With just over one week remaining in the Major League Baseball season, there are just a few teams in each league that will make the postseason cut, which chops the field of teams from 30 to 10.
The National League’s five teams have been set because, unfortunately, the Milwaukee Brewers faded so dramatically. They’re third place in the Wild Card race at 4.5-games back, which means they won’t have time to make up ground on Pittsburgh and San Francisco.
Not so in the American League where only some teams have already wrapped up playoff spots.
The Baltimore Orioles (93-62) have a very convincing 13-game lead – literally insurmountable – in the AL East, and the Los Angeles Angels (96-60) have bested their in-state rival Oakland to secure their AL West divisional crown.
The Detroit Tigers (86-69) are struggling to fend off the Kansas City Royals (84-70), whom the Tigers are unaccustomed to squaring off with this late in the season.
But for now, we’ll treat it as if the Tigers will hang on to that precious lead in the AL Central.
If they don’t: the Wild Card awaits, which means they have to play the dreaded play-in game, which is like a 50-50 toss-up.
Right now the standings for the AL Wild Card race are:
For all intents and purposes, the Indians are out of this race like Henry Clay’s presidential chances. (The Kentuckian ran four times and lost all of them.)
So it’s down to three, strong teams located west of the Mississippi river to decide who gets to face whom in the one-game playoff.
The Oakland Athletics face a tale of two series coming into their final week of the season. The team has been struggling mightily – really mightily, like if they don’t make the postseason it’d be the worst collapse of all-time. They have to play the best team (record-wise) in baseball right now – the Angels – for the next three games.
The good news? They’re at home in the Coliseum, for one, and for two they throw their best three starters (Samardzija, Gray, Lester) at LA.
But the problem is that they’ve been struggling so mightily that those three haven’t been pitching really well. Jeff Samardzija is still 6-12 on the season, despite being 2-7 when he came over from the Cubs.
The really good news is that they get to play the Texas Rangers (62-93), who are the worst team in baseball in terms of record and run differential (minus-136), while being second-worst in runs allowed (753).
Even though the Athletics must play on the road, it’s OK, because Texas is the worst home team in the Majors. They have an abysmal mark of 28-46 in Arlington.
The really bad news is that, weirdly, the Rangers are playing great baseball as of late. They’re 8-2 in their last 10 games and suddenly heating up. Plus, if they can’t take the best-looking girl in school to the dance, they’ll try to sabotage everyone else who can. They’ll have their A-Team out there to play the A’s on their last weekend of baseball.
The Angels have been playing garbage lineups lately, so let’s assume the A’s win two out of three, but with the way the Rangers have been playing, they certainly won’t sweep, and it’s likelier that they’ll split the series. They’ll go 4-3 down the stretch, staving off a collapse that would make Billy Beane bludgeon every individual seat in the stadium with a maple bat.
Final Record: 89-73
The Kansas City Royals need to play eight games to conclude their season, which is one more than the Athletics, but it may not be such a difficult challenge.
Oh wait. Or so I thought. They’ve played 154 games thus far – their record stands at 84-70 – but ESPN schedule, nor Google, has them down for playing more than seven games for the rest of the season.
Oh wait again. MLB.com has the schedule right. Always use MLB.com over everything, people. Tonight they are picking up a suspended game, which sits at 4-2 Indians in the bottom of the 10th inning with the Royals having three more outs.
Let’s count that as a loss for Kansas City.
This means that the Royals have seven more games – all on the road – against the Cleveland Indians (3) and the Chicago White Sox (4).
The Royals-Indians series is interesting because, should the Indians sweep or take all but one of the three games from the Royals, that means they clamber up the Wild Card standings and drag the Royals down. It’s a pivotal series for the two clubs, certainly.
Kansas City has a paltry plus-16 run differential and a mediocre home record at 42-38. (Good thing they’re playing all their games on the road where they’re ten games above .500, at 42-32.)
They’re skidding as of late, 4-6 in their last 10 games, and run into Carlos Carrasco, who’s been dominant lately, and Danny Salazar.
But they get lucky when facing the Chicago White Sox, because they don’t have to hit against the dominant Chris Sale. So this series will kind of be a joke considering they throw their three best guys in James Shields, Danny Duffy, and Yordano Ventura.
It can be said that the White Sox may win one on the back of Jose Abreu – they’ve done it all season – especially in a dicey pitching matchup with Jeremy Guthrie taking on hot-cold Hector Noesi, so the White Sox may win one.
The Royals will drop two of three from Cleveland, but take three of four from Chicago to finish the year 4-4 in their last eight.
Final Record: 88-74
The Seattle Mariners currently say 1.5-games out of a wild card spot, and they’re raring to get back into the mix.
Luckily for them they play an absolutely average ball club in the Toronto Blue Jays, albeit in the Rogers Centre, and a Los Angeles Angels team that didn’t care in their series four days ago, so really won’t care in their series four days from now.
In the Blue Jays series they do get Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey, two of Toronto’s stronger pitchers, but they avoid the guy who could shut them down on any given night in Marcus Stroman. So another plus and they also get to face J.A. Happ and the mediocre Todd Redmond, who just recently became a spot starter. Yeah, it’s been that kind of a year.
When looking at the fact that this series is on the road, it becomes evident it’s probably better that way: the Seattle Mariners are a much better club on the road (45-32) than they are at home (38-40).
So they’re getting the worse matchup on the better playing field – I never thought I’d type that about AstroTurf.
They should win three of four from Toronto.
Then they come back to Washington to take on the Angels – a team that will probably throw Jered Weaver on a pitch count and lift him early, same with C.J. Wilson.
This will not be a competitive team for the last three days of the season, kind of like a Week 17 NFL team that’s already locked-up a first-round bye.
Seattle will sweep Los Angeles.
That’s quite a bold 6-1 record to finish the season for the Mariners.
Final Record: 89-73
Provided that Cleveland doesn’t make a big run, or Detroit doesn’t suddenly start playing horrendously, here are the projected AL Wild Card Standings:
This could all unravel if Seattle splits their series with Toronto, because that would force them into a tie with Kansas City, which would mean a one-game playoff for a one-game playoff.
And that would be awesome.