AL Wild Card race recap (September 2)

Leon Halip

Last week's action in the American League Wild Card race, with the good, the bad, and the ugly from the Indians and other contenders.


There was some discussion last week that I should still include Detroit in this recap, as the Indians still had an eye on catching them for the AL Central crown. At this point though, reasonable people can agree it's Wild Card or bust for the Tribe.

AL Wild Card standings through Sunday, September 1:

Team W L GB RS RA DIFF
Oakland 78 58 +2.5 610 533 +77
Tampa Bay 75 60 - 588 542 +46
Baltimore 72 63 3 640 602 +38
New York 72 64 3.5 542 547 -5
Cleveland 72 64 3.5 609 579 +30

Oakland is still in contention to win the West, 1 game back of Texas. There aren't recaps for the division leaders in this post, but here's the short version: The Red Sox went 5-1 last week, the Rangers went 4-2, and the Tigers went 3-4.

Cool Standings now projects 86 wins the the Indians, with an 18% chance of making the playoffs; Baseball Prospectus projects 86 wins, with a 15% chance of making the playoffs; Fangraphs projects 87 wins, with a 19% chance of making the playoffs.

Here's a look at each Wild Card contender's last week of action:

Oakland Athletics (6-1)

The A's spent most of the week in Detroit, for four games with the Tigers. Coco Crisp had 3 hits, including a home run, as Oakland won the opener 8-6. Brandon Moss and Seth Smith each homered Tuesday, pushing the A's to a 6-3 6th inning lead that became final when rain washed away the rest of the game. Wednesday, Dan Straily allowed only 1 run in 6 innings, but the real story was Oakland's 14-run explosion, keyed by 4 hits from Moss, including a pair of home runs. The Athletics were poised to win again Thursday, leading 6-3 in the 9th. Grant Balfour, who'd blown only one save all season, gave up 4 runs in a hurry, costing Oakland what would have been a very impressive sweep.

The A's returned home to host Tampa Bay for the weekend. Kurt Suzuki hit a 3-run HR Friday, Jarrod Parker pitched 7 strong innings, and Jed Lowrie used his 40th double of the year to drive in Crisp for the winning run in a 4-3 victory. Sonny Gray struck out 7 in 6.2 shutout frames Saturday. Grant Balfour continued his shaky week in the 9th, but Oakland held on for a 2-1 win, with Crisp providing 3 more hits. In Sunday's series finale, it was A.J. Griffin's turn to pitch well, he struck out 7 in 7 innings, Crisp homered again, and the A's won 5-1, completing the sweep.

Playoff chances: 95% (Cool Standings), 95% (Baseball Prospectus), 94% (Fangraphs)

Player of the Week: Brandon Moss (.364/.500/.955, 8 H, 4 HR, 11 RBI)

More from Athletics Nation: A look at Chris Young's struggles this year

Tampa Bay Rays (1-6)

The Rays began their week in Kansas City, making up a game that was snowed out in May. Tampa Bay was routed 11-1, as Jeremy Hellickson allowed 5 runs and couldn't escape the 3rd inning. He was later demoted to the minors.

Next, the Rays returned home to face the Angels. Tuesday night Jose Molina had 3 hits and Tampa Bay was up 5-1 in the 7th and 5-4 in the 9th. Fernando Rodney and Desmond Jennings conspired to blow that lead though, leaving them with a 6-5 loss. They rebounded for a 4-1 win on Tuesday, as Chris Archer allowed just 1 run on 5 hits in 7 innings. In Wednesday's finale, the bats went quiet, and Tampa Bay fell 2-0.

The Rays then began a 9-game road trip by traveling to Oakland. David Price pitched a decent game Friday night, but not his best, and the offense didn't help much in a 4-3 loss. The lineup struggled again Saturday, mustering just 1 run, wasting a strong effort from Alex Cobb, who allowed only 2 runs in 8 innings while Tampa Bay lost again. The Rays again struggled to score, dropping Sunday's contest 5-1. The sweep all but ended any chance Tampa Bay had of winning the East, and with the toughest remaining schedule of any contender, they've got a fight on their hands.

Playoff chances: 62% (Cool Standings), 77% (Baseball Prospectus), 75% (Fangraphs)

Player of the Week: James Loney (.333/.360/.500, 8 H, 1 HR, 5 RBI)

More from D Rays Bay: A look at what's left of the Rays division title hopes

Baltimore Orioles (2-4)

The Orioles were in Boston and got their week off to a rough start Tuesday, losing 13-2. Wei-Yin Chen was pulled in the 4th inning and charged with 8 runs. Chris Davis hit his 37th double and 47th home run Wednesday, helping Baltimore to a 3-1 lead, but the bullpen couldn't hold onto that lead, and the Orioles lost again, this time 4-3. Chris Tillman, who's having a major breakout season, took the mound in Thursday's series finale, and delivered 7 innings of strong work, striking out 8 and allowing only 2 runs. Doubles by Davis and Manny Machado provided the scoring in a 3-2 win.

