AL Wild Card standings through Sunday, September 22:
|Team||W - L||GB||RS||RA||DIFF||FanGraphs Wild Card Odds|
As those standings show, this is basically a three-team race, with the Royals, Yankees, and Orioles all mathematically alive, but in a position where they probably need to win out, and hope from enough help from others.
Here's a look at each Wild Card contender's action from last week:
Tampa Bay Rays (5-2)
The Rays hosted the Rangers for four games during the week. Alex Cobb struck out 10 in the series opener, while Wil Myers had a home run and a double in a 6-2 win for Tampa Bay. Jeremy Hellickson took the ball on Tuesday, but his rocky season continued as he gave up 5 runs and didn't make it out of the 3rd inning. The Rays managed just 4 hits of their own, and fell 7-1. Wednesday's game went 12 innings, which is when Desmond Jennings singled to score pinch runner Sam Fuld, giving Tampa Bay a 4-3 win. Matt Moore struggled in the series finale, and the bats had a rough go of things again, leaving the Rays with an 8-2 loss and a series split.
Next into town was Baltimore, a team clinging to Wild Card contention. Friday night's game was tied 4-4 at the end of the 7th. It was still tied more than three-and-a-half hours later, at the end of the 17th inning, as a parade of relievers put up zeroes. Myers went 0 for 8, becoming the first Tampa Bay player ever to do that. Desmond Jennings didn't even enter the game til the 9th, but still had 4 at bats, including a double in the 18th. Two batters later, David DeJesussingled to score Jennings, ending the game after 6:54 of play. The two teams combined to use 21 pitchers, setting an MLB record. Jennings remained hot on Saturday, hitting a 3-run home run, while Cobb struck out 12 and took a shutout into the 9th (ultimately allowing 1 run in 8.1 innings), as the Rays won 5-1. DeJesus homered Sunday, while six Tampa Bay pitchers combined to allowed just 1 run in a 3-1 win. Tampa Bay will go for the sweep Monday afternoon.
Player of the Week: Alex Cobb (2 starts, 16.1 IP, 3 ER, 11 H, 3 BB, 22 K)
More about the Rays at D-Rays Bay
Cleveland Indians (5-2)
The Indians traveled to Kansas City to face a team with a winning record for the final time this season. Lonnie Chisenhall homered, but Scott Kazmir was left in two batters too long, and the game eventually got blown wide open, leaving the Tribe with a 7-1 loss. Corey Kluber took the mound Tuesday, and wasn't sharp. He lasted only 4.2 innings, and struck out only 2 hitters while allowing 9 base runners and 3 runs (he stranded a runner on third three times, so it could have been worse). They were down 3-1 in the 7th until Michael Bourn drove in a run with a triple to right, then scored on a sac fly, tying the game. Bourn also homered in the 9th, finishing the scoring in a big 5-3 comeback win. With a chance to effectively knock Kansas City out of the race, the Indians instead faltered in Wednesday's finale, as the offense struggled in a 7-2 loss.
It was then back home to Cleveland for four games with lowly Houston. Ubaldo Jimenez pitched another beauty, allowing 1 run in 7 innings, with 9 strikeouts against 0 walks. After a 1st inning single by Jason Kipnis scored Nick Swisher though, the offense was silenced. Yan Gomes threw two runners out on the base paths, helping the Tribe trade zeroes until the 11th, when Matt Carson's tremendous month continued with a walk-off single. Friday's game ended early, when the game was called due to a massive rain storm with the Indians ahead 2-1 in the middle of the 7th. Scott Kazmir started Saturday's contest, and struck out 10 in 7 innings, while allowing only 4 hits. Asdrubal Cabrera had 3 hits and Michael Brantley homered in a 4-1 victory. The Tribe fell behind 2-0 in the fourth Sunday afternoon, but stormed back to win 9-2. Kipnis and Brantley each had 3 hits, while Carlos Santana hit his 19th home run of the year. It was the fourth 6-game sweep of the year for the Indians, a feat no team had accomplished since the 1961 Yankees.
Player of the Week: Michael Brantley (.423/.444/.577, 11 H, 1 HR, 5 RBI)
More about the Indians at Let's Go Tribe
Texas Rangers (3-4)
The Rangers entered the week have lost six in a row, dropping them from AL West contention into the thick of the Wild Card fight. They began this week in Tampa Bay. Texas managed just 6 hits Monday, while Matt Garza allowed 6 runs before exiting in the 5th inning of an eventual 6-2 defeat. Alexi Ogando made his first start in over a month Tuesday, going 5 innings and allowing just 1 run. Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, and Leonys Martin each homered as the Rangers snapped the losing streak. Texas took a 3-2 lead in the 11th inning Wednesday, but Joe Nathan suffered just his third blown save of the year, and the Rangers then lost in the 12. The offense did the heavy lifting in Thursday's finale, as Andrus, Mitch Moreland, Alex Rios, and Geovany Soto each homered, lifting Texas to win that split the series.
