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.
If we haven’t said it before, it bears repeating: When it comes to pure muscle mass and power, no major league player rivals the sheer force of Giancarlo Stanton. His record-setting 504-foot home run in 2016 has yet to be bested in the Statcast era (though it narrowly beat out Jake Arrieta‘s 503-foot blast in 2015, because baseball is weird), he broke the Dodgers’ outfield fence on an attempted catch at the wall last Sunday, and he carries 25 home runs that have each exceeded 460 feet.
It should come as little surprise, then, that when Stanton muscled his 12th home run of the season against the Angels on Friday night, it not only hit the batter’s eye, but left a visible dent in the wall:
Stanton’s mammoth shot put the Marlins on the board in the first inning, setting the stage for a four-run effort that gave the club an early lead. The home run measured a cool 462 feet, the slugger’s longest of the season. He still has a little ways to go to catch up to the 2017 season leader, Jake Lamb, whose 481-foot home run against the Rockies currently leads the pack.
The next item on Stanton’s bucket list? If we’re lucky, maybe something a little like this:
Angels’ right-handed reliever Bud Norris made his 23rd appearance of the season on Friday, and after just three pitches, he was done for the night. He worked a 2-1 count to Marlins’ Dee Gordon in the eighth inning, then promptly exited the field after experiencing some tightness in his right knee. Neither Norris nor manager Mike Scioscia believe the injury is cause for major concern, and the 32-year-old right-hander admitted that it may have had something to do with his lack of stretching before he took the mound. For now, he’s day-to-day with right knee soreness, with the hope that the issue doesn’t escalate over the next few days.
While the Angels are lucky to have avoided serious injury, they’ll need Norris to pitch at 100% if they want to stay competitive within the AL West. They currently sit a full nine games behind the league-leading Astros, and haven’t been helping their cause after taking five losses in their last eight games. Friday’s 8-5 finale marked their third consecutive loss of the week.
When healthy, Norris has been one of the better arms in the Angels’ bullpen. Through 23 2/3 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 3.4 BB/9 and an outstanding 11.8 SO/9 in 23 outings. The righty hasn’t allowed a single run in four straight appearances, recording three saves and helping the club clinch four wins in that span. This is his second setback of the year after sustaining a partial fingernail tear on his pitching hand during spring training.