MLB – Who Will Represent the American League as the Wild-Card?
Coming into the evening games Tuesday, the Houston Astros and New York Yankees have commanding leads in their divisions in the American League, so the focus is fascinating as it pertains to the race for the Wild Card. The Tampa Bay Rays occupy the second spot while the Oakland Athletics are within breathing distance of them. The defending champion Boston Red Sox have work to do, though not impossible if they want to be in the postseason discussion, trailing the southwest Florida-based club by six games.
The remaining teams below them will need to string together a lot of wins while getting help elsewhere in order to catch up at this stage with over a month left. The team in the first wild-card position, the Indians, play the Rays in Tampa as the calendar gets set to flip to September, so that could provide more clues as to the direction of the race to the wild-card game. Tampa Bay will host the Red Sox and Yankees late in the year. Interestingly enough, the A’s play at Yankee Stadium that weekend. Oakland will have their hands full with them. Because they play in the West, they will have to face the Astros three times in Houston from September 12th through the 14th. Houston by that point still may not have locked up the division, so the Athletics could use a good performance in that series.
Part of what makes the one-game playoff interesting is the close race for the Central division. Chances are that either the Minnesota Twins or the Cleveland Indians will capture one of the wild card spots. Those two teams do not have fond memories of a one-game playoff based on recent history. The last time the Twins made the playoffs was 2017 when they lost to the New York Yankees. The Indians fell at home to the Tampa Bay Rays in 2013. Both teams are capable of making noise in the AL playoffs, but only one has the guarantee in avoiding the must-win game to qualify for the American League Division Series.
Both Minnesota and Cleveland will play teams within their division that are well off the pace, so they could cancel each other out. The next head-to-head series will commence September 6th in Minneapolis. Exactly one week later, Cleveland will host. That stretch should determine which team plays in the Division Series to avoid the one-game pressure cooker. The teams recently played a four-game set there with Cleveland winning three games. Before that, the Twins won a series in Ohio right after the Mid-Summer Classic. In saying all that, the Indians still have the experience of mastering the Central in recent years. I think the Indians edge out the Twins by season’s end. Even though Minnesota has been in front for most of the year.
My prediction is a match-up between Tampa Bay and Minnesota in the wild-card play-in game. The Twins have a lot of power and they will be at home. Although I think the Rays pitching will win out as it traditionally does in October. Neither the Astros nor the Yankees will want to face them. Tampa will compete hard and fall just short in the ALDS in four games regardless of whether they play the East or West champions.
Works cited: MLB app
Who do you see representing the American League in the Wild-Card? Leave a comment below.
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