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Rays blank Indians in American League Wild Card Game

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It’s rare that a team will tally nine hits and be held scoreless, but that is exactly what happened to the host Indians in Wednesday night’s American League Wild Card Game at Progressive Field in Cleveland.

Using an arsenal of vicious breaking stuff and a steady low-90s fastball, Rays starter Alex Cobb worked in and out of trouble for 6 2/3 shutout frames as Tampa Bay grabbed a 4-0 victory over the Tribe to advance to an ALDS meeting with the American League East-champion Red Sox. Tampa Bay’s bullpen looked like a potential weak spot heading into this one-game coin-flip, but right-hander Joel Peralta and left-hander Jake McGee were sharp in setup duty and Rays closer Fernando Rodney shot his arrows after a clean bottom of the ninth.

The Rays got their first run in the third on a Delmon Young solo shot after two dominant opening innings from Indians starter Danny Salazar, who was pumping 98-mph fastballs with ease until he was lifted in the top of the fifth. Salazar’s impressive velocity readings gave the home fans something to look forward to in 2014, but the 23-year-old right-hander wound up surrendering three runs on four hits and two walks in the loss.

The Rays added a fourth insurance run against the Cleveland bullpen in the top of the ninth inning.

Rays manager Joe Maddon will lead his team into Fenway Park this weekend for the opening games of a big best-of-five series between two very-familiar American League East foes. Game 1 is Friday at 3 p.m. ET.

Report: Mariners’ Taijuan Walker drawing “strong” trade interest

SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 08:  Starting pitcher Taijuan Walker #44 of the Seattle Mariners looks on from the dugout after completing eight innings against the Cleveland Indians at Safeco Field on June 8, 2016 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
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Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY reports that the Mariners have received “strong” trade interest for starter Taijuan Walker. The right-hander is currently on the mend from tendinitis in his right foot.  He’ll throw a bullpen on Friday at Wrigley Field with scouts in attendance.

Walker, 23, has a 3.66 ERA with an 80/18 K/BB ratio in 86 innings this season. It’s his first bit of sustained success at the major league level. What’s arguably just as intriguing is the fact that Walker will be under team control through 2020.

The Mariners have been hovering around .500 for the last month and entered Thursday six games behind the first-place Rangers in the AL West and 4.5 games out of the second AL Wild Card slot, behind three other teams as well as the two Wild Card leaders. It’s enough uncertainty which could push the Mariners to sell.

Report: Mets, Brewers continue discussing Jonathan Lucroy

PITTSBURGH, PA - JULY 20:  Jonathan Lucroy #20 of the Milwaukee Brewers walks back to the dugout in the eighth inning during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on July 20, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
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On Monday, we learned that the Mets offered to swap catchers with the Brewers, Travis d'Arnaud for Jonathan Lucroy. The Brewers, as expected, turned that down. The two still continue to discuss a trade involving Lucroy, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports.

The Mets certainly could use some help at catcher. The club has gotten an aggregate .608 OPS from their backstops, the fourth-lowest mark in baseball, ahead of only the Pirates, Rays, and Indians. However, the Mets seem to be behind other teams — including a “mystery” team — in the bidding, according to Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball.

Lucroy, who took Thursday off, is batting .300/.361/.486 with 13 home runs and 50 RBI in 371 plate appearances for the Brewers this season. He can become a free agent after the season if his controlling club opts against picking up his $5.25 million option for the 2017 season.