Tag:Playoff race: AL Wild Card
Posted on: September 29, 2011 12:18 am
Edited on: September 29, 2011 2:17 am

Playoff race: Epic finish sends Rays to playoffs

Evan Longoria

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Evan Longoria's solo homer off of the Yankees' Scott Proctor capped what was perhaps the most exciting final day of the regular season in baseball history, and solidified two epic collapses by the Red Sox and the Braves.

Longoria's homer gave Tampa Bay an 8-7 victory just minutes after the Orioles' Robert Andino's liner scored the winning run in Baltimore to seal a 4-3 come-from-behind victory over the Red Sox. Longoria was in the on-deck circle in St. Petersburg, Fla., when the Red Sox score was announced. Just three minutes later, Longoria hit his second homer of the game.

It was just another comeback for the Rays, who were behind in the wild card race by as many as nine games and then were down 7-0 in the eighth inning of Wednesday's game against the Yankees. Tampa Bay scored six in the eighth inning, including three on Longoria's first homer of the night. Dan Johnson hit a two-out, pinch-hit homer in the ninth to tie the game.

While the Rays were within a strike of losing, the Red Sox were within a strike of winning.

Jonathan Papelbon, who had never surrendered an earned run at Camden Yards until Tuesday, struck out the first two batters he faced in the ninth inning trying to protect a 3-2 lead. But Chris Davis doubled and then Nolan Reimold hit a ground-rule double to tie the game and then Andino hit a sinking liner to left that Carl Crawford -- the former Ray -- couldn't catch, scoring Reimold.

Three minutes later, Longoria ended Boston's season, and completed the Red Sox collapse.

The Rays will now head to Texas to face the Rangers in the first round of ALDS on Friday, while the Yankees will host the Tigers.

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Posted on: September 28, 2011 12:57 pm

On Deck: Wild cards hinge on final day

By Evan Brunell

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AL wild card: It's the final game of the season, and we've got two races currently tied. The first of them is the American League wild card, where the Red Sox and Rays are knotted at one apiece. Boston will send ace Jon Lester to the mound in the hopes of downing the Orioles. Lester has never lost against Baltimore, running up a 14-0 record. On the year, he has a solid 3.49 ERA but that mark is 6.97 over his last four starts, so there's concern there. He'll be opposed by Alfredo Simon. Meanwhile, down south, the Rays offer up their own ace in David Price to take down the Yankees. New York is already in the playoffs, so they could choose to rest some players and give the Rays a weaker opponent to play against. To that end, even the Yankees don't know who will be starting Wednesday night. Red Sox vs. Orioles, 7:00 p.m. ET | Yankees vs. Rays, 7:00 p.m. ET

NL wild card: Over in the NL, the Braves are new to this. The Red Sox have had an extra day to get used to the idea of falling into a tie, but Atlanta woke up Wednesday knowing the final game of the season was crucial to the playoff hunt. After all, if they lose and the Cardinals win, they're out. Fortunately, they have a pretty good pitcher heading to the hill in Tim Hudson, who will oppose Joe Blanton in what figures to be a bullpen game for Philly. On paper it's a mismatch, but the way the Braves has been playing lately is the complete opposite of St. Louis. Meanwhile, the scorching Redbirds offer up Chris Carpenter against the hapless Astros, who will send Brett Myers to the mound. Phillies vs. Braves, 7:00 p.m. ET | Cardinals vs. Astros, 8:00 p.m. ET

StrasburgNo walks: Stephen Strasburg has a very good chance to accomplish an incredible feat in his fifth and final start of the year. So far, he's walked absolutely zero batters in his 18 innings, striking out 14. That's a K/BB ratio of infinity. Thanks to the magic that is Baseball Reference's Play Index, I ran a query of all starting pitchers who had at least five consecutive starts with no walks in the millennium. There's been plenty of streaks of no walks allowed, most namely the amazing Greg Maddux who racked up two separate nine-game streaks of no walks allowed. If Strasburg gets through the game, he'll be tied with 15 others for five consecutive starts. Interestingly, Kevin Slowey accomplished the feat earlier this season, but before that you have to go back to Cliff Lee in 009, then Curt Schilling in 2006. Strasburg himself went six straight starts without a walk last season. He's opposing Chris Volstad in Jack McKeon's final game as Marlins manager. Nationals vs. Marlins, 4:10 p.m. ET

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Posted on: September 28, 2011 11:25 am

Who would have pitched in a Wild Card playoff?

