The creative Tampa Bay Rays and the tenacious Oakland Athletics earned playoff spots Friday night, filling out the 10-team field for the Major League Baseball postseason.
Several of the pairings and sites are still to be determined before the playoffs begin Tuesday night with the NL wild-card game. Any tiebreakers that need to be decided on the field would be played Monday.
The Rays, back in the playoffs for the first time since 2013, and the A’s will meet Wednesday night in the AL wild-card game, with the host to be settled. Injury-plagued Cleveland was eliminated with an 8-2 loss at Washington.
Houston clinched home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs with a 4-0 win over the Angels. The Astros will take on the Rays-A’s winner while the New York Yankees face Minnesota in the best-of-five Division Series on Friday.
Washington ace Max Scherzer is set to start the NL wild-card game against St. Louis or Milwaukee. The winner of that game will begin the Division Series on Thursday at Dodger Stadium against NL West champion Los Angeles.
The same day, Freddie Freeman and the NL East champion Atlanta Braves take on the Central winner, either the Cardinals or Brewers, in the NLDS.
Tampa Bay has the lowest payroll in the majors at $66 million. The Rays pioneered the use of a reliever to start a game for an inning or two, an opener concept that has spread throughout baseball.
“We do some crazy stuff and people scratch their heads a lot,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said after a clinching 6-2 win at Toronto. “These guys don’t care. They want to win.”
Cash indicated Charlie Morton will start against the Athletics.
Oakland’s spot was sealed with the Indians’ loss. Several A’s hugged in the dugout before starting their game at Seattle.
The Athletics overcame several injuries to their pitching staff to return to the postseason for the second straight year.
Boston, which won the World Series last year and had the majors’ top payroll this year at $228 million, never recovered from a slow start and missed out.
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