Cleveland Indians: Previewing the visit to Tampa Bay

(Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images) /
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Cleveland Indians
(Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Indians have an opportunity to create some separation in the AL wild card chase with a three-game series against the Rays.

The Cleveland Indians have gotten used to playing “must-win” games. They’ve essentially been fighting for their playoff lives since the end of May.

While their ultimate focus is to overtake the Twins atop the American League Central, the AL Wild Card game remains a very real possibility for the Tribe. A Labor Day weekend duel with the Tampa Bay Rays will have plenty to say about how that all shakes out in a month.

The Rays find themselves one game out of the second wild card spot behind Oakland, while Cleveland holds down the first wild card position by a margin of 1.5 games. A lopsided series one way or the other has the power to swing that pendulum further in either direction.

The Indians are catching Tampa Bay in the middle of a rough stretch. The Rays lost four in a row earlier this week prior to staving off a sweep at the hands of the Astros on Thursday. They’ve lost six of their last 10, including a 3-4 showing against the lowly Mariners and Orioles.

Tampa Bay is also battling a fair share of injuries. Kevin Kiermaier has been day-to-day of late, relievers Yonny Chirinos and Jose Alvarado are on the 10-day IL, and Brandon Lowe is out for the season in truly morale-crushing fashion.

They’ll get no sympathy from the Indians, and ideally won’t be given any mercy, either. Let’s scout out an AL East foe the Indians don’t see very often (under the pretense that all games are played as scheduled despite the imminent landfall of a hurricane).