2014 AL Wild Card Race
The 2014 American League Wild Card Race is shaping up to have one of the best closing stretches in recent memory. It was only a couple months ago that the Oakland A’s traded for Jon Lester and were being talked about as the best team in baseball. Since then the Athletics have seen the Los Angeles Angels clinch the AL West, and their lead in the AL Wild Card cut to only a single game as of September 19th. In August and September Oakland has gone 17-28, including getting swept by the Texas Rangers and the Atlanta Braves.
During that same stretch, the upstart Seattle Mariners have gone 26-18 and have positioned themselves to make a run at their first postseason appearance since 2001.
Throw in the Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers and you have a 4 team race for the final 2 spots in the American League playoff picture.
Here is a look at the keys for each team to get a chance at playing in October:
Out of the 4 teams in the running for the postseason, the Tigers are probably in the most advantageous position. They have arguably the best starting pitching rotation in all of Major League Baseball, with Max Scherzer, David Price, Justin Verlander, and Rick Porcello. The key series for the Tigers will without a doubt be against the Royals. If the Tigers can win 2 of 3 in that series, their chances of winning the AL Central skyrocket. Throw in the fact that Detroit’s final 7 games of the season will be at home against teams that are under .500 and you have to like the Detroit Tigers chances of making the 2014 MLB Postseason
Kansas City Royals
The Royals currently a game up for the final Wild Card Spot in the American League and are a half game back from the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central. Their series with the Tigers is without a doubt the most important 3 game stretch of the season. If the Royals win the series, or if they can pull off a sweep of the Tigers, they would have to have a huge collapse in their final 7 games to not make the playoffs. Those final 7 come against favorable competition in the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox, but are all on the road.
There is no team on this list that is harder to read than the Oakland Athletics. They showed before the all-star break that they have the ability to be one of the best teams in the majors. With a starting pitching rotation that including Jon Lester Jeff Samardzija and new comer Sonny Gray, they have what it takes to just pitch themselves into the post season. But taking a look at their epic slide through August and September, they will have to make some major changes, and quickly. Key for the A’s chances at making the post-season will be winning games that they are “supposed” to win. They finish the season with a 4 game series as Major League Baseball worst Texas Rangers, they will most likely need to win 3 of those games.
The Mariners have been on a tear through the final quarter of the season. Behind the stellar pitching of Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma, they have continued to string together series victories. Their final 7 games of the season come against a dangerous Toronto Blue Jays team, and AL West champion Los Angeles Angels. If the A’s continue on their current slide, they may only need to go .500 in these games to make the playoffs.