There is something almost perverse about being required to play one additional game after completing a grueling 162-game MLB schedule. The grind of the regular season is taxing enough, not to mention the pressure of the September stretch run, where teams are battling for a division title or wild card berth. But sometimes, even after all of this baseball is played, the playoff dance card is not quite full, and one more game is necessary.
For the 2013 MLB regular season, there is one playoff spot left to fill. The second wild card slot in the American League is still up for grabs, and the Rangers and Rays will play in Arlington on Monday night to determine who will move on. The winner of this game will then travel to Cleveland on Wednesday to hook up with the Indians in the brand spanking new one-game wildcard playoff. Whichever team survives this test will enjoy the privilege of traveling to Fenway Park on Friday to face the Red Sox in the divisional round.
There was some excellent baseball played down the stretch by several teams, most notably Cleveland, who rattled off 10 consecutive wins to close the season. Granted, these wins came against the Astros, White Sox and Twins, but this is still quite an accomplishment when you consider the pressure filled scenario involved. They played the final four games of the season in Minnesota, and won them all. The Indians finished 92-70, and actually closed to within one game of Detroit in the A.L. Central.
Texas also closed the regular season strong, winning their final seven games to force the one-game playoff with Tampa Bay. As with Cleveland, the Rangers clearly benefited from a generous schedule, as they played the Astros and Angels at home to close the season. However, in a situation where just one loss can derail your postseason plans, any win is impressive. Texas finished 91-71, five games back of Oakland in the A.L. West.
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay also finished strong, winning eight of their final ten games. They did have some issues this weekend in Toronto, losing both Friday and Saturday, but managed to hold on Sunday, winning 7-6 and forcing the playoff. The Rays also finished 91-71, six games behind Boston in the A.L. East.
Texas will have the advantage of playing at home in Arlington on Monday night. However, the pitching edge is clearly on the side of Tampa Bay, as the Rays will trot out 2012 American League Cy Young winner David Price, while the Rangers are expected to send rookie Martin Perez to the bump. Each team is playing great baseball at the moment, but anything can happen in the one game scenario, and strategy will no doubt be dictated by the unique nature of the stakes. The postseason is upon us, folks.
And so it begins.
Posted on September 30, 2013, in 2013, Indians, Rangers, Rays and tagged A's, A.L. Central, A.L. East, A.L. West, American League, Angels, Astros, Blue Jays, david price, Indians, Martin Perez, Rangers, Rays, Red Sox, tigers, Twins, White Sox. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.