At the beginning of the regular season, Cleveland was not among the teams regarded as favorites to make the playoffs, but they have proven the critics wrong. The Indians finished just one game behind Detroit, a team that spent tens of millions the season to acquire or keep some of the best players in the league. This is a remarkable performance and it is only fair to assume that had the regular season lasted a couple of weeks, Cleveland would’ve won the Central division.
Then again, they had to settle for the first wildcard and now wait for Texas and Tampa to play the first decisive game at Arlington Park. Bookmakers credit Tampa Bay with the first chance to win, although the game looks more of a coin flip and punters would have more to gain by backing the hosts tonight. Meanwhile, the Indians are gearing up for a very important game and they couldn’t care less about what team will come visiting at Great American Ballpark.
They have an impressive record against both opponents and home pitch advantage will certainly give them the upper hand over either of these teams. It also helps a lot to have a couple of days off for both starting pitchers and relievers to recuperate after a lengthy and intense regular-season. Cleveland is yet to announce the starting pitcher for the one-game playoffs although Justin Masterson is a strong candidate for this position.
He is the first pitcher in the starting rotation and has an impressive earned run average of 3.45, not to mention that he won 14 games this season. Compared to his colleagues, he is also more experienced and has what it takes to play in a decisive game, so it is very likely to see him on the mound in midweek. The problem is that he recently suffered an injury and it is uncertain if he will be fit to play so early, after playing four consecutive games in the relief.
Masterson allowed a single run over these four starts and kept a clean sheet in three consecutive games, so his presence on the mound would bring confidence. Assuming Justin doesn’t recuperate fully, Ubaldo Jimenez is the next choice after the starting pitcher struck out 13 in his last start. He didn’t lose a single decision the September and lasted an average of seven innings, each time giving the bullpen a comfortable lead to protect.