October is right around the corner and as any MLB fan knows, the wild-card Race is heating up. Due to the recent installment of the four-team wild-card rule (2 NL and 2 AL), a few more teams have been thrown into the playoff mix and have a chance to get one step closer to a World Series ring. Listed below are the teams who I think will take the AL & NL wild-card slots.
AL Wild Card
-Currently, the Baltimore Orioles are tied with the Oakland Athletics for the two wild-card spots. Of the Orioles' final 10 games this year, seven are against the lowly Boston Red Sox. Although the Red Sox hold a 9-4 lead in their season series against the Orioles, expect the Orioles to win a majority of the final seven games against the Red Sox. As we all know, the Red Sox are in complete shambles (in literally every single aspect remotely associated with baseball). Expect the Orioles to clinch their first playoff birth since 1997.
Even if the Orioles surpass the A's in the wild-card standings, the A's will have a semi-comfortable three game lead over the Los Angeles Angels and a five game lead over Tampa Bay Rays. I just don’t see the Rays coming up with a remarkable late season surge again. They have lost their last three games and the even bigger issue is that seven of their last 10 games are against the New York Yankees. The A's will yet again “moneyball” their way into the playoffs.
But some might ask, “What about the Angels?” Of the 14 teams in the AL, the Angels rank 11th out of 14 teams in bullpen ERA (3.80). The bullpen woes don’t stop there. The Angels also currently hold the crown in the AL for most blown saves (22). Manager Mike Scioscia has experimented with a handful of relievers all season long and hasn’t found any solutions. The most glaring statistic however, is that the Angels have gone 15-17 this season in one-run games. Those numbers speak for themselves.
NL Wild Card
-The Atlanta Braves will prevail this year simply due to their pitching. The bullpen has been lights out and basically winning every game when leading after six innings. The recent reinsertion of Kris Medlen into the rotation has paid its dividends. In his last 52 innings, he has only allowed four earned runs and has delivered two 10+ strike out games. The addition of Paul Maholm has also turned out to be a great deadline acquisition that further bolsters their staff.
As for the Los Angeles Dodgers, their offense has the potential to be nothing short of spectacular. With the additions of Shane Victorino, Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez, the lineup has transformed from a 1-punch wonder to a 3-headed monster. While the newly formed squad has been a little slow out of the gates, I don’t see how they can be contained much longer. Expect the big boys to get rollin’ any day now. Once they get their pistons firing on all cylinders, I don’t know if there’s an offense with enough firepower to keep up with them. Look for the St. Louis Cardinals to fade away into the October mist as the Dodgers edge out the last wild-card slot.