With three teams vying for two American League wild card spots and six teams in the National League the final month of baseball is going to be exciting.
Baseball is a marathon, not a sprint, but even in a marathon there comes a point where you have to sprint to the finish line. March until August is the marathon portion of baseball, but once you get to September that’s when you have to sprint to the finish line. Especially for teams who haven’t essentially secured their spot in the playoffs.
In September Rosters expand to 40 men for the last year, for some teams that means they get a chance to take a month long look at some guys they can use in the future. For some teams that means extra guys to use to get their horses some rest. For some teams it means someone can help salvage their season, and help bring a team to the playoffs.
In the American League the Cleveland Indians -who are only three and a half games back in the AL Central and own the top wild card spot- are one of three teams vying for two wild card spots. Along with the Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays only two and a half games separate them all. The Indians have quite the one-two punch at the top of their rotation with Shane Bieber and Mike Clevinger, and are set to get a big boost in the return of Carlos Carrasco and possibly Corey Kluber.
The Rays could also be getting back Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow just in time for a playoff push which would give them three front line starters. The A’s, who have a knack for second half playoff pushes don’t have the rotation the other two teams do, but have the offense to carry the slack. With the Indians losing Jose Ramirez that could be the difference in the Wild Card.
As for the National League things are a bit more complicated. The Washington Nationals, Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies, Milwaukee Brewers, New York Mets and Arizona Diamondbacks are all in contention. The Nationals who started the season poorly own the top wild card spot, while the Cubs own the second spot with only four and a half games separating them from everyone else.
The only problem the Cubs have is that they are having a hard time winning games on the road, even though they’ve won the first two games of a three game set in New York against the Mets. The Cubs are 27-39 on the road and only the Pirates, Marlins and Rockies have a worse road record in the National League. The Cubs have 15 road games remaining and while .500 would be fantastic their track record this season gives cause for concern.
The Mets who have essentially risen from the grave post All-Star break, and being backed by arguably the best pitching staff in baseball pose a real threat to everyone else (thankfully they won’t have to play the Braves until the last series of the season). The Brewers and Phillies have series pitching deficiencies that could cost them a spot in the postseason, but between Christian Yelich on the Brewers and Bryce Harper on Phillies each team has a star capable of carrying the team to the finish line.
The Wild Card is exactly what it says it is, wild. Nobody can predict what’s going to happen next.