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Around The League: It’s Called The Wild Card For A Reason

The Blue Jays have won back-to-back series for the first time since late May, the Red Sox are running away with the AL East, and it’s time to completely shift out focus on the absolute nonsense that is the AL wild card.

American League East

Boston Red Sox 67-50 (0 GB) +90 run differential 

The Red Sox only played five games last week, but they were all important ones against AL East rivals. They swept the two-game mini series in Tampa against the Rays, took two of three from the Yankees in New York, and appear to be running away with the division.

The key for Boston’s success, as usual, comes down to pitching, but their bats seem to be heating up, too. 20-year-old Rafael Devers has a .977 OPS through 15 games since being called up, and hit a go-ahead and ultimately game-winning home run off of Aroldis Chapman on Sunday.

New York Yankees 61-55 (5.5 GB) +110 run differential 

The Yankees are going to have to win virtually all of their games against Boston down the stretch in order to take the AL East. They’ll play them seven more time season, but botched a chance this weekend to make up some ground.

The Yankees also lost two of three to the Jays this week, and really haven’t been all that good since their torrid start in April and May. At the beginning of the season, their lineup overachieved, but continued to get carried by Aaron Judge. But since the All-Star break, Judge has cooled off, and their offence has gone from solid to terrible. At this point, it’s really about ensuring they can maintain their spot in the first wild card spot rather than catching the Red Sox.

Tampa Bay Rays 59-60 (9 GB) -10 run differential 

Once sort of a dark horse in the AL East race, the Rays have completely fallen out of contention. After a rough week in which they were swept by the Red Sox and dismantled by Cleveland, Tampa now sits nine games back of the division lead and out of a wild card position.

The issue for the Rays has been an inability to score runs. Last week, in six games, Tampa was shut out three times and only managed to score nine runs in total. That’s, uh, not going to do. Tampa will play a four-game series against the Jays this week, and by the end of it, they could be in last place in the division.

Baltimore Orioles 58-60 (9.5 GB) -49 run differential 

The Rays could probably use somebody like Tim Beckham right now. Since being traded to the O’s, the former Ray has a 1.377 OPS and has been a major catalyst in Baltimore’s offence. But still, their pitching is so so soooo bad it doesn’t really matter.

The O’s went 3-4 last week on a West Coast road trip against the Athletics and Angels. Like the Jays, they’re still sort of a live in the wild card race, but with bad starters and a taxed bullpen having to eat so many innings, the O’s are all but dead.

Toronto Blue Jays 56-61 (11 GB) -78 run differential 

For the first time since late May when they beat Texas and Cincinnati, the Blue Jays have won back-to-back series. LOL. Anyways, with a win this week against Tampa Bay, they’ll have three series wins in a row for the first time since, again, late May.

The key to the Jays resurgence as of late, if you want to call it that, has been Josh Donaldson playing like a goddamn MVP. Last week in six games, Donaldson had a 1.388 OPS and three home runs, massively helping to compensate for the holes in the lineup left by Russell Martin and Troy Tulowitzki’s injuries.

The Wild Card

New York Yankees 61-55 (+1.5 GU)

Los Angeles Angels 61-58 (0 GB)

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Minnesota Twins 59-57 (0.5 GB)

Kansas City Royals 59-58 (1 GB)

Seattle Mariners 59-60 (2 GB)

Tampa Bay Rays 59-60 (2 GB)

Baltimore Orioles 58-60 (2.5 GB) 

Texas Rangers 56-60 (3.5 GB)

Toronto Blue Jays 56-61 (4 GB)

There are nine teams within six-and-a-half games of one another in the wild card race right now. One cold streak could completely gutter a team’s season, whereas a hot streak could propel a team from nowhere all the way into a playoff spot. Over the past week and a bit, we’ve seen Tampa Bay, Kansas City, Minnesota, and L.A. own playoff spots, and it seems we’re going to see that change on a nightly basis for the next month.

When it’s all said and done, apparently a team with an 81-81 record could occupy that second wild card spot. It’s very unlikely the Jays can manage to plow through this entire quagmire of mediocre teams and into the light, but hey, after all of the injuries and the terrible start, I’ll take competitive baseball in September.