MLB Teams Guaranteed to Choke Down the Stretch

Chris StephensCorrespondent IIAugust 28, 2013

MLB Teams Guaranteed to Choke Down the Stretch

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    With just about a month to go in the MLB season, the playoff picture is slowly taking shape.

    But while some teams are moving into playoff positioning, others are finding every way possible to miss the postseason.

    For some teams, the next few weeks are no laughing matter, as they are fighting for their playoff lives.

    Here's a look at a few of those teams that will choke down the stretch.

Baltimore Orioles

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    With the way things have been going for the Baltimore Orioles as of late, I don't feel confident in them making the playoffs. They currently sit 6.5 games out in the AL East and 3.5 out in the wild card.

    So, why am I not confident in the Orioles being able to make the playoffs?

    For starters, their play has been lackadaisical as of late, losing eight of their last 13 games. Let's not forget that they have a 17-17 record since the All-Star break.

    You must also remember that they don't have the most favorable schedule the rest of the way. They still have eight games with the Red Sox and seven games left with the Yankees.

    While they do own winning records over both, that doesn't take into account the big improvements both rival clubs made to their teams at the trading deadline.

    Boston's superiority was shown in Tuesday's 13-2 win, and the Yankees will be able to show their improvement soon enough.

    The Orioles made a few trades (Scott Feldman, Bud Norris, Francisco Rodriguez), but they haven't improved their inconsistencies during the second half. How else do you explain a 13-2 drubbing? 

    Look for the Orioles to play .500 ball (at best) down the stretch, which will cause them to miss the playoffs.

New York Yankees

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    The New York Yankees have looked good at times, but they've also struggled at times. They currently sit 7.5 games back in the AL East and 4.5 games back in the wild card.

    They've won eight of their last 12 games but have gone 19-18 in the second half.

    My concern with them is that they're not making any strides in the division race, instead playing .500 ball and splitting series with teams above them.

    The Yankees still have seven games with the Orioles and Red Sox, and three games left with the Rays. Combined, the Yankees have gone 17-23 against those three teams.

    As October nears, I don't like New York's chances at making the playoffs. As the season nears an end, the Yankees are going to start pressing more and will lose it in much of the same way the Blue Jays lost it a month ago.

    Let's also not forget all of the injuries the Yankees have sustained this year and that their ace pitcher, CC Sabathia, hasn't had his best stuff all year.

    No, there will be no September surge for the Yankees this year.

Cleveland Indians

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    How are the Cleveland Indians still in the playoff race?

    They currently sit 5.5 games out in the AL Central and three games out in the wild card.

    But seriously...how are the Indians still in the playoff race?

    They've had a decent second half, going 20-16, but are failing to get the job done against some of the better teams in baseball.

    Outside of a sweep of the Rangers in late July, the Indians have gone 7-21 against MLB contenders since May 31. Their record is a product of a relatively easy schedule. And it looks as if it's going to be the same the rest of the way.

    The Indians have their next eight games against opponents with winning records. Then 17 of their final 23 games are against cellar-dwellers like Houston, the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota.

    However, I don't think it's going to matter, as six games with the Royals should be very competitive and put the Indians out of playoff contention for good.

Arizona Diamondbacks

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    I don't know if you could even say that the Arizona Diamondbacks are guaranteed to choke down the stretch, mainly because they're already hanging on by a thread.

    They are currently 9.5 games back in the NL West and 5.5 games back in the wild card. Honestly, the wild card is their best chance at making the playoffs, considering the way the Dodgers are playing.

    My main concern with Arizona is its consistency. The D-Backs have no problem taking a short, two-game series with the Rays but then struggle for runs against the Mets in the next series.

    Since the All-Star break, they're 18-18. They do have a few signature wins, including a 12-7 win in 18 innings against the Phillies Saturday and a 4-2 win in 16 innings against the Pirates on Aug. 18.

    But they need to have more of those signature wins, which I don't see happening with the rest of the schedule.

    Waiting on the D-Backs the rest of the year are 25 games with the other four NL West teams, against which they're 24-26 this year.

    The Diamondbacks need to start winning games on a more regular basis if they have hopes of making the playoffs. If they can't at least win 17 of the 25 remaining divisional games, then there is no hope for them in 2013. Without that many wins, there's no way they make the playoffs.

Washington Nationals

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    It would be safe to say that the Washington Nationals have been choking all season, so it wouldn't be them just choking down the stretch.

    Even with their struggles, the Nationals are seven games out in the wild card, giving them a small sliver of hope for the playoffs. Reality check...the NL East isn't happening. There's no way the Nationals can make up a 13-game deficit.

    Giving the Nationals a glimmer of hope is the fat that 22 of their next 25 games are against teams below them in the division. But six games against the Cardinals and Diamondbacks are waiting on them at the end of the year.

    Washington has gone 17-18 in the second half but has been inconsistent throughout. 

    Although they ended up winning a 15-inning game against the Braves on Aug. 17, it should have never gotten there, with the Nats holding a two-run lead in the ninth inning.

    The bullpen ranks 22nd with a 3.80 ERA and has been struggling all year, despite the fact that three starters have ERAs of 3.72 or lower.

    I have no confidence in the bullpen if the Nationals need it to get the job done. It's failed so many times this year and is one of the major reasons why the team has struggled all season.