By Larry Fine
(Reuters) – The Cleveland Indians claimed an American League wild card berth, while the Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers extended the season for one more game by finishing in a tie for the league’s second wild card spot on Sunday.
Cleveland capped a 10-game, season-ending winning streak with a 5-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins that gave them a 92-70 record and ensured they would host the AL wild card playoff game on Wednesday.
“Think I’m kind of speechless right now,” said Indians first baseman Nick Swisher, who got Cleveland started with a two-run homer in the first inning.
“From 94 losses to 92 wins,” he added about the team’s turnaround from a 68-94 mark in 2012. “I’m so proud to be part of this.”
Their opponent was still undecided as Sunday wins by the Rays and Rangers kept them deadlocked with 91-71 records and set up a do-or-die tiebreaker in Texas on Monday.
Tampa Bay scored six runs in the first inning and then held on to defeat the Toronto Blue Jays 7-6, while the Rangers snapped a 2-2 tie in the sixth on their way to beating the Los Angeles Angels 6-2.
Texas, which rebounded from a 5-15 September swoon by finishing with seven straight wins, was expected to start rookie left-hander Martin Perez against Tampa Bay’s 2012 Cy Young winner David Price.
The Rays have been knocked out of the playoffs in their last two postseason appearances by the Rangers.
“We have something to prove in Texas,” slugging third baseman Evan Longoria said.
The winner of Monday’s Rays-Rangers duel will advance to Wednesday’s one-game, wild card playoff in Cleveland to determine the fourth team for the American League Division Series, which will start on Friday. The Boston Red Sox, Oakland A’s and Detroit Tigers are already in as division winners.
In the National League, the Pittsburgh Pirates (94-68) will host the Cincinnati Reds (90-72) at PNC Park on Tuesday in their wild card contest after completing a three-game sweep of their final regular season series in Cincinnati.
The best-of-five NL Division Series, which features division champions Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers, will begin on Thursday.
The East champions Boston Red Sox closed the season at 97-65 for the best mark in the American League and will have home field advantage throughout the playoffs. They will host the wild card entry in the Division Series.
West winners Oakland (96-66) will host the 2012 American League pennant winning Tigers (93-69) in a rematch of last year’s first round, which was claimed in five games by Central Division champions Detroit.
The St. Louis Cardinals clinched home-field in the National League after blanking the Chicago Cubs 4-0 for their sixth win in a row to improve to 97-65 and will host the wild card entry.
West champions Los Angeles Dodgers (92-70) will travel to Atlanta to meet the East Division-winning Braves (96-66) in the other Division Series match-up.