By Evan Brunell

Major League Baseball will be changing its postseason structure either for the 2012 or 2013 season, adding one wild card per league. As a result, there will be a new playoff series of just one game, which we'll call the Wild Card Game, with both wild cards per league duking it out for a winner-take-all game for the right to advance to the division series.

If this change was in effect for 2011, both the Red Sox and Rays would have won the AL wild card, although the Angels would still have made things interesting. Over in the NL, the Cardinals and Braves would both have won the honors, with the Giants making a late run for it in September. So two collapses -- one each by Boston and Atlanta -- would effectively have been negated by this rule change. (That doesn't make the rule change bad; an extra one-game playoff is always fun and you don't know what teams would have done at the trade deadline with an extra potential postseason spot.)

The Red Sox would love to avoid a playoff game with Tampa and win the wild card outright. If there is a playoff game, then the Red Sox will be forced to start John Lackey in a winner-take-all game, which would not have been the case under the new rules. You see, Jon Lester is likely to pitch on three days rest this Wednesday to give Boston the best chance at winning the wild card. Under the new rules, though, Lester's start would not have been needed as Boston would have clinched a wild-card spot after Monday night's game. That means Bedard would have pitched Tuesday as he did and a warm body would have completed Boston's season on Wednesday, probably Tim Wakefield. That would have set Lester up for the Wild Card Game, working quite nicely in Boston's favor.

The Rays, for their part, would also have clinched a spot after Monday night, knocking the Angels out. The Rays could have opted to push Jeremy Hellickson, who started Tuesday against the Yankees, back to the Wild Card Game. It's far more likely, though, that David Price would have been pushed back to Thursday instead of drawing the ball on Wednesday. So the playoff game would have seen a Lester/Price battle. Instead, if there is a playoff game, we're looking at John Lackey and Jeff Niemann. Exciting!

In the National League, the Giants were eliminated on Sunday. That would have allowed the Cardinals and Braves, respectively, to reconsider their assignments of Jaime Garcia and Randall Delgado to the mound on Monday, respectively. Delgado certainly would have started, as he likely wouldn't have drawn the ball in the playoff game or the first couple games of the division series anyways. Garcia is a possibility, but with Chris Carpenter slated to go on Wednesday, he certainly would have been pushed back to the playoff game with Garcia starting on Monday in order to line up for the division series. Tuesday's starter in Jake Westbrook wouldn't have been considered for the start.

So who would the Braves have sent up against Carpenter if not Delgado? Derek Lowe? Nope -- he's in the midst of one his worst seasons, so would have started on Tuesday to ready for a Game 3 start in the division series. As we've seen, every team's Wednesday starter has so far fit the bill for a playoff game, and that holds true for Atlanta, as Tim Hudson would have drawn the start. So we're looking at a Carpenter/Hudson matchup. Not shabby at all.

Instead of both teams having to throw their best pitchers against other teams in a battle for the wild card, these pitchers would have gone up against each other in what would have promised to be an exciting day of Wild Card Games.

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Posted on: September 25, 2011 11:47 pm

Playoff race: Red Sox split DH, up 1/2 game

By Evan Brunell

During the first inning of the night game, we reached the point with the Red Sox's collapse where it was comical. Boston unfailingly kept finding new  -- and strangely familiar -- ways to choke away games. While the first game did go the Yankees way as expected, the second game saw a Boston victory. John Lackey surprisingly held on for six innings after gifting three in the first and the team rode a 14th-inning Jacoby Ellsbury homer to a 7-4 victory. That keeps Boston a game ahead of the Rays.

