As we rapidly approach the middle of August, the Wild Card races are really starting to heat up. Of course, there’s not much to heat up in the National League as the Arizona Diamondbacks closed out Friday with a 4.5-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals. The amazing race is in the American League, where two games separate six teams vying for the second Wild Card spot.
In the thick of the race, the Baltimore Orioles, who were seven games under .500 in the middle of July, bring up the rear just two games back of the Minnesota Twins. The Seattle Mariners, Tampa Bay Rays, and Anaheim Angels sit just a half a game back of the Twins. Wait, the Mariners and Twins? How did we get into this bizarre Little Big League world? Let’s examine.
As recently as July 31, the Kansas City Royals held a 2.5-game lead for the second Wild Card spot and five games separated them from the Angels with four teams between. Since that time, the standings have shuffled like a deck of cards. The Texas Rangers have even made a run to within three games, but I wouldn’t consider them a threat after pitcher Yu Darvish was shipped off to the LA Dodgers.
The Twins have been hot at 8-2 in their last 10 games, with the rest of a weekend series against the lowly Detroit Tigers. As for the Mariners, in the seven series they have played since the All-Star Break, they have won five. The Angels sit at 8-3 since July 31 and center fielder Mike Trout has hit safely in all but one game. Thought only one game over .500 since the start of August, the Rays have managed to hang around simply by virtue of timing their wins with losses of Wild Card leaders. All are solid recipes for chipping away at a playoff spot, though some are better than others.
For the story behind the continued shuffling of our contenders, they ebb and flow and will continue to do so. The Twins have won seven in a row, and the Angels are on a five-game win streak. Meanwhile, the Royals are free falling, having dropped six straight, while the Mariners have now lost three in a row.
To make things even more interesting, it looked like the New York Yankees, who hold a three-game lead the first slot, would make the race even closer Friday night. But a five-run eighth inning erased a four-run deficit to the Boston Red Sox and put that dream to bed early. Some things just aren’t meant to be, I guess.
We can still count on movement in the Wild Card standings as each of these six teams are scheduled to collide with at least two other teams in this race before August is over. The inconsistency and unpredictability of these teams will make for a wild September. After all, it is the Wild Card race.
Photo by Brad Curnow