The chase for the two American League wild card spots is hotter than Miguel Cabrera’s bat. Six teams have a realistic shot at grabbing one of the two places, and the final couple of weeks of the MLB season will be all the more exciting for that fact.
As you no doubt already know the new(ish) Wild Card system means that there are two spots available as opposed to the old version of the system in which only one team progressed through same. The two teams then play a one game playoff to see who goes on to play in the Divisional round of the playoffs-actual.
The teams in contention are (deep breath) Texas, Tampa, New York, Cleveland, Baltimore and Kansas. Yes, Kansas. The intensity of the chase comes from the fact that they are right now all within 2 games of each other in the Wild Card standings. It is entirely realistic to suggest we might see a Wild Card playoff game between Kansas and Cleveland, with ‘bigger’ clubs like Texas and New York watching from a distance as they make their off-season holiday plans.
Of the six clubs, which are the more likely to progress? Let’s chop it up.
Despite currently being the leader of the pack we are talking about, Texas are facing a tough-ask in grabbing one of the two available spots. First of all, they are on a terrible run of form. They just got swept in three games by Pittsburgh (huge red flag, an AL team being swept by an NL team at home in their own ballpark!) and are 2-8 in their last 10 games. They have 17 games left and 10 of those are against Wild Card rivals, including a crucial 4 game series in Tampa. All things considered, Texas are in deep trouble.
Speaking of Tampa, how bizarre is it tuning in to watch their crucial games against the Redsox only to see that cavernous, gaudy stadium basically empty? Their fans are nothing short of a disgrace. Their form is pretty bad too, they are 3-7 in their last 10 games and are being pushed aside by Boston as we speak. Their remaining schedule is littered with potential booby-traps. There’s the big 4 game series against Texas and then 4 against the Orioles and 3 against the Yankees. With the way they are playing right now, you can’t really back Tampa to grab one of the 2 spots with any confidence.
The Yankees are an interesting case. They are playing to a reasonable standard, 6-4 in their last 10, if you forget the recent Redsox series, they had been taking care of business up to that point. The forthcoming weekend series against Boston will of course tell us a lot about their chances, and they have Kuroda, Sabathia and Nova lined up for that. The fact is, whatever they do in that series, they then face a pretty soft remaining schedule. 9 games against bottom-feeders Toronto, San Francisco and Houston are potentially the Yankees ticket to the playoffs. There is a series against Tampa too in there to worry about, but all in all you would have to think the Yankees can win at least 10 of their remaining 16 games and potentially pass both Tampa and Texas on the basis of that alone.
Cleveland are having a great season and despite a little 2 game losing streak are in good form (6-4 in their last 10) at just the right time. They are facing nothing short of a cake-walk of a remaining schedule too, with 14 games against the White Sox, Astros and Twins. They have 6 alone against the White Sox and you have to fancy them to win 4 of those at least, with as bad as Chicago are playing. They should take 11 or 12 of their remaining games and with that push themselves up the Wild Card standings.
We’ll call it right now, the Orioles are not going to the Wild Card playoff. It just isn’t happening. Sure, the 6 games against the abysmal Blue Jays on their run in look juicy. However, the 11 remaining games against New York, Boston and Tampa are the reason the Orioles will not be playing playoff baseball this season. The fact is they have to pass 4 different teams to grab the last 2 spots, and with that schedule ahead of them that just isn’t happening.
Finally, Kansas have had a fantastic season thus far, and they are playing good baseball just when it matters most, 7-3 in their last 10. The problem for them is they have to pass 5 teams to make the playoff, and they face 9 very difficult games against Detroit, Cleveland and Texas. Their only chance is if they survive those 9 and then blast their way through a remaining 7 games against Seattle and Chicago. It could happen, sure, but the odds are against them. They are simply running out of schedule.
Cleveland and New York have a great chance of facing each other in the Wild Card playoff game. Cleveland are playing good ball and have a very straight forward remaining schedule. The Yankees have a tricky few games against Boston and Tampa but after that they face a 9 game run-in against some of the Majors worst teams.
However, any which way you chalk it up, the remaining couple of weeks should be fascinating.
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