Sporting sunglasses, a teal shirt and a backpack hanging from his shoulder, Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon looked like a tourist as he arrived late for his news conference in Cleveland.
Maddon didn’t have time to slip into his uniform and had a valid excuse. The Rays have been on the road.
In the past week, they’ve gone from Tampa to New York to Toronto to Texas to Cleveland, a journey covering 3,627 miles.
On Wednesday night, the Rays hope to book a trip to Boston.
Getting a complete game from starter David Price, Tampa Bay beat Texas 5-2 in a tiebreaker on Monday night, earning the Rays a wild-card spot for the third time in four years and a chance to face the Indians, making their first appearance in October since 2007.
Forced to win almost every day down the stretch as they went neck-and-neck-and-neck with the Indians and Rangers in a thrilling wild-card scramble in the final weeks of September, the Rays won in Toronto on Sunday before traveling deep in the heart of Texas and surviving a win-or-go-home scenario.
"I’ll tell you what," said Maddon, whose team went 14-5 after Sept. 12. "We’ve already played this wild-card game a couple times. We did it in Toronto a couple days ago. We did it yesterday in Texas, and we’re going to come here tomorrow and do it again. I don’t know if there’s a battle-tested component to that, if you get immune to whatever that pressure is and you go play."
Wednesday’s winner will meet the Red Sox in Game 1 of the division series on Friday.
Like the Rays, the Indians had to scrap their way into the postseason. Cleveland ended a topsy-turvy regular season under manager Terry Francona by ripping off 10 wins in a row, playing error-free ball during the stretch.
Now, the Indians want to keep rolling and will start rookie Danny Salazar in their biggest game in six seasons. Salazar is 2-3 with a 3.12 ERA in 10 starts, averaging 11.25 strikeouts per nine innings.
Alex Cobb (11-3) will start for Tampa Bay.
Around the horn
Royals • Kansas City and manager Ned Yost agreed to a two-year contract extension Tuesday after wrapping up an 86-76 season, the best finish for the franchise in 24 years. Yost’s contract was set to expire after the season. Yost has been the manager .
Yankees • General manager Brian Cashman praised manager Joe Girardi’s handling of the team during a disappointing season and is about to offer him a new contract. Girardi has led the Yankees to a 564-408 record and a World Series title. Crippled by injuries, New York had its poorest season since 1992, missing the playoffs for the second time in 19 years and finishing tied for third in the AL East at 85-77.
Batters struggle • The major league batting average dropped to .253 this season, its lowest level since hitters combined for a .244 average in 1972. This year’s average was down from a recent peak of .270 in 1996. Team strikeouts per game set a record at 7.55, breaking the mark of 7.49 set a year earlier. It was as low as 4.75 in 1981.
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