We’re in the final week of the regular season, which means the MLB playoffs are right around the corner. All but two divisions have already been wrapped up, but that could all change on Monday and Tuesday.
The Boston Red Sox pushed their winning streak to eleven with their extra-inning effort against the Tampa Bay Rays, while breakingTom Seaver‘s record of ten straight strikeouts by posting eleven straight between starter Eduardo Rodriguez and reliever Heath Hembree. In total, the Sox staff combined to strike out 23 in ten innings, which is also a record. Seaver has struck out ten straight all by himself back in 1970.
The Sox are red hot, and at the right time. Since July, Rodiguez has a cumulative 3.22 ERA across 67 1/3 innings, which should be enough to make him the fourth starter in the Red Sox rotation this postseason. He has struggled, at times allowing four or five runs in five or fewer innings, but with the offense that Boston has, and the upside that Rodriguez himself has, that should be a risk the Sox are willing to take this October.
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With the win, the Red Sox magic number is two games over the Blue Jays, who will be playing the Yankees on Monday. If the Yanks can scratch out a win, then either a win from Boston or another Jays loss on Tuesday would have the Red Sox claim the AL East title as early as Tuesday.
The Cleveland Indians are the other team that has yet to clinch, but with a seven game lead over the Detroit Tigers and a four game series with said Tigers to begin the week, one win, either in that series or during the rest of the regular season, would clinch the AL Central. If the Tigers lost any games from here on out, that would also eliminate them from divisional contention.
The Tigers enjoyed a brief stay as a holder of one of the two wild card spots in the American League, but two straight losses to the Royals have helped the Orioles re-claim that position.
As things stand right now in the AL, the Blue Jays are up by a game and a half on Baltimore for the first wild card spot, and have a three game lead over the Tigers overall, which is what is more important in the short-term. Clinching a wild card spot is paramount. Where it’s played, less so.
The Orioles are 1.5 games up on Detroit, 2.5 up on Seattle and 3 up on Houston. With Seattle and Houston set to face-off from Monday through Wednesday, one team could make a big push toward Baltimore, or they could both hand around and hope for the best. Detroit has struggled with Cleveland all season long, so as of right now it looks as though the Blue Jays and Orioles will be your AL wild card winners.
Out in the National League the Giants missed out on another big opportunity. With games against the Rockies and Dodgers coming up for San Francisco, having more than a half-game lead over the Cardinals, who will be facing the Reds (four games) and Pirates, would have been the best case scenario. St. Louis could be looking at a 5-2 week, which would mean that the Giants would have to go at least 4-2 to end up tied with the Cards.
The Mets now hold a one game lead over the Giants for the first wild card spot after their 17-0 dismantling of the Phillies on Sunday after starter Robert Gsellman went seven scoreless innings and allowed just three hits. New York may not have their big name pitchers healthy, but if Noah Syndergaard can make it through October, they may have just enough to win the wild card and put up a fight with the Cubs. The Mets have the Marlins and Phillies left on their schedule and should be able to accrue enough wins to clinch one of the two MLB playoff spots available to them, especially with a one game lead.
Predictions: It’ll be the Orioles and Blue Jays in the AL wild card game and the Mets and Cardinals in the NL version a day later. From there, I’d have to take the Blue Jays since they have the better starting pitching, and could be lined up to face the Texas Rangers in a rematch of last year’s thrilling playoff series.
If the Mets are able to send out Syndergaard for the wild card game, it’ll be hard to vote against them. They have continued to keep on winning even as their injuries keep piling up. They shouldn’t have made it this far, and yet here they are. Yoenis Cespedes has the potential to carry a club for a game, or even a series, and the Mets may be able to ride him to the NLDS.