With the MLB playoff picture finally taking shape in the last week of the regular season, three teams are getting hot at just the right time. The Oakland Athletics have won their past five games, and have locked up the AL West. The Tampa Bay Rays are fresh off a sweep of the Baltimore Orioles, and the Cincinnati Reds have won seven of their past nine games.
Both the A’s and the Reds have locked up playoff spots for a second consecutive year, and are using superb pitching and timely hitting to carry them into October. Tampa Bay currently has a one-game lead in the AL Wild Card and will need to keep playing at a high level to clinch a playoff berth.
The Oakland A’s, Tampa Bay Rays and Cincinnati Reds are all teams streaking at the right time of the year. Here's why they will make their presence felt in the postseason.
Does any team get less respect than the Oakland A’s? Heading into the season, Oakland was a consensus pick to finish third in the AL west behind the Angels and Rangers. Not only has Oakland won the division for a second consecutive year, it is currently one game behind the Red Sox for the best record in the AL.
The A’s are led by 3B Josh Donaldson who is having his best year in the big leagues. As of Sept 23 Donaldson is batting .307 with 24 home runs and 92 RBI’s, which leads the team.
Pitcher Bartolo Colon has resurrected his career in Oakland in this season. He leads the AL with an ERA of 2.64 and has been the ace the pitching staff has needed in years past. The A’s will need him to continue this success in the postseason going toe-to-toe with some of the leagues best such as John Lackey, David Price and Max Scherzer.
What makes the A’s even more impressive is their payroll. “Billy Ball”, better known as Moneyball has been a staple in Oakland and currently the A’s have the fourth lowest payroll in baseball.
2013 looks to be the best chance for Billy Beane to win his elusive first World Series. But the A’s will have their work cut out for them, and will need big time pitching and clutch hitting to get there.
Tampa Bay Rays
Tampa Bay had its best series of the season this past week sweeping the Orioles and solidifying itself as a legitimate playoff team. The Rays are 9-3 in their last 12 games, and head to New York to face the Yankees in another huge series this week.
The Rays haven’t had the most consistent year, going through numerous ups and downs. In July, Tampa won 21 of 26 and looked like it was going to run away with the Wild Card. However in August the team lost 15 of its 25 games and found itself in a heated race for the final Wild Card spot.
But the Rays have found their stride late in the season. The turning point was last week, beating Baltimore 5-4 in 18 innings, which set the tone for the rest of the series. While the Rays don’t have a batter hitting above .300 this season, they have found a way to string together wins, putting up just enough runs for the pitching to take care of the rest.
Moving forward, the Rays are going to be relying on starting pitchers Matt Moore and David Price to go deep into games and shut down the lineups of Boston and Detroit. Moore and Price are more than capable of pitching at an extremely high level, but will have to trust closer Fernando Rodney to close out games, which has been a bit of question mark this season (eight blown saves).
The Rays will look to lock up their playoff berth this week, and if they do, they are a team to watch for because of their ability to win games in bunches and use dominant pitching and consistent hitting to do so.
The NL Central is the toughest division in baseball. Currently with three playoffs teams, the Reds are making back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time since 1975-76. Cincinnati is led by the powerful bats of 1B Joey Votto, RF Jay Bruce and 2B Brandon Phillips. Bruce and Phillips both have over 100 RBI’s with 107 and 102 respectively, while Votto Leads the way with 24 home runs.
While the Reds have some of the best bats in the game, they have relied on pitching this year to win more than a handful of games. The Reds have four pitchers who have an ERA under 3.61. Homer Bailey threw a no-hitter earlier in the year and has some of the best stuff in baseball. And Bronson Arroyo is a very solid number two arm.
9/24/2010: Aroldis Chapman hurls a 105.1 mph pitch, the fastest ever recorded in MLB. Pay homage.— HOMAGE (@HOMAGE) September 24, 2013
Closer Aroldis Chapman is the name that every body knows. He has 38 saves to only five blown saves and multiple times this year has been clocked at 104 mph on his fastball. The postseason is predicating on pitching, and the Reds have some of the best in the business.
The Reds have locked up a playoff spot and are currently chasing St. Louis for the division title. The Reds and the Pirates are both sitting two games back of the Cardinals and the division crown will come down to the final game of the season.
The Reds host the Pirates this weekend—a game which will decide who has home field for the Wild Card game, assuming St. Louis wins the division. Look for the Reds to go deep into the postseason relying on their big bats and masterful pitching.