Rays, Rangers force game to set final wild-card spot 

click to enlarge Texas Rangers
  • AP Photo/Brian Blanco
  • Texas Rangers Elvis Andrus sprints toward first after hitting a two-run infield single during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays, Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013, in St. Petersburg, Fla. Rangers' Craig Gentry and Ian Kinsler scored.
The Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers are pushing this regular season to game No. 163.

Tampa Bay and Texas both won Sunday and wound up even, forcing a tiebreaker for the second AL wild-card spot.

The Rays will play at Texas tonight, with the winner visiting Cleveland on Wednesday in another all-or-nothing wild-card matchup.

Rangers rookie Martin Perez starts against reigning AL Cy Young winner David Price. Texas gets a boost, too — All-Star slugger Nelson Cruz will be active after his 50-game penalty from Major League Baseball in the Biogenesis drug scandal.

“He’s served his suspension,” Rays star Evan Longoria said. “It is what it is. Justice has been served.”

Asked if he expected to play, Cruz said: “I think so.”

It will be baseball’s first tiebreaker — officially, this is a regular-season game and the stats count — since Minnesota beat Detroit 6-5 in 12 innings for the 2009 AL Central title.

What was supposed to be the final day of the regular season began with the possibility of a three-way tie for a pair of AL wild-card spots.

Instead, Cleveland clinched its first postseason berth since 2007, winning 5-1 at Minnesota to finish at 92-70 and one game ahead of Texas and Tampa Bay as the top wild card.

Nick Swisher homered as the Indians became the first big league team to win their final 10 regular-season games since Baltimore closed with 11 straight victories in 1971, STATS said.

“I’m telling you, we’re bringing that wild-card game back to the 216 and that place is going to be packed out and rockin’, baby!” Swisher said, citing Cleveland’s area code.

Rookie Danny Salazar is set to start for the Indians against either Texas or Tampa Bay.

In the National League, the Los Angeles Dodgers will be without slugger Matt Kemp for the postseason because of swelling in a bone in his left ankle. He left the clubhouse on crutches after the Dodgers lost to Colorado 2-1 in Sunday’s regular-season finale.

Johnny Cueto starts for Cincinnati against Francisco Liriano and the Pirates at Pittsburgh on Tuesday in the NL wild-card playoff.

Matchups

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Monday: Rays vs. Rangers for wild-card berth

Wednesday: Indians vs. Rays-Rangers winner

Friday: Tigers vs. A’s

Friday: Red Sox vs. Indians-Rays-Rangers winner

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Tuesday: Reds vs. Pirates

Thursday: Dodgers vs. Braves

Thursday: Cardinals vs. Reds-Pirates winner

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