The Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics both clinched playoff berths as the American League wild cards on Friday, leaving the Cleveland Indians on the outside looking in.
The A’s locked up their spot first when the Indians lost 8-2 on the road to the Nationals, before the Rays joined Oakland with a 6-2 victory at Toronto.
They will face each other in the AL wild-card game Wednesday, though the right to host the game is still up for grabs this weekend. Oakland (96-63) leads Tampa Bay (96-64) by a half-game ahead of the Athletics’ game in Seattle later Friday night. If the teams are tied at the end of Sunday’s slate, the A’s would be the home team after winning the season series 4-3.
The Rays return to the postseason for the first time since 2013, and they did it with the smallest Opening Day payroll in baseball at $62.1 million. They have the club’s most victories since 2010 and can still equal the team record of 97 set in 2008, when they won the American League pennant.
“We do some crazy stuff and people scratch their heads a lot,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “These guys don’t care. They want to win.”
Oakland will play in October for the second consecutive year, after falling to the New York Yankees in last season’s wild-card game despite winning 97 games in the regular season.
A’s manager Bob Melvin will pass Tony La Russa for the second-most postseason appearances in franchise history, behind only Hall of Famer Connie Mack, who took the Philadelphia A’s to eight World Series between 1905 and 1931.
The Indians (93-67) failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2015, having won the AL Central each of the past three years. But their third consecutive loss Friday, following two defeats to the Chicago White Sox this week, sealed their fate this season.
Cleveland is only the sixth team with at least 93 wins to miss the playoffs since the introduction of the wild card in 1994, and the first since the franchise also won 93 games but fell short in 2005.