THE FINISHING KICK – SEPTEMBER 15
By Paul Wales
AL Wild Card Race
The American League Wild Card race just got a whole lot more interesting in the last couple weeks. If we go back just 3 weeks ago, the Bronx Bombers looked like things were finally starting to click for them. The Yankees were the hottest team in baseball, riding a 13-game win streak, and held a healthy 3 game lead to host the Wild Card Game. Meanwhile, the Red Sox and A’s were battling for the second Wild Card spot with the Blue Jays and the Mariners still in the picture, but a blurry one, as well. Clearly, a lot can happen in just a couple weeks and it did.
At the conclusion of their 13-game winning streak, the New York Yankees went back to their inconsistent and worrisome ways. NY fans watched as the Pinstripes lost their next 4 games, won the following 2 games, then lost 7 in a row, making way for their AL East counterparts to reap the benefits of their downfall. Instead of riding the momentum of their win streak and making a possible run at the division-leading Tampa Bay Rays, the Yankees allowed the AL Wild Card Race to be as tight as it’s ever been.
Since the Bronx Bombers turned into the Slumping Sluggers, the Blue Jays have taken over the top Wild Card spot, winning 16 of their last 19 games. The current home run king and in contention for the Triple Crown, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and emerging Cy Young candidate, Robbie Ray, have been leading the way for the Blue Jays to become one of the hottest teams in baseball at the perfect time. But just because the Jays are playing their best baseball of the year right now, doesn’t mean they have any room for error the rest of the season.
The Boston Red Sox still continue to cling to one of the Wild Card spots as they have done the last couple months and are neck and neck with the Jays. With their winning percentage currently being .001 behind that of the Blue Jays, Boston looks to finish their season strong and overthrow the Blue Jays to ensure the Wild Card game goes through Fenway Park. Not only is Boston barely trailing Toronto, but the Yanks are still in it too, sitting a half game behind the Sox for that final Wild Card spot. With how these three teams have been playing the last month, what the rest of the regular season has in store for this trio is truly unpredictable. As the AL East teams continue to have hot and cold streaks, the AL West’s Mariners and A’s are 4 games back from the final Wild Card spot, hoping they can end the regular season on a hot streak and catch two of the three AL East squads.
The race for the final Wild Card spots looks like it’s going to be a nail-biter until the dust settles that first weekend of October. The AL Wild Card Race is truly living up to its name, as each of these teams are going to have to play every game until October as if it’s a win-or-go-home scenario. The playoffs are just around the corner, and all signs point to an exciting finish to the regular season.