Thanks to Tampa Bay's victory over the Rangers in Monday night's tiebreaker game, the Rays will face off against the Cleveland Indians Wednesday night in the American League Wild-Card Game. After that, we'll know who, exactly, the Red Sox will be facing on Friday.
So, who's going to take this thing?
Both teams will send impressive young starters to the mound in Alex Cobb (2.76 ERA, 3.02 xFIP) and Danny Salazar (3.12 ERA, 2.75 xFIP). Cleveland's lineup has produced better results (745 runs to Tampa's 700), but the two offenses have remarkably similar numbers (.257/.329/.408, .324 wOBA, 108 wRC+ for Tampa, .255/.327/.410, .324 wOBA, 107 wRC+ for Cleveland). That disparity could be because Cleveland's lineup has greater depth, or it could just be a matter of luck. But where Tampa has the clear advantage is in the field, where various systems can put the two teams as far as 70 runs apart.
Not unimportant, though, is the fact that the Indians just had a day off. The Rays just went from Toronto to Texas, and now to Cleveland to play their 22nd game in 23 days. It's hard to imagine a more grueling schedule than that.
Who you want to win probably depends on whether you trend optimistic, pessimistic, or somewhere in between. The optimist looks forward to knocking the Rays out of the playoffs, the pessimist fears falling to them, and would probably consider a loss to old friend Terry Francona more palatable. A realist might land on the side of the Indians as well if only because, based on the above, they do seem like the easier opponent.
Who you think will win hopefully comes down to more objective considerations. Is that disparity in runs scored for real, or an effect of parks and chance? Is the gauntlet the Rays just ran going to trip them up? Is home field advantage going to make the difference for the Indians, who are 51-30 in Progressive, or will it not be enough to overcome the defensive disparity between the two teams?
We'll find out tomorrow, but for now: who ya got?