MLB: The Wild-Card Races Could be Intriguing
The MLB wild-card race is going to be fun!
At the start of play Tuesday, there are fifteen teams with a record of .500 or better in the major leagues. In the National League, the East is top to bottom, not the strongest, even with Bryce Harper swapping a Nationals uniform to a Phillies one, but Philadelphia and last year’s division-winning Atlanta Braves are doing their part to provide some entertainment as both would make it into October right now.
The Los Angeles Dodgers look like none of the other three teams will seriously challenge them. Although it’s nice to see the San Diego Padres in the conversation. They, along with the Arizona Diamondbacks, are in the wild-card mix. As for the Central, it is proving to be the toughest one to call of the three divisions. The Brewers and Cubs are in a tight fight. Further down the table, the Pirates and Cardinals will have to dig deep to get in the conversation for one of the final two playoff positions. I think what is great about baseball, is that even with the payroll disparities between the haves and have-nots, there are teams that will make noise and overachieve. That provides hope for the thirty teams in Major League Baseball.
Meanwhile, in the American League, the Oakland Athletics are the hottest team in the sport. Thus having worked their way to a tie for the second wild-card position. They still have a lot of work to do to catch the team with the American League’s third-best record, the Houston Astros. Boston, the defending champion is right there with Oakland for the final spot. Tampa Bay holds the first wild-card position, so the Eastern division competitive once again.
The Cleveland Indians have fallen off the pace as they now have a losing record. ESPN was showing a graphic during their game Monday against the Red Sox. It showed the contrast between the Indians on Memorial Day of 2018 and what it looked like for this year’s outfit. The only ones in the starting lineup one year later were Francisco Lindor, Jason Kipnis, and Greg Allen. José Ramírez is still there but was not one of the nine starters Monday. They really have been in a funk, just trying to scratch out runs.
They have been bitten by the injury bug with Lindor. He was out of the lineup earlier this season. However, he has since returned. Cleveland has a lot of good pitchers. In fact, they will need the services of Mike Clevinger if they want to get in the thick of the playoff chase. They have been the kings of the Central but combined with their recent form along with the Twins being one of the breakout teams in 2019, the Indians have a lot of work to do. Especially if they want to be one of five AL teams playing in the tenth month of the year.
It will be interesting to see where everyone is in the wild-card pecking order following the trade deadline. Though I like the fact that the regular season rewards the division winners.
I am a fan of this wild-card format that has been re-structured since the middle of the ’90s. Teams are not out of the picture just because they do not win the West, Central, or East in their own league. Plus, even in the one-game playoff, strategy comes into play as teams either decide to use their ace. Other teams, like last year, might use an “opener,” and try to use a committee of pitchers to navigate through the game. The division winners still have an advantage. They can set their pitching rotation and have some rest. Meanwhile, the wild-card winner has gone through one or more of their important hurlers. It will be fascinating to see if the deck of cards gets shuffled to see if there are new teams contending in this 2019 season.
How do you feel the MLB wild-card races will play out? Leave a comment below.
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Works cited: MLB app, ESPN Indians-Red Sox Monday telecast