The road trip continued in New York. Miguel Gonzalez gave up 7 runs and exited before retiring anyone in the 5th inning and the Orioles dropped the series opener 8-5. Scott Feldman gave up only 1 run in 7 innings Saturday, but the offense had only one runner reach even second base all night, and Baltimore lost 2-0. The O's trailed 3-0 in the 7th inning Sunday, but the offense then busted out for 7 runs, highlighted by 3-run homers by J.J. Hardy and Adam Jones, carrying Baltimore to a 7-3 win that put them back into 3rd place in the WIld Card chase.

Playoff chances: 17% (Cool Standings), 10% (Baseball Prospectus), 9% (Fangraphs)

Player of the Week: Manny Machado (.348/.385/.565, 8 H, 2 2B, 5 RBI)

More from Camden Chat: Labor Day Bird Droppings

New York Yankees (3-3)

The Yankees were in Toronto to begin their week, where despite the 650th home run of Alex Rodriguez's career (and the return of Derek Jeter, who went 0 for 3 with a walk after missing more than 3 weeks due to a calf strain), New York dropped the opener 5-2. They rebounded to win Tuesday's contest 7-1, with Andy Pettitte pitching 7 shutout innings and Alfonso Soriano hitting two more home runs, the 399th and 400th of his career. Hiroki Kuroda has been the Yankees' best pitcher in 2013, but Wednesday he was touched for 5 runs on 9 hits, his second straight start with at least that many of each. New York lost 7-2.

The Yankees then returned home to face Baltimore. CC Sabathia started off well Friday night, but struggled eventually. The bullpen pitched well though, Alfonso Soriano and Ichiro Suzuki each homered, and the Yankees won 8-5. Ivan Nova was the story on Saturday. He pitched his first ever shutout, allowing only 3 hits in a 2-0 victory for New York. Robinson Cano drove in both runs, one with an early double, the other with a late home run. The Yankees coasted to a 3-0 lead through 6 innings in the finale, but Andy Pettitte and three relievers combined to allow 7 runs in the 7th, leaving the team with a 7-3 defeat.

Playoff chances: 10% (Cool Standings), 7% (Baseball Prospectus), 7% (Fangraphs)

Player of the Week: Ivan Nova (1 start, 9 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 1 BB, 5 K)

More From Pinstriped Bible: Twitter reacts to Joba Chamberlain's latest

Cleveland Indians (1-5)

The Indians made a tough road trip, starting in Atlanta. They might as well have saved on baggage costs by leaving their bats at home, because they certainly didn't put them to good use. Tuesday they scored zero runs, going 0-7 with runners in scoring position and stranding ten men on base. Tuesday they exploded for 2 runs, but that wasn't enough to avoid a 3-2 defeat. On Wednesday Ubaldo Jimenez became the first Cleveland pitcher to record 10+ strikeouts in back-to-back starts since CC Sabathia in 2008, but the offense scored just 1 run, and the Tribe was swept out of town, having gone 0-18 with runners in scoring position during the series.

It was off to Detroit next, but the change of scenery did nothing to fix Cleveland's problems. They scored only 2 runs Friday night and lost a game ended early by rain. Zach McAllister had been strong in his previous 3 starts, but this time was knocked out in the 4th inning. The offense managed 5 runs Saturday (including an inside-the-park HR by Carlos Santana), it's highest output of the week, but Scott Kazmir allowed 4 runs and the bullpen allowed 6 more in another defeat. Danny Salazar matched zeros with Justin Verlander on Sunday. The bullpens eventually took over and the game went into the 9th still knotted at zero. 3 walks loaded the bases for Cleveland, and Mike Aviles lefted a ball just over the wall for a grand slam, giving the Indians a 4-0 lead and their only win of the week.

Playoff chances: 18% (Cool Standings), 15% (Baseball Prospectus), 19% (Fangraphs)

Player of the Week: Carlos Santana (.263/.391/.474, 5 H, 4 BB, 1 HR)

More from Let's Go Tribe: Indians/Orioles series preview

Injury News

Brett Anderson (Oak) - Made first start since April on Wednesday (stress fracture in right foot).

Wilson Betemit (Bal) - Out all season with torn PCL in right knee. On rehab assignment now, could return this week.

Bartolo Colon (Oak) - Returned on Thursday from a groin strain.

Travis Hafner (NYY) - 15-day DL (strained right rotator cuff). Could return late this week.

Jason Hammel (Bal) - 15-day DL (elbow strain). Could return late this week.

John Jaso (Oak) - 15-day DL (concussion). Could return next week.

Derek Jeter (NYY) - Returned on Monday from a strained right calf.

Corey Kluber (Cle) - 15-day DL (sprained finger). Expected to return late this week.

Matt Moore (TB) - 15-day DL (sore elbow). Expected to return Tuesday.

Steve Pearce (Bal) - 15-day DL (sore left wrist). Could return next week.

Ryan Raburn (Cle) - 15-day DL (sore left foot). Could return this week.

Josh Reddick (Oak) - 15-day DL (sprained right wrist). Could return next week.

The Week Ahead

Rays: 4 @ Angels, 3 @ Mariners

Athletics: 3 vs. Rangers, 4 vs. Astros

Indians: 3 vs. Orioles, 3 vs. Mets

Orioles: 3 @ Indians, 4 vs. White Sox

Yankees: 3 vs. White Sox, 4 vs. Red Sox

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