Monthly Archives: September 2013

Texas is one step away from securing a second wildcard

Texas is one step away from securing second wildcardThere were no lingering doubts about the teams that won the wild card in the National League, but things were very different in the AL. Cleveland extended its winning streak to 10 victories in a row and is now waiting for Texas and Tampa Bay to play the one-game playoffs this Tuesday. Whoever wins at Arlington Park will travel to Cleveland for another decisive game and the Indians are waiting.

At one point this season, Texas was leading the Western division and everyone thought that they won’t allow Oakland to come within striking distance. Analysts couldn’t be farther from the truth as the A’s closed the gap with blazing speed and then took the lead never to look back. While Oakland won the division with ease, the Rangers lost consecutive games and were on the verge of missing the playoffs.

Luckily, Texas rebounded in the final week of September by sweeping both the Astros and the Angels to clinch the second wildcard. Toronto gave them a helping hand by winning the series against Tampa, although the Rays pulled out a breathtaking victory in the final game. Now the two teams meet at Arlington Park in a game that will decide who gets another chance at a playoff spot and who watches baseball games from the stands this October.

The Rangers conceded an unacceptably high number of runs this month and their starting pitchers are largely responsible for the late-season meltdown. This time they have Martin Perez fit to play and he has a reputation of playing well under pressure, which makes him the obvious start for a critical game. If he keeps his earned run average at three per game and Texas’ hitting squad finally wakes up, they should have a fighting chance against the Rays.

Tampa proved to be a streaky team lately and alternated consecutive wins with winless streaks, pretty much like Texas. For some odd reason, the visitors are credited with the first chance by most bookmakers to prevail at Arlington Park, which should provide punters with the impetus to back the hosts. The visitors are not to be underestimated though, as they came back from behind and offset huge deficits in the past. Not having home pitch advantage in such an important game definitely hurts and this is one of the few intangibles that the Rangers have over their opponents.

Cardinals taken by surprise in Seattle

stlouisYou would expect a team like St. Louis to be ready for everything, as the Cardinals have one of the best rotations in MLB. They are generally happy with their performance so far as they are leading the competitive central division, but what happened in Seattle was deeply frustrating for the visitors. They split the two games played at Busch Stadium but they are yet to score a run against the Mariners’ starters.

What makes it so difficult to figure out what these opponents are all about is that Seattle is using a lineup of young and promising players. While they might be a real threat for the Cardinals in the future, the reason for why they are so effective right now is that their opponents don’t know anything about them. Some players even expressed their frustration about this awkward situation, saying that they have a harder mission now playing against these unknown players than they did when facing the Pirates or the Reds.

Tonight they will once again face a starting pitcher that hasn’t played against St. Louis so far, with Ramirez taking the mound for the hosts. He has a somewhat surprising record, with five victories in six starts and three on the road although he conceded almost 5 runs per game. There are plenty of other pitchers who have a similar percentage, but what makes this situation truly surprising is that Seattle is one of the worst scoring teams in MLB.

Ramirez can only hope that his luck won’t run out tonight because he will be opposed by Shelby Miller who won 13 decisions this season. One more victory would be enough for him to become the first rookie since Dick Hughes to hit 14 victories in his first season. He also has a solid earned run average of 3.05 and is expected to stay on the mound for six innings or more, unlike his counterpart who is a total enigma for the Cardinals.

Seattle played above expectations in both games of the series but they are clearly the underdog tonight and it is most unlikely for them to win the final game. As far as punters are concerned, the odds for a Cardinals victory are simply too low to be acceptable so the only way to extract value from them is by trusting the hosts to cover the -1.5 runs spread.