CLEVELAND – Sporting sunglasses, a teal shirt and a backpack hanging from his shoulder, Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon looked like a tourist as he arrived late for his news conference.
Maddon didn’t have time to slip into his uniform and had a valid excuse. The Rays have been on the road.
In the past week, they’ve gone from Tampa to New York to Toronto to Texas to Cleveland, a journey covering 3,627 miles. The Rays have won 14 of their last 19 games.
Tonight, the Rays hope to book a trip to Boston.
Getting a complete game from starter David Price, Tampa Bay beat Texas 5-2 in a tiebreaker Monday, earning a wild-card spot for the third time in four years and a chance to face the Indians, making their first appearance in October since 2007.
Today’s winner will meet the Red Sox in Game 1 of the division series on Friday.
Like the Rays, the Indians had to scrap their way into the postseason. Cleveland ended a topsy-turvy regular season under manager Terry Francona by ripping off 10 wins in a row, playing error-free ball during the stretch.
Now, the Indians want to keep rolling and will start rookie Danny Salazar in their biggest game in six seasons.
“This team wasn’t expected to do anything,” said right fielder Nick Swisher, one of the team’s high-profile free-agent signings. “Just to be where we are right now is awesome, man.”
Tampa won four of the six games against Cleveland this season, but the teams haven’t met since early June.
Rays starter Alex Cobb (11-3) was asked what he learned about the Indians in his one start against them on April 6.
“That was so long ago, I don’t know if that really applies anymore,” he said.