After 5 1/2 months and 150 games the American League Wild Card race remains very much in doubt. As the New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians fade into the summer dust, the Oakland Athletics, Kansas City Royals and Seattle Mariners are creating what may be another tremendous finish to the regular season.
The standings change daily, as does the momentum. The lack of balance in the schedule only makes it all that much more intriguing.
As play begins Wednesday, here is how things look in the American League Wild Card race:
Kansas City: 82-68
It’s worth noting the Detroit Tigers lead the American League Central at 84-67, 1/2 game ahead of Oakland, 1 1/2 games ahead of Kansas City and 2 1/2 games ahead of Seattle. The Tigers remain in the Wild Card picture only if they are overtaken by the Royals in the division race. Those two clubs have a three-game series left on the schedule.
Here is how the remaining schedule stacks up for each team (pitching probables subject to change):
Jeff Samardzija, RHP vs. Texas Rangers: Derek Holland, LHP
Sonny Gray, RHP vs. Texas Rangers: Nick Martinez, RHP
Jon Lester, LHP vs. Philadelphia Phillies: David Buchanan, RHP
Drew Pomeranz, LHP vs. Philadelphia Phillies: Jerome Williams, RHP
Scott Kazmir, LHP vs. Philadelphia Phillies: A.J. Burnett, RHP
Jeff Samardzija, RHP vs. Los Angeles Angels: C.J. Wilson, LHP
Sonny Gray, RHP vs. Los Angeles Angels: Jered Weaver, RHP
Jon Lester, LHP vs. Los Angeles Angels: Hector Santiago, LHP
Jason Hammel, RHP at Texas Rangers: Colby Lewis, RHP
Scott Kazmir, LHP at Texas Rangers: Nick Tepesch, RHP
Jeff Samardzija, RHP at Texas Rangers: Derek Holland, LHP
Sonny Gray, RHP at Texas Rangers: Nick Martinez, RHP
Kansas City Royals
Yordano Ventura, RHP vs. Chicago White Sox: Chris Sale, LHP
Jason Vargas, LHP vs. Detroit Tigers: Kyle Lobstein, LHP
James Shields, RHP vs. Detroit Tigers: Justin Verlander, RHP
Jeremy Guthrie, RHP vs. Detroit Tigers: Max Scherzer, RHP
Completion of Suspended Game 8.31.2014 v. Cleveland Indians: Indians lead 4-2, Royals bat bottom of 10th inning.
After suspended game: Danny Duffy, LHP at Cleveland Indians: Carlos Carrasco, RHP
Yordano Ventura, RHP at Cleveland Indians: Danny Salazar, RHP
Jason Vargas, LHP at Cleveland Indians: Trevor Bauer, RHP
James Shields, RHP at Chicago White Sox: Jose Quintana, LHP
Jeremy Guthrie, RHP at Chicago White Sox: Scott Carroll, RHP
Danny Duffy, LHP at Chicago White Sox: Hector Noesi, RHP
Yordano Ventura, RHP at Chicago White Sox: John Danks, LHP
Note: The White Sox have been using six starters of late — Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Scott Carroll, Hector Noesi, Chris Bassitt and John Danks — but could choose to skip one or two spots and go with Sale on regular rest. If they did so, Sale would pitch Wednesday at Kansas City, then again Tuesday at Detroit versus David Price and the Tigers. His final start then would come on the final day of the regular season at home versus the Royals.
The chances Sale goes September 23 may be decent since the club has a day off Thursday, September 20. If the Sox do not use Sale the following Tuesday, he’ll have had six full days rest and his season would be over after that start. Considering he missed some time back in April and May — nearly five weeks, around six or seven starts — Chicago may give Sale the extra start, which could improve his chances to win the Cy Young, too, something clubs love to do if they are presented with the right opportunity. White Sox skipper Robin Ventura says he’s not inclined to do so, but hasn’t ruled it out just yet.
James Paxton, LHP at Los Angeles Angels: C.J. Wilson, LHP
Felix Hernandez, RHP at Los Angeles Angels: Jered Weaver, RHP
Chris Young, RHP at Houston Astros: Dallas Keuchel, LHP
Hisashi Iwakuma, RHP at Houston Astros: Brad Peacock, RHP
Taijuan Walker, RHP at Houston Astros: Collin McHugh, RHP
James Paxton, LHP at Toronto Blue Jays: J.A. Happ, LHP
Felix Hernandez, RHP at Toronto Blue Jays: R.A. Dickey, RHP
Chris Young, RHP at Toronto Blue Jays: Mark Buehrle, LHP
Hisashi Iwakuma, RHP at Toronto Blue Jays: Marcus Stroman, RHP
*Taijuan Walker, RHP or Roenis Elias, LHP vs. Los Angeles Angels: Matt Shoemaker, RHP
James Paxton, LHP vs. Los Angeles Angels: Cory Rasmus, RHP
**Felix Hernandez, RHP vs. Los Angeles Angels: C.J. Wilson, LHP
*Elias was removed from his start September 17 in Anaheim with what is being termed a “slight elbow strain” and is likely to miss his start September 21 in Houston, according to skipper Lloyd McClendon. Walker is the likely replacement starter versus the Astros. If Elias is not ready to go September 26, Walker likely will get that start, too, and any others in October if Elias remains unavailable.
**If the Mariners do not need to win the final game of the regular season to clinch a postseason berth or clinch home field advantage in the Wild Card play-in game, Hernandez will be skipped and used Tuesday, September 30 in that Wild Card play-in contest.
The A’s would certainly do the same with Gray. The Royals’ ace, Shields, already is on schedule for availability in case of a one-game playoff or for the Wild Card play-in game.
The Mariners play at 1:10 PT in the regular season finale and may know how important their game is by the time the third or fourth inning rolls around. The Royals and White Sox are scheduled to start at 11:10 PT with the A’s and Rangers slated for 12:05 PT.