The Cleveland Indians, who haven’t won a World Series title since 1948, are already the wild card in a wild-card race going down to the wire.
Tampa Bay’s Scott Kazmir hopes to hand the hard-charging Indians a rare loss as the teams begin an important three-game series at Jacobs Field.
The Indians, overlooked as a World Series threat until recently, are a few wins away from making the AL playoffs for the first time since 2001.
Cleveland, two games behind the Chicago White Sox in the Central, have six games remaining. After three games against Tampa Bay, the White Sox come to Jacobs Field for what could be a three-game series to determine the division winner.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, if they surpass the White Sox in the AL Central, the Indians will match the 1914 Boston Braves for baseball’s biggest comeback.
The Indians, winner of 17 of their last 20 games, are one-half game ahead of Boston in the wild-card race. Boston trails the New York Yankees by one-half game in the AL East.
“We’re in a great position,” third baseman Aaron Boone said after Cleveland’s 5-4 loss at Kansas City on Sunday. “We’ve put ourselves in good position.”
The Indians hope to continue their playoff push against the 21-year-old Kazmir on Tuesday.
With 167 strikeouts, Kazmir needs five more to set the Devil Rays’ single-season record set by Tony Saunders in 1998. The young lefty has been outstanding in September, going 2-0 with a 1.75 ERA in four starts. He’s 9-9 with a 3.85 ERA in 31 starts this season.
The victory gave the Devil Rays a 37-30 record since the All-Star break and assured them of a winning record in the second half for the first time in their eight-year history.
Asked about the improved play, manager Lou Piniella, who is expected to leave the team after this season, said: “It’s a credit to these kids. For one, we’ve been able to keep our rotation intact. We’ve had five starters who really haven’t had any injuries. I think we’ve made only two changes to our team since the All-Star break. We’ve used everybody.
“And, to their credit, these kids have performed. I commend them, I really do.”