The Lede: AL Wild Card Race Heating Up

By Keith Allison (flickr) CC License

Don’t have time to read through 1,000 words, but need some informed betting tips? Here’s a quick rundown on today’s biggest sports story (as adjudged by me) and how it impacts the way you should bet.

Mariners, Orioles Surge Tightens AL Wild Card Race

Just as we thought the AL Wild Card picture was beginning to sort itself out, the Seattle Mariners have gone and won seven of their last ten, and the Baltimore Orioles have taken eight of 11, each climbing right into the thick of the race. After last night’s games, three teams are tied for the final Wild Card spot (Mariners, Rays, Royals) and another three are within two games (Angels, Orioles, Twins).

Which team will rise up over the last 50(ish) games and secure a spot in the postseason? Let’s start by crossing some teams off.

The Minnesota Twins had a great first half, but have realized the rebuild isn’t complete yet. Outside of Ervin Santana, whom they should have traded before the deadline, the Twins don’t have any pitchers they can rely on and their offense would be thrilled to be considered mediocre. By the end of the month, they’ll be more than 1.5 games back of the final spot.

Although they are hot right now, and seven games against the Athletics over the next 14 days would suggest they’ll stay hot, the Orioles don’t have the arms to continue their push. Since July 1, Manny Machado is hitting .340 with 16 extra-base hits. With Machado finally finding his groove, we are seeing Baltimore’s offense reach its potential. But Machado’s current pace is not sustainable; he will cool off a little and their 28th-ranked pitching staff will continue to be exposed.

Of the teams on the outside looking in, the Angels are the most dangerous. Their 24th-ranked offense has (predictably) improved with Mike Trout back in the lineup; in the month of August, they are averaging 5.25 runs per game. The Angels have received above-average pitching this season, which was all they needed for a run at the playoffs.

Of the three teams currently tied for the final spot, all have their flaws. The Mariners are playing the best right now, but with Felix Hernandez expected to miss the next 3-4 weeks, their average pitching staff just took a major turn for the worse. The Royals have the luxury of playing an AL Central-heavy schedule the rest of the season, but look to have peaked too early. The Rays may be the most complete team of the three, but have to deal with the AL East over the final month.

Takeaway: If you’re looking for the best value, sprinkling some money on the Angels to make the playoffs is your best bet, given their longer odds and current form. As for which team actually has the best chance to secure a Wild Card berth, look no further than the Royals. Their schedule is far too favorable, and their lineup is far too experienced for the recent struggles to continue when they get to face the White Sox and Tigers.