The race for the second wild card in the American League isn’t exactly a picture of excellence.
It could still be awfully exciting.
Minnesota holds that spot after Sunday’s victory at Toronto, but there are six teams within three games of the Twins, meaning over two-thirds of the American League is within striking distance of the postseason. The teams in the hunt for the second wild card all have plenty of weaknesses, but they can still hold out hope that a strong September will put them one step closer to a World Series berth.
Here’s a breakdown of the seven teams chasing that final postseason spot:
MINNESOTA TWINS (67-63)
Why they might make the postseason: After a terrible first half with the bat, young center fielder Byron Buxton has been on a tear, posting an OPS of 1.027 since the All-Star break. He hit three home runs Sunday. In its final 32 games, Minnesota plays 12 against the out-of-contention White Sox, Tigers and Padres, plus four against the last-place Blue Jays.
Why they might not: That offense took a hit recently when Miguel Sano went down with a shin injury.
LOS ANGELES ANGELS (66-65)
Why they might make the postseason: Mike Trout has been so good he will likely be in the MVP conversation despite missing about a month and a half while injured.
Why they might not: The Angels have the worst team OPS in the AL. If Trout slumps at all, they’re in trouble. He’s hitless in his last five games, and Los Angeles won only one of them.
SEATTLE MARINERS (66-65)
Why they might make the postseason: They’ve been average in most areas this year, but their defensive efficiency numbers are among the best in the AL. In a race where 85 wins might be enough to prevail, Seattle could very well get there.
Why they might not: Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma are injured, and James Paxton joined them on the DL earlier this month. That’s a lot of uncertainty for the rotation.
BALTIMORE ORIOLES (65-65)
Why they might make the postseason: Their old formula is still somewhat intact. The Orioles are third in the AL in homers, and the top arms in the bullpen remain tough.
Why they might not: Their starting pitching has been a mess, and the schedule is a tough one down the stretch, with 16 of their next 23 games against teams with winning records.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS (64-65)
Why they might make the postseason: Their on-base percentage is the worst in the AL, but the Royals have power at the corners, with Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer very much in their primes.
Why they might not: Kansas City’s run differential of minus-46 is easily the worst among these teams. The Royals just went an entire three-game series against Cleveland without scoring a run , and the when the offense goes into funks like that, the rotation and bullpen are no longer good enough to carry the load.
TAMPA BAY RAYS (65-67)
Why they might make the postseason: Pitching and defense. Chris Archer has been as good a starter as any of these teams has, and the Rays are fourth in the AL in ERA.
Why they might not: Tampa Bay is hitting .224 since the All-Star break. The Rays are currently mired in a 14-23 stretch, and the offense would look even worse if not for a huge power season from Logan Morrison.
TEXAS RANGERS (64-66)
Why they might make the postseason: The Rangers are the only one of these teams that actually has a positive run differential on the season. If their poor record in one-run games (11-21) evens out down the stretch, that might be enough to earn them a wild card.
Why they might not: They traded star right-hander Yu Darvish about a month ago when things looked bleaker. Cole Hamels is still with the Rangers, but his strikeout rate has plummeted this year. Texas trails the Twins by only three games but has to pass a lot of other teams as well.
Here are a few other developments from around baseball:
Giancarlo Stanton and Rhys Hoskins. One is a brand name, the other isn’t, but both are hitting homers at a prodigious pace.
Stanton reached 50 homers for the season Sunday with his 17th of August. That happened on the same day Hoskins hit his 11th home run in 18 games. The Philadelphia rookie is slugging .828 since being called up from the minors earlier in the month.
Hoskins isn’t just making an impact with his bat. He also made a diving catch in the outfield that started a triple play in Sunday’s 6-3 victory over the Chicago Cubs.
LINE OF THE WEEK
Rich Hill of the Dodgers threw nine no-hit innings Wednesday night against Pittsburgh, only to have his own team go scoreless as well. Hill finally allowed a hit in the bottom of the 10th – a leadoff homer by Josh Harrison that gave the Pirates a 1-0 win – but it was still a tremendous pitching display.
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