The Indians look to hand the Devil Rays another road loss Sunday in the season finale when they try to sweep a four-game series at Jacobs Field.
Cleveland (77-84) won 93 games a year ago, stumbling short of a playoff berth by losing six of its final seven games. The Indians hovered near the .500 mark for the first two months this season before a 9-17 June hampered their hopes of reaching the postseason.
This year, Cleveland will finish stronger than last. It enters the finale having won seven out of eight games, including a 6-1 victory on Saturday. Casey Blake homered twice for the Indians, who are trying to sweep a four-game series against the Devil Rays for the first time.
“It was great to see him hit the ball the way he did,” Cleveland manager Eric Wedge said of Blake. “He had some good swings. He looked like his normal self.”
Indians leadoff hitter Grady Sizemore scored his major league-leading 134th run. It’s the fifth-highest total in franchise history—Hall of Famer Earl Averill holds the record with 140 runs scored in 1931.
Tampa Bay (61-100) fell to 3-30 on the road since the All-Star break—the worst mark in major league history. The Devil Rays—tied with Kansas City for baseball’s worst record—have dropped 32 of their last 35 games away from Tropicana Field.
They’re also the first team in major league history to lose 100 games in a season despite having a winning record at home (41-40).
The Devil Rays have reached 100 losses for the third time in the franchise’s nine seasons and first time since 2002. It’s a step backward for an organization that hired 29-year-old general manager Andrew Friedman before the season to develop a new direction for the franchise.
“Nobody likes losing 100 games, but it’s what you make it out to be,” manager Joe Maddon said. “There’s not much difference between losing 99 games and losing 100 games. I’m not going to let this change my focus.”
The Indians will send Cliff Lee (13-11, 4.46 ERA) to the mound. Lee improved to 3-1 with a 3.03 ERA in his last five starts after allowing one run and four hits over seven innings in a 14-1 win over the Chicago White Sox on Monday.
The left-hander is 2-2 with a 2.68 ERA in six career outings against the Devil Rays.
Rookie Jason Hammel (0-5, 7.45) makes his ninth career start for Tampa Bay. He’s failed to last past the fifth inning in losing his last three starts, posting an 11.08 ERA over that span.
The 24-year-old right-hander, who has never faced the Indians, is 0-3 with a 7.20 ERA in four road starts.