MLB Wild-Card Race 2013: Predicting Teams That Will Survive Intense AL Battle
Three teams are left standing in the race for the final two spots in the MLB playoffs. All five berths in the National League have been claimed and the American League division winners have been decided, leaving just two wild cards in the AL up for grabs.
As it stands, the Tampa Bay Rays hold the top spot. The Cleveland Indians are one game back of the Rays and currently hold the second berth, one game ahead of the Texas Rangers.
All three teams have four games left to play.
The extremely close race should lead to an exciting finish to the regular season, which is exactly what the league needs to build momentum ahead of the postseason.
Here are predictions for which teams will be left standing when the dust settles over the weekend.
1st Wild Card: Cleveland Indians
At this point in the season, there are two main factors to consider: how a team is playing and the matchup it faces. Both elements point toward a positive finish for the Indians, who are riding a six-game winning streak and get to face the lowly Minnesota Twins in the final series.
Cleveland didn't generate much hype coming into the season.
In fact, if it wasn't for manager Terry Francona taking over the reins, the Indians would have probably been a total afterthought, which makes their success an even better story.
Which team will earn the top wild-card spot?
Unheralded stars like Jason Kipnis, Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana carried the offense, with timely contributions from veterans Nick Swisher and Jason Giambi. The result was a lineup that ranks seventh in runs scored.
But perhaps the biggest reason for the Indians' success is bounce-back seasons from Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir. Both starting pitchers had seemingly lost their way in recent years. Cleveland gave them both a chance and they came up big.
They are scheduled to pitch the final two games of the season and should make sure the Indians at least make the playoffs. More likely, they will probably be able to lock down the top wild-card spot.
2nd Wild Card: Tampa Bay Rays
The story for Tampa Bay should ring familiar because it's been the same for the past handful of seasons—a team with limited star power going up against teams with plenty of it and standing tall right down to the season's final days.
Aside from Evan Longoria and David Price, the Rays don't have many players mainstream fans will recognize.
Perhaps Wil Myers will join that group in the coming years, but the Rays still rely on niche players to fill key roles.
Which team will miss the playoffs?
Players like Ben Zobrist, Sean Rodriguez and Matt Joyce don't grab many headlines, but they can get the job done when called up. The same goes for Alex Cobb and Chris Archer, who have helped stabilize the starting rotation.
Now, the Rays hold a two-game lead over the Rangers. It's a nice edge to have and, while their final matchup after finishing a series with the New York Yankees isn't as favorable as the Indians', they do get to face a Toronto Blue Jays team that was a major disappointment.
Toronto has the talent to play the role of spoiler, but is probably more focused on just getting to the offseason and pressing the reset button. That should be enough for the Rays to hold off Texas.
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