Friday, September 13, 2013

Six in the Mix in the AL Wildcard

The American League wild card race is shaping into a big winner for those in favor of the two-team system that allows for a heart stopping one-game playoff at the end of the season. Not only is the playoff must see television but the race to get into the single-game elimination outing is turning into can’t miss scoreboard watch each and every night of the season’s final three weeks. Six teams are all legitimately in the race, separated by just 2.5 games on September 13th. While Texas and Tampa attempt to hold down the ranch with a one game lead, the big bad Yankees, despite all their injury problems and A-Rod drama are knocking on the post-season door just a game back. New York continued its relentless charge by winning three of four over Baltimore at Camden Yards. New York continues to bring the heat as it now sits within one game of its high-water mark for the season, 12 games over .500, which last occurred all the way back in May. However, the final series victory did not come without another price. Leadoff hitter Brett Gardner left the game in the first inning with a strained muscle on his left side. Obliques are one of the toughest strains for a baseball player to recover from in a timely manner because of the hitting motion and this could throw a serious wrench into the Yankees playoff chances that have pretty much been on the brink from the get-go of the season due to the injury bug that has been well documented unless you live on Pluto. With the victory the Orioles continue to be the Yankees little play toy as the win gives New York the season series victory at 10-9. Baltimore hasn’t won a season series from the Bronx Bombers since 1997. While the Yanks continue to push, the Tampa Bay Rays hoped to put a band-aid on some serious bleeding from the last two weeks. After blowing a 3-1 lead in the series finale at home against the first place Red Sox, the Rays rallied in the 8th for a run and an eventual 4-3 victory. The win comes off the heels of Tampa going 3-7 on a 10-game roadie and then losing their first two back at Tropicana Field against Boston. The Rays sudden September swoon has set up another huge series between the hated rivals Yanks and Sox this weekend in Beantown. The Friday match-up between Hiroki Kuroda and John Lackey has to favor the visitors despite the fact Boston lit up Kuroda for career worst 11 hits and five runs in just 5 2/3rds the last time he faced the Red Sox on August 17th. Overall, Kuroda is just 1-3 with a 4.26 ERA in five starts against Boston this year, splitting two outings versus Lackey, who is just 9-12 overall with a 3.48 ERA. Kuroda has been the Yankees man all season, arguably the only reason they’re still in the hunt despite their injuries. Manager Joe Girardi wouldn’t want to start anyone else in a must win series for his club. The Saturday match-up of C.C. Sabathia versus Jon Lester favors the Sox as does the Ivan Nova – Clay Buchholz Sunday outing. The Kansas City Royals have the toughest weekend ahead, facing the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park as they try to close in from 2.5 out. The Orioles try to regroup on the road at Toronto, also 2.5 back of the final spot. While the Blue Jays are a below .500 team at the Rogers Centre, so are the O’s away from Camden Yard. The Rays head back out on the road against a terrible Minnesota club that has won just 30 home games all season long against 41 losses. Cleveland, the unsung dark horse in all of this continues to grind under Terry Francona, moving to just 1.5 out after winning the first of three at U.S. Cellular Field against the hapless White Sox. With six teams all within a good or bad weekend of making the playoffs, no doubt this will come down to the final week, which is what the wild card spots where intended to do!

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