One would think that the Red Sox would still be in prime position to win the wild card thanks to facing the Orioles next, while the Rays draw the Yankees as the regular season comes to a close. But Boston dropped three of four to Baltimore prior to the Yankees series, so nothing can be assured. (The Rays, to be fair to Boston, also dropped three of four to the Yanks last weekend as well.)

The Rays did their duty Sunday, defeating the Blue Jays 5-2. Upton hit his 23rd homer of the year and is heating up at the right time -- he has a .333/.423/.583 line in September.

Boston Red Sox
Remaining schedule: 3 @ BAL
Coolstandings.com expectancy of wild card: 50 percent

Tampa Bay Rays
88-71, 1 GB
Remaining schedule: 3 v. NYY
Coolstandings.com expectancy of wild card: 50 percent

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Posted on: September 24, 2011 10:10 pm
Edited on: September 24, 2011 10:12 pm

Playoff race: Rays could catch Boston on Sunday

Carl Crawford

By C. Trent Rosecrans

The Rays could catch the Red Sox as soon as Sunday following Saturday's 6-2 victory over the Blue Jays and the Red Sox's 9-1 loss to the Yankees. Tampa Bay trails Boston by just 1.5 games after Saturday's games.

Wade Davis takes the hill for Tampa Bay against Brett Cecil, while the Red Sox send Tim Wakefield and John Lackey to the mound for their doubleheader in New York against A.J. Burnett and Ivan Nova. A Rays win and a Yankees sweep would tie the teams in the wild card standings with just three games remaining.

If you're a Red Sox fan, it looks like now's the time to get nervous (if you weren't already).

Here's what's left for both teams:

Boston Red Sox
Remaining schedule: 2 @ NYY, 3 @BAL
Coolstandings.com expectancy of wild card: 88.4 percent

Tampa Bay Rays
87-71, 1.5 GB
Remaining schedule: 1 v. TOR, 3 v. NYY
Coolstandings.com expectancy of wild card: 10 percent

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 22, 2011 11:10 pm
Edited on: September 22, 2011 11:29 pm

Playoff race: Angels lose in extras; Rays victors


By Evan Brunell

Matt Moore put forth a dazzling performance and the Rays got off to a hot start by racking up a 13-0 lead. While the bullpen would go on to give up eight runs, it was still game over from early on. The performance by Moore should put him in great position next season to open the year in the rotation, and the Rays will certainly shuffle things around to get the talented lefty in the rotation. With the victory, Tampa edged closer to an idling Boston, making up half a game. The Rays are now two games behind with six games to play.

The Red Sox's day off was much needed after the team dropped three of four to the Orioles, staggering to a 5-16 record in September. Boston draws the Yankees next. New York has already clinched the AL East and will certainly not be treating the games against Boston as must-wins, but they'll still bring their team to bear and try to stun the Red Sox into missing the playoffs. Interestingly enough, the off day by Boston actually improved the Red Sox's chances of winning, with even the Rays victory dropping their likelihood of the wild card 0.6 percent. That's because the amount of games left matter.

Can't forget about the Angels either, who had a 3-1 lead against Toronto until the seventh, when the Jays pushed across two runs. In the 12th, Edwin Encarnacion delivered a walkoff hope run to drop L.A. three games behind Boston. With three games coming up against Oakland before finishing the year with Texas, the Angels need to show up in these next few games to keep their hopes alive.

