The Indians and Rays will square off in a must-win semi-playoff game tonight
The Indians have also been playing a few must-win games. In fact, they needed a 10-game winning streak at the end of the season just to finish one game ahead of the Rays and Rangers for the first Wild Card spot.
They'll need to make it 11 straight wins, or they'll be done for the season and all of their other 92 wins will have been all for naught.
The Indians will send out rookie phenom Danny Salazar to take on the Rays, who have selected Alex Cobb as their starter. Both young pitchers have been outstanding this year. Salazar went 2-3 in 10 starts with a 3.12 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP. Cobb started 22 games and went 11-3 with a 2.76 ERA and 1.15 ERA.
The Indians have been limiting Salazar's pitch count this season, usually trying to keep it at around 80, aside from one 103-pitch outing against the Tigers. One would assume that they'll do the same tonight, unless he's completely dominant.
Salazar's ability to go deep into games has been affected by that pitch count, since he racks up a lot of strikeouts, which tends to raise the pitch count pretty quickly. Still, he finished the year with a K/IP of 11.25, the highest in Indians history.
Cobb isn't the same kind of strikeout pitcher that Salazar is but he has been extremely effective this year and with 134 Ks in 143+ innings, he can still strike out a few batters when he needs to.
The Indians offense was a bit better than the Rays this year, but with guys like Salazar and Cobb on the mound, that might not matter all that much. Depending on how long both of these guys can stay in the game, this could be quite a pitchers' duel.
I give the Indians the edge, and I think that Danny Salazar will have a coming out party of sorts. He's a great young pitcher, and he should step up in this big moment. Also, if the Indians crowd can come even close to duplicating the energy that Pirates showed fans last night, that will be a huge advantage.