Friday, September 27, 2013
Wild-card race: Extra baseball on tap?
By Todd Wills
ARLINGTON, Texas -- And then there were three.
The Texas Rangers, Cleveland Indians and Tampa Bay Rays are fighting for two wild-card spots in the American League and go into a weekend where scoreboard watching will be unavoidable.
The Rangers, of course, are in the most precarious position, needing to win and get help to make it to the postseason. Tampa Bay, winners of seven straight, is on the verge of clinching a wild-card spot, standing one game ahead of the Indians and two ahead of the Rangers with three games left to go.
The Indians, also on a seven-game winning streak, are a game ahead of the Rangers.
Here's how the weekend sets up for all of the contenders:
Rangers (88-71, .553, 1 game out of second wild card)
Next up: Friday-Sunday vs. Los Angeles Angels
Opponents' record: The Angels are 78-81.
The latest: The Rangers have won four straight games and picked up no ground in the wild card race. They couldn't ask for more with the three starters they send to the mound this weekend -- Alexi Ogando, Derek Holland and Yu Darvish.
Forecast: The key game is Friday night. If Ogando can beat C.J. Wilson -- and his record against the Angels is tremendous and Wilson's against the Rangers is awful -- then look for Texas to win the last three games and get to 91 wins. Will it be enough?
Rays (90-69, .566, in lead for first wild-card spot)
Next up: Friday-Sunday at Toronto Blue Jays
Opponents' record: The Blue Jays are 72-87 and have lost two straight games.
The latest: The Rays swept a three-game series against the lifeless New York Yankees. Tampa Bay has won at least 90 games in four straight season and five of the last six, both the most in the majors.
Forecast: The Rays got back to .500 on the road at 39-39 with the sweep of the Yankees. Friday's game against Toronto will be interesting. Unpredictable knuckleballer R.A. Dickey could send the Rays' suspect offense into a bad place. The Blue Jays will startle the Rays and win two out of three games as Tampa Bay ends up with 91 wins, same as the Rangers.
Indians (89-70, .560, in lead for second wild-card spot)
Next up: Friday-Sunday at Minnesota
Opponents' record: The Twins are 66-93 and have lost three straight.
The latest: The Indians roll on as veterans such as Nick Swisher and Jason Giambi have had crucial hits this week. Michael Brantley also has been red hot for the Indians.
Forecast: The Cleveland bullpen could be in shambles, at least for Friday night. Closer Chris Perez allowed four runs and got only two outs before being pulled for Joe Smith, who finished off a 6-5 win over the Twins. Look for a carryover. The Indians will still win two out of three games and end up with 91 wins, just like the Rangers and Indians, forcing a three-way tie for the wild cards.