The Yankees, dare we say, hold a comfortable three-game lead in the Wild Card Standings. Beneath them are eight teams within 4.5 games of the second spot. The race is a wild one, excitement is building, and it’s destined to get even wilder.
The Yankees, besides still having a chance to steal a division title from the Red Sox, are fighting to hold on to the lead they have as the first seeded Wild Card team. Holding that spot ensures they the one-game shootout for a trip to the Playoffs will be held at Yankee Stadium, where they are currently 35-22.
But the real action is behind them in the race for the second spot with eight teams involved and the last team(Toronto) only 3.,0 games behind the front leading Angels. Only four of the eight teams have a record above .500, and if you wait a few days, another look at the AL Wild Card Standings might very reveal another complete turnabout.
The problem, if you want to call it that, is that each of the teams easily reels off a five-game win streak, and then turn around and loses four or five in a row. Right now, for instance, both the Angels and Twins are 7-3 over their last ten, but a week ago they were being buried in the media.
Of the eight teams in the race, the Yankees have two series remaining with the Orioles, Tampa Bay, and Toronto. They also play Minnesota and Texas for three games, and a makeup game against Kansas City.
Which means that the Yankees will need to on-guard in protecting their lead, while also having a chance to figure heavily in the outcome as to who gets in and who doesn’t.
A composite view of each team in the race looks like this:
LA Angels (62-59) (-)
The Angels have come out of nowhere. They have been buoyed by the return of the best player in baseball, Mike Trout, and the emergence of Andrelton Simmons, their “other” star player. Aging, but still effective, Albert Pujols adds some punch to their lineup, but overall it’s been their pitching that’s created the rush to the top.
There’s only so much Mike Trout can do, but it sure would be a treat to see him in the playoffs again.
Kansas City Royals (61-59) (-.5)
Knowing the core of their 2015 Championship team are all leaving after this season, the Royals decided to go all in on a one for the Gipper last try to do it again. Courageously, their ownership did not trade Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Salvador Perez, Alex Gordon, and other who would have brought in the makings of a quick rebuild for the team.
They’ve been hot and cold since the All-Star break, and there’s no way to predict which end of that stick they’ll wind up on. Should they make it, they are a formidable team and one that could cause the Yankees some trouble with Jason Vargas as their starter in the shootout.
This team has something to play for, and they appreciate what their owner has done in putting his faith in the team. They’re dangerous.
Minnesota Twins (59-59) (-1.5)
The Twins have been doing it with smoke and mirrors all season. And every time they look like it’s time to count them out, they creep back in there. Until the Indians realized they were the defending Champions of the American League, the Twin held first place, stubbornly awaiting the assault by the Tribe.
The Twins rank fourth in the American League in pitching so that a definite plus, especially when it comes to playoff competition. But they only rank ninth in runs scored. Still, that’s better than the Royals, Angels, and Toronto, who rank below them in run production. Much like the Yankees, they’re a mystery team.
To their credit, the Twins have been hanging in there all season. Their true colors might be shown when they play the Yankees in their home ballpark for three games. A team of the future, they just don’t have enough yet.
Seattle Mariners (61-61) (-1.5)
The Mariners are defined by their record. A mediocre team that has just enough to break even for the season. The loss of Jim Paxton to the DL could be devasting if he misses three or four starts. Felix Hernandez, for whatever reasons, is no longer Felix Hernandez even when he’s healthy. And Robinson Cano, despite having a good season, is not capable of earning his inflated salary.
After that group, there’s not much left of this team.
The Mariners are wannabes when compared to the teams they are in competition with. Maybe next year.
Texas Rangers (59-60) (-2)
The Texas Rangers are always in it until they are not. Currently, they are playing like a team that’s in it with a modest three-game win streak and 7-3 over their last ten games. But generally, this is a team that always figures out a way to lose, especially in the Playoffs.
Still, they rank number three in runs scored, just behind the Yankees, and their pitching puts them just below the median among the fifteen teams with a 4.43 ERA.
Adrian Beltre can’t play forever, and it’d be good to have a national television audience to see the miracles of his talent, but the team behind him has not demonstrated the ability to dominate anyone, and the string is about to run out on the Rangers again.
There’s something not quite right with this franchise. And until they fix it, they’ll continue to be on the outskirts of those invited to the party.
Tampa Bay Rays (60-62) (-3)
This is the team I worry about more than other regarding the Yankees. They rank fourth in the league, just behind the Yankees in pitching. Chris Archer is capable of spinning a no-hitter every time he goes out there, and they’ve discovered a penchant for home runs never seen from this team before.
Evan Longoria seems to salivate every time he faces the Yankees, who the Rays will play six times in home and away series.
Again though, is this a team capable of reeling off five or six in a row to catch the Angels?
The Rays have the talent, and they have Archer, whose record hardly reflects his value to the team or his ranking as one of the top ten pitchers in the league. The six games against the Yankees determine their outcome for the 2017 season.
Baltimore Orioles (59-62) (-3)
Any team that has Buck Showalter as their manager is a team to be reckoned with. And you can expect the Orioles to come to the ballpark every day ready to compete. But they just don’t have enough to compete at this level, this year.
The addition of a rejuvenated Jeremy Hellickson in a deal with the Phillies at the deadline was big, but not big enough, and the Orioles are destined to play out the season, at best, with a .500 record.
Attendance is down at Camden, and the Orioles are not spending money like they used to. Adam Jones is not getting any younger, and neither is the team.
The franchise, arguably one of the best in baseball, seems to have lost its way of late. They’ve come to the fork in the road, and they remain stuck there. They’ll always be good, just not good enough.
Toronto Blue Jays (58-62) (-3)
The last of the Mohicans, as well they should be. The games this team plays makes you wonder if anyone is guiding the ship. Losing Edwin Encarnacion will haunt this franchise for years. To add insult to injury, they then turn around and sign Jose Bautista, who couldn’t find a job until the Jays gave him one to soothe their fan base.
The pick of many to win the division, the Jays opened the season in reverse of the Yankees, and they never recovered from it.
They’ll be easily buried, and the Yankees are just the team do it in the six games they face each other.
Say five Hail Mary’s and four Our Father’s to atone for your sins and look to 2018.
Recapping the horde and the Yankees
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The Yankees just need to take care of business when it comes to the Wild Card race. Win the games you are supposed to win, don’t look back, and prepare the team for the Playoffs.
Boston, however, is another matter. And if the Yankees can’t sweep or at least take two of three this weekend, that might be something the team should put on the back burner, hoping the Red Sox collapse and they walk in.
At this point, it’s all about getting in. And by getting in, the Bombers will have another opportunity to take care of the Red Sox, assuming they can beat the team they are assigned to (Cleveland or Houston).
But that’s looking too far ahead. At the moment, the Yankees need only to do what they’ve been doing, and that’s staying a cut above the rest.
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