterson to pitch 2-3 innings in relief with a lead. My free pick is the Indians as even-money home underdogs.

My pick: Indians +100 @ Bet365