Two weeks remain in the MLB season and the only true suspense left in the American League is who gets the fifth and final AL Wild Card spot. Yes, there is a chance the New York Yankees overtake the Boston Red Sox for first place in the AL East but that will be over-analyzed by a plethora of other sites. The tighter race is for the playoff spot that is celebrating its 6th year of existence, that precious second Wild Card.
The battle is between two somewhat unlikely teams. Currently holding the position by a narrow 2-game margin are the Minnesota Twins. Heading into the season, I wondered aloud “Where’s the love for the Twins“. The LA Angels are the team in hot pursuit and they are surprising because they had to do with this without leader Mike Trout between May 29 and July 13. You are completely excused if you were one of the millions of fans who wrote them off as soon as news broke that Trout injured his thumb.
|Team||opponent||record vs opponent|
vs Detroit ((3)
|2-1 (home series)
|Anaheim||vs Cleveland (3)|
vs Seattle (3)
|0-3 (road series)
3-0 (home series)
The Twins have been better on the road so far this season with 39-32 record. They are going to need to be road warriors to finish the season as 10 of their 13 games are on the road. Zero surprise the Twins have a losing record against the Indians but the Tigers? Really!
The Angels face the top two teams in the American League to start these pivotal final two weeks. A good home team, the Angels are going to need to steal a game or two away from the Indians to truly keep pace with the Twins. Maintaining the perfect record against the White Sox is asking too much, but winning 3 of 4 of those games in Chicago has to be the expectation. I have already written off the Seattle Mariners despite only being 2.5 games behind the Angels as of this writing, but they have the higher potential of playing spoiler than the toothless Tigers.
|(league rank)||Batting Average||HR||Stolen Bases||ERA||Saves/Opportunities|
|Minnesota Twins||.259 (14th)||193 (16th)||87 (9th)||4.64 (21st)||39/58|
|Los Angeles Angels||.244 (27th)||169 (25th)||128 (1st)||4.17 (11th)||41/58|
Remember at the beginning of the season with everyone suggesting the Angels only hope of competing was any sort of pitching, period? Well, they are top half of the league in lowest ERA, top ten in lowest batting average against and allowed the 4th least amount of walks. Sure they have given up the 7th most amount of homers but do you know who has given up more? Yup, the Minnesota Twins.
What a backwards world we live in where the legitimate hopes of an Angels playoff run relies on their pitching staff. An extra month of Mike Trout likely improves some of their offensive standings but not enough to keep up with the Twins. The most marked improvement between either of these teams is in the stolen base category. The Angels went from middle of the pack last season to leader of the pack this season.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia was forced into a situation of adaptation and he adapted. Twins manager Paul Molitor was put in a position to prove last year was just a down year. Both managers will earn AL Manager of the Year votes with the one making the playoffs obviously earning more.
The Angels are going to the playoffs!
How do they make up the 2 game deficit you ask?
The Angels and Twins will both lose their next series keeping them where they stand. In Minnesota’s 7-game stretch, all on the road, versus Detroit and Cleveland I have them going 2-5. In Anaheim’s 7-game road stretch I have them going 4-3. That leaves them tied going into their respective final series’ of the season. The role of spoiler will go the Tigers foiling the Twins drive to the post-season.
More faith in a Ricky Nolasco, Garrett Richards, Tyler Skaggs, Andrew Heaney, Parker Bridwell rotation than a Ervin Santana, Jose Berrios, Adalberto Mejia, Bartolo Colon, Kyle Gibson rotation. The future is still brighter in Minnesota with Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano but in this dash to the finish line, the nod goes to the Angels.
Bonus prediction: The Angels will beat the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game.