The Cleveland Indians haven't made the postseason since 2007 but are closing in on doing just that if they maintain their slim lead over a host of American League opponents in the season's final week. The White Sox dreams of a 2013 playoff appearance died long ago, but they can play spoiler and make the Wildcard race more interesting by knocking off the Indians tonight on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins at
Those hopes were kept alive last night when 42-year-old Jason Giambi drilled a pinch-hit two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth off Addison Reed to give the Indians a 5-4 win. The Rangers were, at the time, in the process of beating the MLB-worst Astros for a second straight night, so Giambi's homer allowed Cleveland (87-70) to stay one game ahead of Texas (86-71) in the Wild Card standings.
The Kansas City Royals (83-74, 4 GB), New York Yankees (82-75, 5 GB) and Baltimore Orioles (81-76, 6 GB) are still mathematically alive, but it appears the final two playoff spots will come down to Cleveland, Texas and Tampa Bay (88-69), who leads the Indians by percentage points for the top Wildcard spot.
With five games remaining, the Indians will send 23-year-old Danny Salazar to the mound to face Chicago's Dylan Axelrod. Salazar, a rookie, has made nine starts in 2013, compiling a 1-3 record but an impressive 3.09 ERA. In four September starts he is 0-1 but, again, has pitched well, holding a 2.29 ERA. Two weeks ago he threw 3.2 shutout innings against the White Sox in the Indians' 3-1 win. Nine of his 11 recorded outs came via strikeout -- he has 57 strikeouts in 46.2 innings.
Axelrod has struggled throughout much of the 2013 season, but he did have his best outing in months against the Indians earlier this month. Though he hasn't won since Aug. 7, he pitched five innings of shutout baseball as a reliever in the White Sox 14-3 loss to Cleveland. Perhaps he'll be able to ride that momentum into tonight's start, when he tries to do former Chicago athletes Alex Rios and Matt Garza in Texas a favor.