AL Wild Card Race: Orioles and Athletics Are World Series Contenders

Darin PikeContributor ISeptember 21, 2012

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Adam Jones #10 of the Baltimore Orioles attempting to score from first base on a double gets tagged out at home by Derek Norris #36 of the Oakland Athletics in the fourth inning at Coliseum on September 15, 2012 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The expanded format of two wild-card teams may erode some of the drama with who makes the playoffs, but it is setting fans up for some great postseason play. The Baltimore Orioles and Oakland Athletics are in control of the last two spots and could make some noise headed into the World Series.

Both of these teams will rightfully profess that they aren't looking at holding onto the wild-card slots. They are still playing for a division title. 

The Orioles were tied atop the AL East two weeks ago when they lost Nick Markakis in a game against the Yankees.

They've gone 7-3 without their best hitter in the lineup, but still lost a game in the standings.

Oakland trails the Texas Rangers by four games in the West. The A's aren't likely to catch the Rangers but the two teams do have a four-game series in Arlington and a three-game set to finish the season in Oakland.

The Athletics have been a streaky team this season. Since August, they've had a nine-game winning streak and went on a 15-2 run.

However, that run had bookends of three-game losing streaks.

If the A's get hot at the right time, they have the talent to make a run at the World Series. They were eight games below .500 on June 1st before they started to chip their way into the playoffs. They finished the month at 37-42 but hit .500 at the All-Star break with a record of 43-43.

They are an impressive 42-21 in the second half of the season and have become a team nobody wants to see in the postseason.

Baltimore has seen similar success this season. They finished May with a 29-22 record, but struggled when Markakis first left the lineup.

Baltimore was 55-51 early in the month of August, but have gone 30-13 since.

These two potential wild-card contenders happen to be the two hottest teams in the American League. 

The other playoff teams will rightfully be worried about facing them in October. Depending on the final seeding, the A’s and Orioles would be an intriguing mathcup in the AL Championship Series.

Some fans and members of the media are predicting a "beltway series."

Predicting a Nats-Orioles Beltway Series. Take that, New Yawk!

— Terry Moran (@TerryMoran) September 21, 2012

The 98 percent of geography west of Maryland is hoping that won't be the case.