In the hunt
In the National League, Colorado and Arizona have long had a firm grip on the two Wild Card spots. The American League has seen an amount of parity not seen in the Senior Circuit this season.
While it appears more and more likely the top AL Wild Card spot (including home-field advantage) will go to New York or Boston, the second spot—with all due respect to the NL Central Division—is the most wide-open race in baseball right now.
These are the teams currently sitting just outside the fifth and final playoff spot.
Los Angeles Angels
Overall record (through Sunday): 55-57
Last week: 4-2
This week: Vs. Baltimore Orioles (Mon.-Wed.); at Seattle Mariners (Thu.-Sun.)
This could be a make-or-break week for the Angels.
Three games against the Orioles and four versus the Mariners gives this team a chance to make a huge dent in the teams directly above them in the Wild Card standings.
The Angels have gone 10-10 since Mike Trout’s return from the disabled list at the start of the second half. The two-time MVP has been playing like the best player in baseball, but he will need to get more help if the Angels will still be “in the hunt” come next week.
Overall record (through Sunday): 55-56
Last week: 5-2
This week: At Los Angeles Angels (Mon.-Wed.); at Oakland Athletics (Thu.-Sun.)
A three-game sweep of the Kansas City Royals kicked off a solid week for the Orioles. Although a four-game split with Detroit will be somewhat disappointing, Baltimore established itself as a legitimate Wild Card threat over the past seven days.
Universally panned by national baseball writers for a failure to trade off assets at the trade deadline, the Orioles have gotten back in contention. That alone is impressive, but the struggles of Baltimore’s starting rotation (although absent against the Royals) will likely keep the Orioles from reaching the Wild Card game.
At that point, fans might rue the team not trading Zach Britton & Co. For now, they are likely just enjoying the ride.
Overall record (through Sunday): 57-56
Last week: 4-3
This week: Off Monday; at Oakland Athletics (Tue.-Wed.); vs. Los Angeles Angels (Thu.-Sun.)
A 14-9 record since the All-Star break has turned the Mariners into possibly the Kansas City Royals’ biggest threat going forward after a road split over the weekend.
A day off on Monday gives the Mariners a chance to reset after Sunday’s doubleheader. Then comes six games against West Division opponents in an effort to continue climbing the Wild Card standings.
Tampa Bay Rays
Overall record (through Sunday): 58-55
Last week: 4-3
This week: Off Monday; vs. Boston Red Sox (Tue.-Wed.); vs. Cleveland (Thu.-Sun.)
The Rays might have had the strangest week of all the AL teams.
After taking three of four from pennant-favorite Houston, Tampa Bay scored just two runs while dropping two out of three games against Milwaukee. Oh, the ups and downs of the baseball season.
This week sees the Rays host two division leaders for six games. It will be a monumental week for Tampa Bay.
So the question is which Rays team will show up this week?