Boston Red Sox
Remaining schedule: 3 @ NYY, 3 @ BAL
Coolstandings.com expectancy of wild card: 85.5 percent

Tampa Bay Rays
86-70, 2 GB
Remaining schedule: 3  v. TOR, 3 v. NYY
Coolstandings.com expectancy of wild card: 7.4 percent

Los Angeles Angels
85-71, 3 GB
Remaining schedule: 3 v. OAK, 3 v. TEX
Coolstandings.com expectancy of wild card: 6.2 percent

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: September 21, 2011 11:24 pm

Playoff race: Angels narrow lead in wild card


By Evan Brunell

The Red Sox lost yet again on Wednesday, blowing another late-game lead to the Orioles. Fortunately for Boston, the Yankees clinched the AL East title on Wednesday with a 4-2 victory over the Rays, taking both games of the doubleheader. The Rays have now slipped to 2 1/2 games behind the Red Sox, so the Red Sox have some breathing room with one more game off the books.

However, it's time to stand up and take notice of the Angels, who are now tied with Tampa in the wild card chase, defeating the Blue Jays to move to 2 1/2 games behind the Red Sox. With an easier schedule ahead, the Angels might even be considered the more likely team to beat Boston, if any team can. But playoff odds don't agree, likely because the Angels have to play one more game than both Tampa and Boston.

With a tough schedule that includes four more games against the Yankees, it will be a tall task for Tampa to overcome 2 1/2 games this late in the proceedings. But the Angels have a shot, with a remaining game against Toronto followed by three upcoming games against Oakland followed by a three-game set with the Rangers, who will be more concerned with setting their team up for the postseason than who wins the wild card.

Boston Red Sox
Remaining schedule: 3 @ NYY, 3 @ BAL
Coolstandings.com expectancy of wild card: 84.5 percent

Tampa Bay Rays
85-70, 2 1/2 GB
Remaining schedule: 3 v. TOR, 3 v. NYY
Coolstandings.com expectancy of wild card: 8 percent

Los Angeles Angels
85-70, 2 1/2 GB
Remaining schedule: 1 @ TOR, 3 v. OAK, 3 v. TEX
Coolstandings.com expectancy of wild card: 6.5 percent

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 20, 2011 10:51 pm
Edited on: September 21, 2011 12:11 am

Playoff race: Rays lose ground in loss

Davis, Maddon
By Evan Brunell

The Red Sox missed a golden chance to get some breathing room in the AL wild card when the Orioles' light-hitting infielder, Robert Andino, ripped a three-run double in the bottom eighth off of Jonathan Papelbon. It was the first time Papelbon had been scored upon since July 16, so it's hard to blame Papelbon too much. It was just shoddy timing, but it was enough for Boston to drop yet another game and fall six games behind the Yankees. As if five games wasn't already a near impossibility to make up, it's all but assured at this point as New York now has a 99.9 percent chance of winning the division.

So yeah, that race is over.

In the wild card, the Rays fell to the Yankees in a 5-0 shutout, so no ground was gained or lost in terms of games separating Boston and Tampa Bay. However, the Rays' work is now that much tougher as they failed to capitalize on inching closer to Boston. Any time the Red Sox lose, never mind to a team as down and out as the Orioles, the Rays have to be there to take advantage. After all, it's not just Boston that has to lose the wild card. Tampa has to win it, and their chances actually went down on Tuesday by about three percent.

But let's not forget the Angels, who won on Tuesday and suddenly makes them a dark-horse candidate to steal the wild card. The Angels' division hopes are all but scrubbed, so it's the wild card or bust. At just 3 1/2 back, the Angels could feasibly swoop in and steal the wild card. After all, Boston can't buy a win while the Rays have six more games against the Yankees.

Boston Red Sox
Remaining schedule: 1 v. BAL, 3 @ NYY, 3 @ BAL
Coolstandings.com expectancy of wild card: 90.8 percent

Tampa Bay Rays
85-68, 2 GB
Remaining schedule: 3 @NYY, 3 v. TOR, 3 v. NYY
Coolstandings.com expectancy of wild card: 5.2 percent

Los Angeles Angels
84-70, 3 1/2 GB
Remaining schedule: 2 @ TOR, 3 v. OAK, 3 v. TEX
Coolstandings.com expectancy of wild card: 1.1 percent

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com