AL Wild-Card Race Predictions: The Final Day of MLB Season
by Darin Zank - 9/28/2011
On Sept. 2 the Boston Red Sox led the Tampa Bay Rays by nine games in American League Wild-Card standings. Since then the Sox have lost 17 of 24 games, while Tampa has won 16 of 24. So as we go into the final day of the regular season the slumping Sox and surging Rays are tied atop the Wild-Card standings.
Boston plays its final game in Baltimore Wednesday night (7:05 p.m. Eastern, ESPN), while Tampa ends at home with a game with the New York Yankees (7:10 p.m. Eastern).
Setting the Scene
The Red Sox lost the first game of their series in Baltimore Monday, 6-3, then got two homers from rookie catcher Ryan Lavarnway and held on for an 8-7 victory Tuesday night. So the Sox lead the season series with the Orioles 10-7. But Boston also hasn't won back-to-back games in over a month.
Baltimore, meanwhile, has won 10 of its last 15 games, and took three of four games from the Sox at Fenway last week. So they're doing their job as a spoiler. And the O's offense is on a roll, having scored at least six runs in 12 of their last 14 games.
Tampa has taken the first two games of its series with the Yankees, winning 5-2 behind starter James Shields Monday and then turning a key triple play and getting a big three-run homer from Matt Joyce to win, 5-3, Wednesday. So the Rays have won four in a row in their effort to track down the Sox.
New York, meanwhile, clinched the top seed in the upcoming AL playoffs last week. Despite that, the Yanks have been playing most of their starters in this series vs. Tampa. But what they'll do Wednesday night is uncertain. Will they go with their starters and try to knock off the Rays, helping hated Boston in the process? Or might they be tempted to tank it Wednesday night, and stick it to the Sox?
As of Wednesday morning the Yankees had not yet announced a starting pitcher for Wednesday night, and word was they were thinking about going with a rookie reliever.
New York leads the season series with Tampa, 9-8.
With their entire season on the line Boston will go with lefty Jon Lester (15-9, 3.49) Wednesday night in Baltimore against Alfredo Simon (4-9, 4.85) for the Orioles. Meanwhile, down in St. Petersburg, the Rays will start David Price (12-13, 3.35) against the Yankees.
Lester had been on a pretty good roll, but he got bombed for eight earned runs in less than three innings in a loss to the Yankees last Saturday. So over the course of his last three starts he's allowed 16 earned runs on 21 hits in just 13 2/3 innings pitched. However, he's had great success against Baltimore in his career, going a ridiculous 14-0 with a 2.33 ERA.
Simon, in his last outing, held Detroit to three ERs in eight innings last Friday. But in his previous start he got clipped for six ERs in five innings vs. the Angels. So you're never quite sure what you're going to get from him. In his one career start vs. Boston back in July Simon gave up three ERs on eight hits in less than five innings of a 4-0 Orioles defeat.
Price owns a streak of nine straight quality starts. In his last outing he gave up five runs in six innings in a 5-1 loss to Toronto, but only two of those runs were earned. The big lefty is two-for-four in quality starts vs. the Yankees this year, having allowed 12 ERs on 25 hits in 25 1/3 IP.
If the Sox and Rays are still tied after Wednesday night's play those two teams will meet Thursday afternoon at Tropicana Field for a one-game playoff to decide the AL Wild-Card berth.
Red Sox vs. Orioles Betting Odds
As of Wednesday morning 5Dimes.com is listing Boston as a -215 favorite for Wednesday night's game over the Orioles, according to MLB odds, with an ‘over/under’ of nine.
Yankees vs. Rays Betting Odds
As of Wednesday morning there is no line on this game, because the Yankees have not announced a starting pitcher.
Wednesday's MLB Predictions
Boston is in the process of pulling a classic choke, and it's tempting to root for them to complete the job. But Jacoby Ellsbury's game-winning three-run homer in the 14th inning at Yankee Stadium Sunday night seems to have given them a bit of a spark. And Lester has been dominant vs. Baltimore. So we'll go with the Sox to beat the Orioles. And Tampa is riding a wave, while New York might be less than totally interested Wednesday night. So we'll take the Rays. Which means we're calling for a one-game Wild-Card playoff Thursday in St. Pete.
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