Chances of Each Dark Horse MLB Playoff Contender Getting to October
There is no jockeying back and forth at the top of the wild-card standings for these teams. Not yet, at least.
But just because these teams face sizable deficits in those races with about six weeks remaining until Game 162 doesn’t mean their chances are flatlined.
Dark horses? Sure. Long shots? A couple of them. Time to look to 2015? Eh, not quite.
San Diego Padres
This team lost a front-line starter, traded away a big bat and stud closer and fired its general manager in 2014. Yet it finds itself eight games out of the second wild-card spot thanks to an 11-7 August run.
The Padres get the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies 16 times from now until the end of the season. While San Diego’s combined record against those two clubs is an ugly 10-12, neither of those teams is looking to put up much of a fight anymore.
We’ve seen late-season runs by the Padres before, but those came when they were clearly finished in the wild-card race. This year, they have the National League’s second-best pitching staff since the All-Star break, and if another run is in them, it might be enough to shock the league.
Playoff chances: 20 percent
Toronto Blue Jays
Losers six times in their last eight tries, the Blue Jays have to be optimistic that their wild-card hole is only four games.
The Jays need a few things to happen. First, they need the Detroit Tigers to free fall, and that is well on its way to happening. They need the Seattle Mariners to fold, but that doesn’t seem likely. Finally, they have to win. Period.
It’s not impossible considering they see the Chicago Cubs a few times in September and have four games at home against the Mariners in the final week of the season.
Playoff chances: 20 percent
Tampa Bay Rays
Here is the deal: The Rays woke up Thursday losers of their previous four, and they were totally dominated by David Price later that afternoon. And they won the game.
That could be the kind of momentum shift the Rays need. And it helps that they face the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox 16 times before it’s said and done. A seven-game deficit in the wild-card race is significant but not impossible, especially for a team with a flare for late-September dramatics.
Also, in case you forgot, they can pitch.
Playoff chances: 35 percent
The fact that the Marlins are still hanging around is a shock. Plain and simple.
But they find themselves just four games out of a playoff spot, and their lone superstar, Giancarlo Stanton, seems to be getting better with every at-bat and is the front-runner for league MVP.
Their schedule doesn’t provide a ton of charity the rest of the way, but they’ve hung around this long.
Playoff chances: 40 percent
There are three teams ahead of the Tribe, which doesn't bode well for their chances, but they have won seven of 10 and get the Houston Astros for the first time this season over the weekend. This could be their springboard as they look up at the Yankees, who look finished, and the Blue Jays, who are following that lead.
Cleveland’s pitching has led it to an 11-7 record in August, and if that keeps up, LeBron James and Johnny Football won’t be the only sports topics in Ohio come October.
Playoff chances: 50 percent
After a historic season in 2013, the Pirates have been an inconsistent bunch this year. Still, they find themselves 2.5 games out of the second wild-card spot despite losing seven of their last 10 and having the reigning MVP, Andrew McCutchen, on the disabled list for most of the month until this week.
If the Bucs can stay within striking distance into the first week of September, they get a 13-game stretch against the Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies and Boston Red Sox. Those teams are a combined 47 games under .500.
Playoff chances: 60 percent