With about 2 weeks left in the season, we're switching the focus of this weekly recap from the AL West, which the Rangers have practically locked up at this point, to the AL Wild Card race. As we enter the final stretch of the season, multiple teams are still jockeying for position in the AL Wild Card race. Here are the current standings as of this morning:
The Boston Red Sox (85-64) currently sit atop the AL East, with a 3-game lead over Baltimore. So there could certainly be more flip-flopping at the top of the AL East before the season ends, which obviously has implications for the Wild Card standings as well. For now though, Boston is out of the Wild Card picture as the division leaders.
The chart below shows how the teams have fared over the last couple weeks.
Let's take a closer look at how each team did over the past week, and who they face in the coming week.
The Orioles won 2 of 3 against the AL East leaders in Boston before splitting a 4-game series at home against the worst team in their division, Tampa Bay (64-85). Their 4-3 record on the week was good enough to keep them atop the AL Wild Card standings.
Baltimore has a tough start to the week as they open up a 4-game series against the Red Sox at Camden Yards before the lowly Arizona Diamondbacks (63-86) come to Baltimore for 3 games.
The Blue Jays began the week tied with Baltimore for the AL Wild Card lead, but they lost a series at home to Tampa Bay, 2 games to 1, before heading to Anaheim and splitting a 4-game series with the cellar-dwelling Angels (65-84).
Toronto plays 2 wild card contenders this week. They play a 3-game series in Seattle to start the week before heading home to face the Yankees in a 4-game set.
Detroit came into the week on a downward trend and it only continued. They were only able to split a 4-game series at home with the AL-worst Minnesota Twins (55-95) before losing 2 of 3 in Cleveland.
The Tigers get another shot at the AL-worst Twins this week with a 3-game series in Minnesota to open the week. Then they travel back home for a 3-game set against the Kansas City Royals (76-73).
The Mariners revived their playoff hopes with an 8-game winning streak that included back-to-back road sweeps of the Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. However, their momentum was cooled off when they arrived back home and lost 2 of 3 to the Astros over the weekend.
This week, the Mariners host fellow wild card contender Toronto for a 3-game set to open the week before traveling to Minnesota for a 3-game set with the worst team in the AL.
The Astros wrapped up their 13-game stretch of games against division leaders by dropping 2 of 3 to Texas at home to start the week. They were able to bounce back with 2 wins in Seattle over the weekend to keep their playoff hopes alive.
The Astros play the worst 2 teams in their division this week. They continue on their West Coast trip with a 3-game series in Oakland before heading home for a 4-game set with the Angels. The Astros can't afford to lose another series this year and need a sweep or two if they want to make the 2016 playoffs.
New York Yankees
After jettisoning back into the wild card mix with a 7-game winning streak, the Yankees hit a tough stretch of their schedule and are quickly falling back out of contention. They started the week by dropping 2 of 3 to the NL West leading Dodgers (84-65) before heading to visit their arch enemies in Fenway for a 4-game set. The Yankees looked like they would start the series on a high note as they led Boston 5-2 going into the bottom of the 9th, but the Red Sox rallied for a walk-off win in game 1. That loss seems even more damning since the Yankees were unable to win a single game against Boston. They have now lost 5 in a row.
This week, the Yankees head to Tampa Bay for a 3-game series before flying North to Toronto for a 4-game set against a fellow wild card contender.
Baltimore and Toronto are the teams that scare me the most, and not just because they are the teams currently atop the wild card standings. Both teams have potent offenses that can score runs in a hurry. However, Baltimore has to face Boston for 4 games this week and Toronto faces a 7-game stretch against fellow wild card contenders.
I think the Astros will take advantage of their soft schedule this week to gain ground on the wild card leaders. Even without Bregman, the Astros have the Cuban sensation Yulieski Gurriel in addition to their still potent core of Springer-Altuve-Correa. I'm predicting that the Astros will only be 1 game out of a playoff spot by this time next week.