AL Wild Card Roundup: Rangers Tie Rays, Indians Close to Within Half-Game
By Robbie Knopf
The 2013 season is winding down and most of the playoff races are already virtually over. There is, though, one major exception and that’s the AL Wild Card race. As the season comes down to its final two weeks, six teams sit within 3.5 games of the lead and are very much in the mix for a postseason berth. Who can finish strong to find their way into the Wild Card play-in game and beyond? We will just have to follow the games and find out. Every day from here on out at Rays Colored Glasses, we’re going to talk about all the results pertinent to the Wild Card in one AL Wild Card Roundup, providin you with everything you need to know as baseball’s last exciting race comes down to the wire.
Texas Rangers 7, Tampa Bay Rays 1
This Rangers-Rays series is what baseball fans live for: four games between the two leaders of the AL Wild Card with the loser quite possibly getting passed by third place Cleveland. The Rays won on Monday 6-2 to take over sole possession of first place, but the Rangers struck back on Tuesday with a dominant victory to knot things up once again. The Rangers got a leadoff home run from Ian Kinsler to take a 1-0 lead in the top of the first and surged for four more runs in the 3rd inning on a Kinsler 2-run single and an Elvis Andrus 2-run home run as they knocked Jeremy Hellickson out after just 2.2 innings. Alexi Ogando started for the first time since August 13th with the Rangers expecting next-to-nothing in terms of length, but Ogando mesmerized the Rays for as he got threw 5 innings on just 70 pitches, allowing just one run on a Jose Lobaton solo home run. Four relievers combined with Ogando to finish off a 4-hitter as the Rangers beat the Rays 7-1. For Texas, it may be the breakout game they have been waiting for as they broke their stretch of 63 innings without holding a lead and 71 innings without a home run. The top of the AL Wild Card race has been a race between the Rays and Rangers to see who could stop free-falling first, and the Rangers had the dominant game that could finally mean they’re returning to form. Is this the turning point or will the pendulum swing back towards the Rays?
Cleveland Indians 5, Kansas City Royals 3
After riding James Shields‘ strong outing to a 7-1 win over the Indians on Monday, it seemed like the Royals were firmly establishing themselves as the dark horse or at least the spoiler in the AL Wild Card race. Yordano Ventura was poised to add to the narrative. Making his major league debut, the fireballing 22 year old right-hander went 5.2 innings allowing just 1 run on 5 hits, striking out 3 while walking 2. Michael Brantley‘s RBI hit in the 6th did finally get the Indians on the board against Ventura and the Royals, but after the Royals knocked around Corey Kluber for 3 runs in just 4.2 innings and led 3-1 after 6. Eric Hosmer set the tone with an RBI double in the first inning before Salvador Perez delivered a sac fly and Mike Moustakas came through with a two-out run-scoring double in the third to give Kansas City a 3-1 lead. However, the adrenaline rush that was Ventura overpowering the Indians with a fastball touching as high as 101 MPH came to an end, and the Indians found a way to compose themselves while the Royals’ sugar high ended in a crash. A Michael Bourn RBI triple and a Nick Swisher sac fly tied the game against Kelvin Herrera in the 7th and then Asdrubal Cabrera drilled an RBI double off Wade Davis to give the Indians a 4-3 lead they would not relunquish. Bourn capped his night with a solo homer as the Indians won 5-3. For the Indians, they were watching a golden opportunity to take over the second Wild Card spot slip away as they failed to gain ground on Monday, but they came back strong with a victory leaving everyone watching convinced that while the Royals are having a nice little run, the Indians are the real contender. Much has been made of the Indians’ easy schedule the rest of the way, and the time is now for them to make their move.
Baltimore Orioles 3, Boston Red Sox 2
Their division title in the American League East clinched in everything but name, the Boston Red Sox have ample excuse to coast to the finish line. A 2011-esque collapse would certainly be far from advisable, but if they played .500 ball, no one would have any issue. But unfortunately for the Red Sox’ AL East rivals, Boston never had any intention of lifting their foot off the gas pedal, winning 6 of 7 against the Yankees and 2 of 3 against the Rays in recent weeks. Baltimore looked to be next as the Red Sox stomped their division mates into oblivion. But the Orioles had other ideas, rallying from a 2-0 deficit to beat the Red Sox 3-2.
Scott Feldman took the ball for the Orioles and his usually impeccable control completely came apart as he walked 6 batters in just 5 innings of work. However, Feldman held the Red Sox to just 2 hits and forced them to go just 0 for 7 against him with runners on base as he managed to keep them to 2 runs, 1 earned, and keep the orioles behind by just 2 runs. It set in just how important his outing was when a Brian Roberts groundout made it 2-1 Boston and Chris Davis‘ 51st homer off Ryan Dempster made what had seemed like an insurmountable Boston lead into a tie game. The two bullpens battled it out from there, but it was the Red Sox’ most dominant reliever, ex-Oriole Koji Uehara, who was the first to cave in. Uehara entered the game having retired 37 straight batters and not allowing a run in his last 30.1 innings pitched, striking out 41 while walking just 1 in 30.1 innings pitched. But Uehara finally made a mistake and Danny Valencia didn’t miss it, drilling a leadoff triple, and Matt Wieters scored him on a go-ahead sac fly as the Orioles won 3-2. The Orioles have been extremely up-and-down of late, winning just 4 of their last 9, and that cost them a chance to be right there with the Rangers, Rays, and Indians at the top of the Wild Card standings. But with the Orioles just 2 games back, if this game can be the start of something, the Wild Card race could have a fourth major player before long.
Toronto Blue Jays 2, New York Yankees 0
You have to give the Yankees credit for getting back into the mix after being counted out all year. But going just 4-8 in their last 12 games could be the final nail in their coffin if they don’t turn things around now. Andy Pettitte gave the Yankees a great start in this one, going 6.2 innings allowing just 1 run on 6 hits, striking out 5 while walking 2, but unfortunately for New York, R.A. Dickey was even better on the other side. Dickey looked in vintage form, going 7 innings allowing just 4 hits and 2 walks while striking out 8, leaving the Yankees mesmerized all night. Dickey was supported by a solo homer by Colby Rasmus off Pettitte and another one by Rajai Davis off Shawn Kelly as the Blue Jays won 2-0. The Yankees offense has now scored just 3 runs in their last three games, not getting more than five hits a single time. The once mighty Yankee offense has suddenly become the team’s Achilles’ heel, and now their playoff hopes hang by a thread.
On Tuesday, the race got tighter at the top of the Wild Card standings between Texas, Tampa Bay, and Cleveland, the Orioles began closing in, and the Royals and Yankees fell off the pace and have started to run out of time as they try to make their improbable postseason hopes turn into reality. We’ll finish with a a look at the current standings and the pitching matchups for Wednesday’s games.
T1. Texas (82-68)
T1. Tampa Bay (82-68)
3. Cleveland (82-69), 0.5 GB
4. Baltimore (80-70), 2.0 GB
T5. Kansas City (79-72), 3.5 GB
T5. New York (79-72), 3.5 GB
NYY @ TOR (7:07 PM EST): Phil Hughes vs. J.A. Happ
TEX @ TB (7:10 PM EST): Derek Holland vs. Chris Archer
BAL @ BOS (7:10 PM EST): Wei-Yin Chen vs. Jake Peavy
CLE @ KC (8:10 PM EST): Danny Salazar vs. Bruce Chen