The road trip continued in Kansas City for the weekend. The Rangers could only manage 5 hits Friday night, wasting a strong effort from rookie starter Martin Perez, who worked out of a couple jams. Garza made his first good start of September on Saturday, allowing only 1 run in 8 innings. Adrian Beltre had a pair of hits in the game, one of which drove in Andus with the eventual winning run in a 3-1 victory. Ogondo pitched 7 shutout innings in Sunday's rubber match, but the lineup couldn't do anything, and the game was still scoreless in the 10th. Joakim Soria made his first appearance in KC since leaving the Royals, and gave up a walk-off grand slam, dropping the Rangers 1.5 back of the second Wild Card spot, the first time since July they've been in that position.
Player of the Week: Alexi Ogando (2 starts, 12 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 9 K)
More about the Rangers at Lone Star Ball
Kansas City Royals (4-2)
The Royals hosted the Indians to begin the week, needing to win at least 2 of 3 to stay in the race. James Shieldsstruck out 10 in the opener, while Salvador Perez led the offense with 3 hits in a 7-1 victory. Kansas City's top pitching prospect Yordano Ventura was called up to make his MLB debut in Tuesday's game, and he allowed just 1 run in 5.2 innings. KC led 3-1 heading into the 7th, but a string of relievers allowed 4 runs over the game's final 3 innings, leaving the Royals with a bitterly disappointing loss. With their backs against the wall, Kansas City took a 1st inning lead in the rubber match, and put a close game out of reach in the 8th, getting multihit games from Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler, and Alcides Escobar, along with 4 shutout frames from baseball's best bullpen. The win kept KC's hopes alive.
There could be no let up though, as the Rangers came to town for the weekend. Once again, the Royals needed to win at least 2 of 3 to keep its (already long) shot at the playoffs intact. Ervin Santana gave up 1 run over 7.1 innings, continuing his strong season. Alcides Escobar drew a bases-loaded walk in the 8th, sending KC to a 2-1 win. Saturday was another difficult game for the offense, as an Eric Hosmer home run in the 9th provided their only scoring in a 3-1 loss. Kansas City turned to James Shields on Sunday. He was up to the task, throwing 8 shutout frames. The lineup's troubles continued though, and the game went to extra innings still knotted at zero. With two outs in the 10th and the bases loaded, Justin Maxwell hit a home run to deep left field, sending the crowd happy. The playoffs are a long shot, but Sunday's victory clinched the Royals' first winning season since 2003.
Player of the Week: James Shields (2 starts, 14 IP, 1 ER, 12 H, 3 BB, 12 K)
More about the Royals at Royals Review
New York Yankees (3-3)
The Yankees entered the week on thin ice, but with a fairly easy-looking week, a 5-1 stretch that might put them only a game out of the second Wild Card seemed entirely possible. They dropped 2 of 3 in Toronto to start things off though, putting their chances on life support. They won the first two games back at home against San Francisco, but lost the finale (in what was likely Andy Pettitte's last start in Yankee Stadium). The only reason not to write them off entirely, is that Yankees host Tampa Bay for 3 games this week. With a sweep, they could find themselves only a game out of the playoffs entering the weekend. Anything short of a sweep against the Rays though, and they're finished (and even with a sweep, they may be finished).
Player of the Week: Ivan Nova (1 start, 9 IP, 0 ER, 6 H, 1 BB, 7 K)
More about the Yankees at Pinstriped Bible
Baltimore Orioles (2-4)
The Orioles won their first two games of the week in Boston, and were only one game out of a playoff spot at that point, with a massive weekend series in Tampa Bay looming. If they could finish off the sweep at Fenway and then win three games against the Rays, they'd be in possession of one of the Wild Card spots. Instead though, Baltimore lost the finale in Boston, and then dropped the first three games in Florida. They now find themselves 4.5 games out of the playoffs with 7 games left. With one more victory, they'll clinch the franchise's first back-to-back winning seasons since 1996 and 1997, but the playoffs aren't going to happen.
Player of the Week: Scott Feldman (2 starts, 11.1 IP, E4 R, 8 H, 8 BB, 10 K... the best of a very weak week for Baltimore)
More about the Orioles at Camden Chat
The Week Ahead
Rays: 1 vs. Orioles, 3 @ Yankees, 3 @ Blue Jays
Indians: 2 vs. White Sox, 4 @ Twins
Rangers: 3 vs. Astros, 4 vs Angels
Royals: 3 @ Mariners, 4 @ White Sox
Yankees: 3 vs. Rays, 3 @ Astros
Orioles: 1 @ Rays, 3 vs. Blue Jays, 3 vs. Red Sox