5 teams prepared to play spoiler down MLB's home stretch
September baseball means it's time to scoreboard watch. It also means counting both the magic and tragic numbers of all 30 teams as the standings begin to lock into place and the playoff picture takes shape.
For those teams heading home after Game 162, the final month can be a bit of a grind. But several clubs have the chance to not only finish strong but ruin the October plans for many contenders.
Here's a look at five teams poised to play spoiler during the final stretch of the MLB season.
The Orioles don't appear to be a threat with an ugly 92 losses - including 25 defeats in their last 31 games. However, Baltimore has won a combined 15 contests against the Blue Jays (four), Red Sox (four), and Yankees (seven) this season. All three are trying to secure wild-card spots, and any missteps against the O's would be seen as a major missed opportunity. Ryan Mountcastle, Cedric Mullins, and Trey Mancini are tough outs who could provide some heartache for contenders.
The Cubs have been a mess since unloading franchise pillars Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Javier Baez at the trade deadline. Chicago's fortunes have recently turned, however, winning seven of its last eight games, including a six-game winning streak. Patrick Wisdom, who's a contender for NL Rookie of the Year with 25 homers and a .860 OPS, has flourished with more playing time. The team has 19 contests remaining against clubs with postseason aspirations. In particular, the Cubs could cause major issues for the Cardinals. The rivals play seven more times and the Cards are currently on the outside looking in.
It's another year of disappointment in Colorado, but the Rockies will get the chance to upend the plans of several playoff contenders in September. A week of home games against the Dodgers and Giants could go a long way toward deciding the NL West. And while the Rockies have struggled against both clubs this year, traveling to the high altitude of Denver can often wreak havoc on visiting teams for days following a series. Colorado will also have a say in the NL East race when the team visits Philadelphia and Atlanta on its next road trip. One way or another, the Rockies will have an impact on who's invited to the dance in October.
Los Angeles Angels
The Halos, for the sixth straight season, will have to settle for heartbreaker instead of contender. The A's have thumped the Angels throughout the season, but a three-game set in the middle of the month could be the one that officially sinks Oakland's remote playoff hopes. The six games down the home stretch against the Mariners might be a source of intrigue as well, with Seattle currently angling for a wild-card spot.
The Marlins have a legitimate shot at shaping the NL East standings, with 19 of their remaining 25 games against division rivals. The Mets' season has likely already been spoiled and the Nats are in the same spot as Miami. However, three-game sets against the Braves and Phillies could be huge for a young, plucky Marlins club with something to prove. Atlanta and Philadelphia are currently separated by two games and, in all likelihood, that final series will at least mean something for the Phillies, who've played .500 against the Fish.
Miami has Trevor Rogers back from the injured list, Jesus Luzardo trying to make a good impression with his new club after being a key deadline acquisition, and, up until Aug. 5, a positive run-differential, which ranked second in the division. This team is better than its record.