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AL Wild Card Picture Could Become Clearer by Weeks’ End

With key match-ups between Tampa Bay and Texas and Cleveland and Kansas City early this week, two clear-cut front runners could emerge by this weekend.

The American League Wild Card has been more-or-less wide open for the past few weeks with Tampa Bay, Oakland and Texas leading the chase and being hotly trailed by Cleveland, Baltimore, New York and Kansas City. A week ago it looked as though Texas, Tampa Bay and Oakland were the favorites depending on the outcome of the American League West race, but over the last ten games the Rays have gone 4-6 and the Rangers have gone a miserable 1-9 and have opened the door for the Cleveland Indians, who have gone 7-3 over the same period and are coming off a four-game sweep of the Chicago White Sox, to move within ½ of a game of the top Wild Card spot.

The Rays and the Rangers will open a four-game series tonight in Tampa Bay and the Tribe will open a three-game series in Kansas City as well. The Royals are only 3 ½ games out of the chase so both series hold a great deal of significance and could very well decide who will play on in October and who will be home watching from the couch. With so much at stake expect these two series to be watched very closely by baseball fans and the media as a sweep on either side could knock the opposition out of contention. Here’s a look at how the rest of the season shapes up for Tampa Bay, Texas, Cleveland and Kansas City and their likelihoods to win out on the post season chase.

Of these four teams, Tampa Bay has the toughest schedule to close out the season, hosting the Rangers for the next four nights before playing host to Baltimore for a four-game series this weekend and then closing out the 2013 campaign with a trip to the Bronx to face the Yankees, who are still mathematically in the Wild Card chase, and then heading north to close out the year with a three-game series in Toronto against the Blue Jays. If the Rays can come away with a split or a series win against Texas, they will give themselves some major momentum to carry them the rest of the way. The Orioles and Yankees will be tough and while Tampa has the stuff to take this thing all the way, this looks like a daunting 13 game stretch to finish out the season and it is very possible that they will not make the post season at all.

The Rangers will head to Kansas City after their series with the Rays for a four-game series this weekend and then close out the 2013 campaign at home with three games against the lowly Houston Astros, and a four-game set with the Los Angeles Angels. The Rangers have been in a massive free fall over the past ten games and have lost their hold on the AL West, allowing Oakland to capture first place. If they cannot figure out a way to turn things around in Tampa over the next four days, their season is likely over.

Kansas City will have it rough against a streaking Indians club but depending on the outcome of the Rays/Rangers series they could either be looking at a Texas team this weekend who is pulling away from the pack, or struggling to stay above water. The Royals then close out the season with trips to Seattle and Chicago, two clubs who have very little to play for at this point in the season and could be looking to play spoiler should KC still be in the Wild Card picture next week. Despite hanging in there all season and even flirting with second place in the American League Central Division, it is not likely that the Royals have what it takes to make up enough ground to actually capture one of the two Wild Card spots this season. The team is young and hungry though, and they will most certainly make some real noise in the post season chase in 2014.

The Cleveland Indians have, by-far, the easiest schedule to finish out the season, and if they can come away with a sweep in Kansas City or at the very least take two out of three, they look to be in the hunt for the Wild Card for the rest of the way. The Tribe will play host to two sub-.500 teams in Houston and Chicago before heading on the road to close out their campaign with four-games against the last-place Minnesota Twins. The Tribe has owned Chicago this season and swept them in four games this weekend on the road, but they have struggled against the Twins, so those last four games could be very interesting depending on what happens this week. If the Indians take care of business in Kansas City, they will take the second Wild Card spot and could even make a case for hosting their first home playoff game since 2007.

 

By: Robert Gonzalez
MLBCenter.com Staff Writer

 



 

 

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