MLB Playoff Preview: Wild Card Round
This weekend provided quite the interesting end to the 2013 regular season. But it isn’t over yet. Add game 163 to the schedule.
Six months of baseball came down to Sunday with three teams competing. The Tampa Bay Rays (91-71) were the first up, taking on the Toronto Blue Jays (74-88) on the road. They sent out Matt Moore (17-4) to the mound. Moore only gave up three runs in 5.1 innings and had plenty of run support with the Rays crossing the plate six times in the first inning. The Blue Jays’ bats came alive when Mark DeRosa (.235 BA) knocked in two runs in the sixth inning, but their effort fell short as they lost 7-6 to close out their season.
On-deck: the Cleveland Indians (92-70), who were facing the Minnesota Twins (66-96), on the road as well. Nick Swisher (.246 BA) set the tone for the game in the first inning with his 22nd homer of the season. The Indians scored in the sixth and seventh innings adding three more runs to send the Twins into the off-season with a 5-1 loss.
With the first two games in the books, it was all up to the Texas Rangers (91-71) to keep themselves in the hunt for October.
They faced AL West division rivals Anaheim Angels (78-84) in Arlington, for their last series meeting of the season. Texas was led by the league leader in strikeouts, Yu Darvish (277). Former Ranger, Josh Hamilton, tied the game up in the sixth but Geovany Soto soon broke up that tie and added to the Rangers 6-2 win with a solo home run.
Cleveland secured a Wild Card spot, with a one game lead over both the Rangers and Rays, who finished with the same record.
Monday night, the Rangers host the Rays in a Wild Card play-in game. Tampa Bay will go with David Price (9-8) on the mound and Texas will count on Martin Perez (10-5). The winner of this game will then face the Cleveland Indians for the chance to advance to the AL Division Series.
A curveball to this one game series before Wednesday’s Wild Card game is the return of Texas power hitter Nelson Cruz. The All-Star was suspended 50 games by the MLB for his involvement in Biogenesis scandal. The Rangers have decided to activate him for Monday’s crucial game, but team manager, Ron Washington, did not confirm if Cruz will be in the lineup.
Two things worth noting are: just in case he is starting in right field Monday, Cruz has dominated Price in the past…and Tampa Bay’s 2010 and 2011 seasons were ended by Texas.
October is right around the corner and with it comes postseason baseball.
For the first time in 21 years, the Pittsburgh Pirates have made the playoffs. They will be hosting the Cincinnati Reds Tuesday night for the first playoff game ever played at PNC Park.
The two teams faced each other in the last series of the regular season, with the Pirates sweeping the Reds.
Tuesday’s match up will have Reds starter Johnny Cueto (5-2) on the mound against the Pirates. Cueto was placed on the disabled list three times this regular season with back injuries, missing about two months of playing time. The Pirates will have their own Dominican, Francisco Liriano (16-8), facing off on their end for the win-or-go-home decisive Wild Card Game.
Pirates’ ace, Francisco Liriano looks to hold down Joey Votto (.305 BA) and company, who were 11th best in runs scored this season.
The Reds, who have three of their starting pitchers on the disabled list, will be facing red hot hitters in Pittsburgh with players like Andrew McCutchen (.316 BA) and NL home-run leader (36) Pedro Alvarez.
The Cincinnati Reds look to end a five game losing streak on the road, while the Pirates look to extend their playoff push by carrying their momentum into Tuesday night.
The winner of the Wild Card game then travels to St. Louis, Thursday night where they will take on the Cardinals (97-65) who won home field advantage throughout the NL Division Series.
Palmira Rios is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact her, email firstname.lastname@example.org.