Written by: Tre LyDay – Staff Writing Intern (@trelyday03)
Please note: This article was written on August 28th, and posted on August 30th
The American League Wild Card race is something that can’t be ignored right now. Fans check to see where their favorite team stands at the end of the day. Whether you’re a Royals fans, and all hope seemed lost in mid-July; or you’re a fan of the Orioles, and you’ve gone from possibly winning the division to barely hanging on to a playoff spot period. As we head to September every game matters. If you have a lead late in the game, you can’t blow those games. It’s what separates the playoff teams from the non-playoff teams.
As it stands The Red Sox, and Orioles own the two Wild Card Spots. The Tigers are a game back, the Astros and Royals are two games back, Yankees are three and a half back and the Mariners are three back. About as bunched up as it gets right?
The Orioles are in trouble. They’ve lost six of their last ten games (as of August 28th), and the bleeding doesn’t look like it’s going to stop anytime soon. Not only have they lost six of ten, but they’re taking it on the chin. Including an 8-15 loss on August 19th to Houston, a 2-12 loss the following day. They brushed off that series loss by taking three of four from Washington, only to travel to New York, and get beat 4-14 then 13-5 in consecutive days.
The Orioles rotation ERA is over five right now, and the last team to make the playoffs with a rotation ERA over five was the 2001 Indians. The Orioles also put their best pitcher Chris Tillman on the DL with a shoulder injury. Tillman is the only starter with double digit wins with 15, and the next closest is Dylan Bundy with seven. This might get worse before it gets better, because Toronto comes to town on Monday. The Orioles are hanging on by a thread right now, and the thread is getting thinner with each loss.
The Astros are an enigma that I can’t seem to solve. They can just as easily blow a team out, as they can to lose multiple games in a row. They lost five of seven to start the month, and after they took three of four from Minnesota the bleeding didn’t stop, as they went on to lose four of five.
The Astros have the reigning Cy Young champion Dallas Keuchel, and he hasn’t been close to the form he had last season. He’s been sub par to say the least. They don’t know when they’re going to get Lance McCullers back, because he just started throwing yesterday. Unfortunately for the Astros they have a tough road trip coming up. They head to Texas and then to Cleveland at the start of September, and then when they get home they play the Cubs and Rangers. In order for the Astros to make the playoffs they have to find consistency. They can’t have spurts where they blow teams out, and then lose four of five.
As for the Royals and Yankees, they’re in the same boat. The Yankees are three and a half out while the Royals are two games back. The Yankees have all of a sudden found an offense. They’ve scored 27 runs in two games against the Orioles. They’ve won six of their last eight games, and scored five or more runs in seven of them. They took two of three against the Angels and Mariners, and will take at least two of three against the Orioles. Two of those teams they are currently chasing.
Leading this charge is none other than Gary Sanchez. He’s hit 11 home runs in his last 23 games. Mark Teixeira has even said that if Babe Ruth was hitting behind Sanchez, you still walk him. Their starting rotation is getting the job done, with major contributions from two rookies. Chad Greene and Luis Cessa, who’ve done nothing but deal in their last two starts. As we know they are chasing two teams in their division in the Wild Card. Should they keep up this play, they could find themselves in the playoffs after everyone wrote them off following the trade deadline.
The Royals have won eight of their last ten, and just recently took two of three from a Marlins team that is in the heat of their own playoff race. One of their holes I’ve mentioned before was their starting pitching, and all of a sudden they figured it out. They’ve given up four runs or fewer in 13 of their last 15 games, only losing three of those games.
The Royals like the Astros are an enigma. I can’t solve them. They’ve managed to survive without Wade Davis, they’ve managed to survive with spotty starting pitching and they’ve managed to survive with an offense that doesn’t hit home runs, and at times is completely missing. Right now the Royals are in Boston, and they took the first game, but dropped the second game, and look to take a seventh straight series win. The Yankees come to town on Monday followed by Detroit, and those two series could make or break their season. If they were to lose both of those series then they’ll find themselves in a dire situation; and the way the Yankees are playing, it could play out to be the biggest series of the entire season for both teams.
The American League playoff race is going to be another wild ride, as it should be. If I had one word to describe this race it would probably be enigmatic. You just never know what’s going to happen on any given day.