Breaking down the AL wild-card stretch drive
A look at the wild-card race in the American League:
Wild card 1 — Baltimore (82-68)
Games remaining (12): Home (6) — Boston (Tuesday-Thursday), Arizona (Friday-Sunday). Away (6) — Toronto (Sept. 27-29), New York (Sept. 30, Oct. 1-2)
Their formula continues to hold true. They are getting just enough starting pitching to get the game to their lights-out bullpen. And even though home run leader Mark Trumbo has slowed since the All-Star break, Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Chris Davis and Jonathan Schoop continue slug. The Orioles have a league-high 236 home runs.
Wild card 2 — Toronto (82-68)
Games remaining (12): Home (7) — New York (Thursday-Sunday), Baltimore (Sept. 27-29). Away (5): Seattle (Tuesday-Wednesday), Boston (Sept. 30, Oct. 1-2)
Seems like the ship is sinking. Their mighty offense, upon which the team was built, has gone silent lately. Josh Donaldson is trying to play through a hip injury, which doesn’t help. Top of the rotation starter Marco Estrada is 1-5 his last seven starts, dealing with back soreness. They do play seven of their last 10 games at home, where they average better than five runs per game.
Detroit (79-70, -2.5 games)
Games remaining (13): Home (7) — Kansas City (Friday-Sunday), Cleveland (Sept. 26-29). Away (6) — Minnesota (today-Thursday), Atlanta (Sept. 30, Oct. 1-2)
It appears the Tigers are going to sink or swim with Justin Verlander and three young arms down the stretch. That wouldn’t be as problematic if the offense wasn’t so fickle. There are recent health concerns with Ian Kinsler (head), Victor Martinez (knee) and Miguel Cabrera (hand), as well as Cameron Maybin (thumb).
Seattle (79-71, -3 games)
Games remaining (12): Home (6) — Toronto (Tuesday-Wednesday), Oakland (Sept. 29-30, Oct 1-2). Away (6) — Minnesota (Friday-Sunday), Houston (Sept. 26-28)
They swept the Tigers in early August and stayed hot. They’ve won 9 of their last 11. Their pitching has been stingier (fifth in runs allowed since the break) and their offense is fourth in runs produced in the American League.
Houston (79-71, -3 games)
Games remaining (12): Home (7) — Anaheim (Thursday-Sunday), Seattle (Sept. 26-28). Away (5) — Oakland (Tuesday-Wednesday), Anaheim (Sept. 30-Oct. 2)
Injuries have taken some of the wind out of their sails. Dallas Keuchel may not pitch the rest of the year because of a shoulder injury. Alex Bregman, who sparked the team when he arrived from Triple A, is done (hamstring). And Jose Altuve is trying to play with a painful oblique injury.
New York (77-72, -4.5 games)
Games remaining (12): Home (6) — Boston (Sept. 27-29), Baltimore (Sept. 30, Oct. 1-2). Away (6) — Tampa Bay (Tuesday-Thursday), Toronto (Friday-Sunday)
A four-game sweep by the Red Sox considerably cooled the Yankees and they arguably have the toughest remaining schedule among the contenders. Injuries to Jacoby Ellsbury, Starlin Castro and Chase Headley won’t help. Can the bat of recent pickup Billy Butler help?