They all have legitimate reasons why they believe they should make the postseason. But looking at the five teams in a day-to-day battle for position to take the second wild-card spot in the American League, it’s impossible not see glaring blemishes. They aren’t quite a pimple on the prom queen’s nose, but just enough reason to question their chances. Each team is flawed in some way, which is why no team figures to pull away in a race that seems to have a different leader each day.
Here in Seattle, it’s easy to see what could prevent the Mariners from making their first postseason appearance since 2001 — a frustrating and infuriating offense.
Seattle is scoring just 3.9 runs per game, second-worst in the American League to go with a .245 batting average, also second-worst in the league, and a .674 OPS, which is easily the worst.
The Mariners have made mediocre pitchers like Collin McHugh, Josh Tomlin and Kyle Gibson seem like Cy Young candidates. They’ve been shut out 14 times, most in the American League.
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The punchless attack and a brutal American League West featuring the A’s and Angels are two reasons why Seattle, despite having the best bullpen in the AL and one of the top rotations, is still hovering around .500 and stuck in the race for the second wild card.
But what about Seattle’s competition? Let’s take a closer look:
Kansas City Royals
On paper, they should be one of the better teams in the American League. Yet, the Royals have underachieved most of the season, thanks to inconsistency in almost every facet.
Like the Mariners, the Royals are offensively challenged. They are a team that lacks extra-base and power potential. Kansas City has a .263 team batting average — third-best in the league. But they’ve hit the fewest homers (68) of any team in the AL and have the second-worst OPS (.688), just ahead of the Mariners. Designated hitter Billy Butler is mired in an awful season, hitting .279 with seven homers and 47 RBI. Eric Hosmer is on the disabled list with a fracture in his hand, and third baseman Mike Moustakas is barely hitting over .200
To make matters worse, staff ace James Shields hasn’t been as dominant as hoped. He’s 11-6 with a 3.25 ERA.
New York Yankees
It’s an aging group that features a daily lineup without a single player under age 30. To combat the nagging injuries associated with a team of that age, general manager Brian Cashman was proactive at the trade deadline, adding third baseman Chase Headley, utility player Martin Prado and infielder Stephen Drew to supplement the offense. The additions have helped. The Yankees have won six of their last seven. But can the offensive additions overcome a starting rotation that is missing Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia? The staff ace is now Hiroki Kuroda, and recent additions Brandon McCarthy and Chris Capuano join Shane Greene and Esmil Rogers. Somewhere, Whitey Ford weeps.
Toronto Blue Jays
They come to Safeco Field on Monday, and fans will see that the Blue Jays are far from a finished product. They can swing the bats, ranking second in the AL in batting average (.264) , home runs (137) and OPS (.756). Led by Jose Bautista, Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera, the team can put up plenty of runs. But they are still starting Munenori Kawasaki at second base most games. The offense needs to be good with a pitching staff that isn’t nearly as productive. The starting rotation has been inconsistent. Veterans R.A. Dickey and Mark Buerhle are known commodities, but youngsters Drew Hutchison and Marcus Stroman have yet to pitch in a playoff race. The bullpen is far from dominant, issuing far too many walks in comparison to strikeouts.
They rank in the top five in most offensive categories, thanks to the production of All-Star outfielder Michael Brantley and breakout years from catcher Yan Gomes and third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall. They’ve managed to stay in the race despite Michael Bourn spending an extended period on the disabled list and while trading away Justin Masterson and Asdrubal Cabrera before they become free agents. But the starting rotation just doesn’t seem to have enough talent to keep them in the race. Corey Kluber is one of the top starters in the AL, but after Kluber there is a massive drop-off. Trevor Bauer has yet to find consistency behind Kluber, and the rest of the rotation has been pieced together with below-level arms.