Something that has become apparent about the AL Wild Card race: a couple of excellent teams are going to miss out on the postseason. The AL Wild Card is no joke. You can rip apart the NL Wild Card all you want right now- the Braves are an outstanding team and they’re going to end up playing a one-game playoff against a vastly-inferior Cardinals or Dodgers team that may only win 86 or 87 games. For the AL Wild Card, there are four quality teams any of whom deserve to make it. It’s going to take 91 or 92 wins to make it even for the second Wild Card. And it’s going to come right down to the wire.
The Tampa Bay Rays are absolutely on fire. After their dramatic win on Thursday night, with Evan Longoria drilling a go-ahead homer in the top of the 9th, the Rays have now won 8 in a row. They’ve reached a point where they’re in control of their own fate- if they win out the rest of the season they’re in, and even if they win only 5 of 6 (with one of the losses coming against the White Sox, not the Orioles), they’ll probably make it as well. Will that happen? You never know at this point. But everyone else knows that they have to find ways to win games or the Rays will lap them again. They failed to do that on Thursday, and the Rays took advantage.
Rangers 9, Athletics 7
This game began as a nightmare for the Athletics and you have to give them credit for battling back, but they fell short and it counts the same in the standing. The Rangers pounded Travis Blackley for 5 runs in the first inning, with Ian Kinsler leading off the game with a home run, Michael Young lacing a 2-run single, and Mike Napoli drilling a 2-run homer. Josh Reddick‘s 30th homer of the season off of Matt Harrison made it 5-1 before the Rangers and A’s exchanged RBI doubles from Josh Hamilton and Jonny Gomes to make the score 6-2. A Napoli RBI single made it 7-2, but Derek Norris drilled a 2-run shot and it was a save situation at 7-4 in the 4th. The Rangers looked to pull away again in the bottom of the 4th on an Elvis Andrus RBI single and a Nelson Cruz sac fly, and the score did remain 9-4 until the 8th inning. But at that point, Mike Adams had a rare implosion, allowing solo homers to Yoenis Cespedes, Brandon Moss, and Reddick, his second of the game, to make it 9-7. But Koji Uehara got out of the inning for Texas before Joe Nathan tossed 1-2-3 inning in the 9th with a pair of strikeouts for his 36th save as the Rangers won 9-7. Harrison received his 18th win of the season despite allowing 4 runs in 6 innings. The Rangers offense won this slugfest with their most runs since September 14th. They are now 40-4 when scoring 7 or more runs in a game, not losing since June 30th. Texas lowered its AL West magic number to 3 and dealt a blow to the Athletics’ Wild Card chances in the process.
Mariners 9, Angels 4
The Angels let a close game get out of hand with a bullpen collapse as they blew an opportunity to move within 1 game of the A’s in the Wild Card race. Hisashi Iwakuma out-pitched Dan Haren, going 6 innings allowing just 2 runs, 1 earned, on 7 hits, striking out 3 while walking none while Haren went just 5.1 innings allowing 3 runs, 2 earned, on 6 hits, striking out 3 while walking none. The big blow against Haren was a Jesus Montero 2-run homer that turned a 1-o Angels lead into a 2-1 deficit. Haren has averaged under 6 innings per start for the Angels, totaling just 170.2 innings on the season, far fewer than the Angels would have expected from a pitcher previously thought of as ace-caliber. But Haren was far from the Angels’ biggest problem in this game. The game remained tight at 3-2 until the 7th inning. Garrett Richards, the former starter who the Angels have been using in middle relief since late August, entered with 1 on and nobody out. Richards preceded to allow a single to Casper Wells, moving Michael Saunders to 3rd, and Brendan Ryan followed with a failed safety squeeze bunt that still moved Wells to second base while Saunders returned safely to 3rd. That left first base open and Mike Scoscia decided to walk Dustin Ackley to pitch to Trayvon Robinson. But Richards walked Robinson to force in 1 run before a Kyle Seager single, a Montero sac fly, and a John Jaso double plated a run each and suddenly it was 7-2 Seattle. A Howie Kendrick 2-run double in the 8th off of Josh Kinney made it 7-4, but a LaTroy Hawkins error on a sac bunt and a Montero RBI double gave the Mariners two more runs in the 9th and 9-4 would be the final. The Angels dropped to 17-15 when Mike Trout doesn’t get a hit. The Mariners played the role of spoiler as they sent the Angels into a tie for 3rd in the Wild Card.
Here are your latest AL Wild Card standings, with the Orioles being idle on Thursday.
1. Orioles + 1.0
2. Athletics –
T3. Rays 2 GB
T3. Angels 2 GB
5. White Sox 6 GB