Tonight in Cleveland the Rays play their third must-win game in a row in the AL Wild Card Game. The Rays have historically done well in these situations and I like their chances tonight.
Alex Cobb‘s pitching is the key–He’s been arguably their best starter this year when he’s healthy, and if he pitches his best he can keep Indian batters off the bases. Cobb doesn’t have to quite be David Price, but another start like he’s been doing for months now would go a long way.
The second key for the Rays is early runs. In their last game against Toronto they got off to a 7-0 lead and held on; in the Texas game they also jumped out to a lead. The longer a close game goes, the more it favors the home team. The team that gets behind early will start to press in the later innings because there’s no tomorrow. Pressing can lead to the mistakes Texas made on Monday, like getting picked off first and getting thrown out trying to stretch singles into doubles.
Rays hitters need to take what the pitcher gives them. In order to score, you need baserunners — which means they need to get on base. The old saying, a walk is as good as a hit, applies. Keep getting on base, and good things will happen. Joe Maddon calls this a swarming offense–give battling and good things will happen. The Rays just have to make sure they don’t get rattled.
Finally, Evan Longoria needs to keep hitting. He’s the team leader and MVP, and the Rays need one more big contribution to get the win in Cleveland and keep playing. Lngoria has been huge the last two games, and if he can keep that up, it will instill the entire team with confidence.
The Rays know what they have to do. Let’s look forward to watching them follow the gameplan and hopefully advance to the American League Division Series.