Regular season baseball is winding down and the hunt to play in October continues. With just two weeks left, the American League race to the Wild Card has left fans of three teams spooked.
The Oakland A’s, Tampa Bay Rays and the Cleveland Indians seem to constantly swap where they stand in the Wild Card race. Oakland currently holds the No. 1 spot and are a game and a half ahead of Tampa Bay. Cleveland trails by another 1-1/2 games in the third spot.
Oakland will play 12 more games this month, split evenly between home and away with just two days off for the remainder of the season. The A’s will host three-game series against the sub. 500 Kansas City Royals (55-95) and the Texas Rangers (74-77).
The Athletics just swept the Rangers on Sunday in Arlington, Texas and hope to replicate their efforts starting Friday. Oakland got the best of Kansas City in a four-game series a couple of weeks ago (3-1) and hope to follow suit.
The A’s will start Tanner Roark (10-8, 4.01 ERA) on Monday against Glenn Sparkman (4-11, 5.94 ERA). LHP Brett Anderson (12-9, 4.07 ERA) will face Jorge Lopez ( 4-7, 6.09 ERA) on Tuesday. The series will finish on Wednesday at 12:37 p.m. with Homer Bailey (13-8, 4.76 ERA) taking on LHP Danny Duffy (6-6, 4.55 ERA).
Oakland get an off day before they head to Los Angeles for a two-game series against the Angels. The Angels have only been able to beat the A’s five times this season in 15 attempts. Mike Trout will not be in the lineup due to season-ending surgery on his right foot.
Without the probable AL MVP to worry about in the clean-up spot, the A’s should feel confident. However, the Rays lost to the Angels on Sunday without Trout’s presence. This allowed the A’s to advance from a half a game to a game and a half lead with their win over the Rangers on Sunday.
The A’s seem to struggle against the Mariners, the last place team in the AL West. The Mariners have hosted the A’s five times in Seattle this season and have won three. The A’s are riding a six-game win streak in a very tight race, but their schedule looks promising.
The area of concern for the A’s is whether the bullpen can come through in the clutch. Khris Davis seemed to have been in a funk and hadn’t hit for power in months, but after back-to-back home runs by the third inning against the Rangers on Friday night, it looks like he may be getting back in his form, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Oakland starting pitchers have worked hard and gotten deep into the game, averaging five to six innings, but Mike Fiers (14-4, 4.09 ERA) reported his hand felt numb during his Saturday start and the cause is unknown. He will undergo more procedures to figure out what is wrong on Monday, in Oakland. The A’s will need him and hope it is nothing serious.
The Cleveland Indians just completed their toughest series of the month, a four game series to the No. 1 team in their division, the Minnesota Twins. One of the games was postponed and the reschedule date has yet to be determined. Cleveland is now 4-1/2 games behind the Twins in the AL Central. It is unlikely that Cleveland will win the division, but anything is possible in the great game of baseball.
Tampa Bay has the toughest schedule out of the three teams. The Rays will play two-game series against two powerhouse teams. They host the New York Yankees and will travel to Los Angeles and play the Dodgers (97-54), who have the best record in the National League.
The Yankees and Astros stand tied for the best record in the American League at 98-53. Everyday the best record in baseball is shifting between Houston and New York. Whichever team finishes the season with the best record will host the winner of the Wild Card game.
The Rays also have to play four games against the Boston Red Sox who hold the No. 4 spot in the Wild Card race. They have a very tough schedule and a lot to play for. They have the least amount of games to play and will have three days off throughout the remainder of the month.
The Rays have only been able to defeat the Yankees four times, but in those four times, three of them were in Tampa Bay. The Rays will host the Yankees and are hoping a home field advantage will be in their favor as they battle against two teams with much easier schedules.
The beauty of baseball is, you never know what is going to happen. One bad pitch, one good hit, one bad call or one bad injury can ultimately change the outcome of the game. It is going to be a nail-biting two weeks.