5 MLB Teams Who Look Like They Could Choke Down the Stretch

Jason LempertCorrespondent ISeptember 6, 2013

5 MLB Teams Who Look Like They Could Choke Down the Stretch

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    As we flip our calendars to September we have officially entered into the stretch run of the 2013 regular season. And just as in many Septembers of the past, there are a handful of clubs that are sure-ins for postseason play.

    But there are also a number of hopeful teams that are fighting for their October lives. Of course, only five teams from each league can make it into the playoffs, so there will be some disappointed teams who missed the cut.

    The following is a list of teams who could be those left out of October baseball, due to a lack of offense, pitching or just bad luck. Better luck next year!

Kansas City Royals

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    What a story it would be to have the Kansas City Royals and the Pittsburgh Pirates appear in the playoffs during the same year. The Pirates are duking out the NL Central title, while the Royals are trying to catch a ride as an AL Wild Card team.

    But while the Bucks are very likely to make the playoffs in some capacity, the Royals may find themselves falling just short in 2013. The team has been very inconsistent, rattling off long win streaks, followed by streaks on futility. Their pitching has been strong, as they currently lead the league with a 3.46 ERA. But their inexperience (James Shields aside) may be a downfall down the stretch. 

    Entering play on Friday, Ned Yost's club finds themselves two games out of the wild-card spot. But they are having to fend off teams like the Baltimore Orioles, Texas Rangers, Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees, no easy task.

    The Royals have had a magical season. But they're going to need a bunch more pixie dust to carry them into October.

Washington Nationals

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    To say the 2013 season has been a disappointment for the Washington Nationals would be a fairly large understatement. Coming off of a 98-win season a year ago, the Nats were expected to take the National League by storm and march their way to another postseason birth.

    However, with a 71-68 record, the club is on life support, sitting seven games out of the Wild Card. And despite a recent hot surge which saw the team win eight out of nine, their time is running out to make a serious push for October.

    Perhaps their one saving grace is the fact that five of their next six series (including their current tilt in Philadelphia) are against NL East teams with sub-.500 records. But that may not be enough this year.

Cleveland Indians

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    The recent addition of Jason Kubel certainly provides Terry Francona and the Cleveland Indians some added thump in their lineup. But unfortunately for the Tribe, that may not be enough to earn them a spot in the playoffs.

    The Detroit Tigers are running away with the AL Central, currently up 6.5 games over the Indians. That means the Indians have to squeeze their way into one of the wild-card spots, with at least five other teams trying to do the same thing. 

    The Indians' season just got a little more troubling with the recent injury to pitcher Justin Masterson. He left his start on Sunday with a rib injury and is currently listed as day-to-day. But those types of injuries can be tricky and his status for the rest of the season can be listed as questionable at best. 

    The Indians have the tools to get into the postseason, but I feel they will have some difficulty fending off the other clubs trying to get in as well. 

Arizona Diamondbacks

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    The Diamondbacks certainly gave it a good ride this year. Unfortunately for them, after sleeping for most of the first half, the beast that is the Los Angeles Dodgers finally awoke and now own a comfortable lead in the NL West.

    So that means Kirk Gibson's crew has to battle for a wild-card spot. However, the both spots are likely to go to NL Central teams. Entering play on Friday, the D-Backs were seven games out of the Wild Card, and while they have a glimmer of hope, the chances of them catching the Reds, Pirates and/or Cardinals are rather slim. 

    To make matters worse, their best pitcher this year, Patrick Corbin, has been atrocious his last two times out. The early-season Cy Young Award candidate has allowed a total of 13 earned runs in just over 10 innings pitched. After throwing 107 innings in his rookie season last year, he has already thrown over 180 in 2013 and could be wearing down in the season's final month. 

New York Yankees

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    It's always hard to count out the New York Yankees from postseason play. After all, the Bronx Bombers have made the playoffs every season since 1995, aside from the 2008 campaign.

    But the 2013 season has been a tough one for Joe Girardi's club, and they currently sit in third place in the AL East. They are in a deadlock tie for one of the Wild Card spots with Tampa, Texas and Oakland.

    But after a disheartening loss in Thursday's game against the Red Sox, which included a rare blown save from Mariano Rivera, the success of this season for the Yankees does have a little bit of doubt.