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Al Wild Card Newsbeat

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Rays Out-Moneyball Billy Beane and the Athletics in the AL Wild-Card Game

It’s fitting in some ways and a shame in others that the AL wild-card game was a matchup of the A’s and Rays, the baseball equivalent of the two Spider-Men pointing at each other meme. On one side: a plucky, small-market team running a low payroll, rolling out a roster of no-names, playing in a crappy stadium and stuck in a division with an insanely talented juggernaut that nonetheless perseveres to 96 wins and a playoff spot. On the other side: a plucky, small-market team running a low payroll, rolling out a roster of no-names, playing in a crappy stadium and stuck in a division with an insanely talented juggernaut that nonetheless perseveres to 97 wins and a playoff spot. And yet only one of Oakland or Tampa could survive.

That it’s the Rays moving on feels like a particular affront to the A’s, who pioneered the strategy of building a team with the pieces no one else wanted, dumpster diving to turn trash into pearls. They’re not the only ones running that particular game, but few franchises have perfected it quite like the Billy Beane Athletics, who’ve spent the last 16 years held up as the model of winning efficiently instead of extravagantly. This is their corner, and on Wednesday, they could only protest feebly as Tampa showed up and muscled them off it with little effort.

The Rays did so almost literally, given the presence of Yandy Diaz, who is built like an NFL defensive end and whose two homers—one leadoff to open the scoring, the other in the fourth to widen the gap, both opposite-field rockets—helped make this win happen. Diaz is the kind of piece they’ve unearthed seemingly annually over the last decade: another team’s trash becomes their treasure. Boasting biceps that wouldn’t be out of place in a 1980s action movie, the Cuban infielder was a Statcast darling as a member of the Indians for how routinely balls would leave his bat at the speed of sound. Yet Diaz pounded many of those missiles straight into the dirt, and his defense was a mess, and with a locked-in left side of the infield, Cleveland had no space for him.

Tampa did, because Tampa always does, because Tampa’s goal is to have a roster with six different options at every single position. Diaz came to Florida in a three-way deal (another Rays staple) in the offseason, earned a role as a regular corner infielder, and promptly whacked 14 homers in 79 games. An injury knocked him out for most of the second half, but there he was on Wednesday, hitting leadoff against southpaw Sean Manaea—the three plate appearances he’d collected since the end of July outweighed by the .976 OPS he posted this season against lefties. That proved to be the right call, because of course it was.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, what do we make of this line of analysis?

 

QLE Posted: October 03, 2019 at 12:29 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: al wild card, athletics, moneyball, rays

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Oakland’s own MC Hammer to throw out first pitch at A’s wild-card game

By now, you’ve probably heard who’s starting on the mound for the A’s in Wednesday’s AL Wild Card Game as the team hosts the Tampa Bay Rays.

... and it’s MC Hammer.

The Oakland native rapper/entertainer will get ceremonial first pitch honors for the Green and Gold in front of a hopefully robust crowd of 50,000 screaming fans.

Hammer, AKA Stanley Burrell, was born in Oakland and served as the clubhouse assistant and batboy for the A’s from 1973 - ‘80, according to an A’s press release. This was around the time he earned his nickname “Little Hammer” due to his resemblance to none other than Hall of Famer Hammerin’ Hank Aaron.

[Insert your own punchline here]

 

QLE Posted: October 02, 2019 at 01:09 AM | 16 comment(s)
  Beats: al wild card, athletics, first pitch, mc hammer

Saturday, September 28, 2019

A’s, Rays clinch playoff berths, will meet in AL Wild Card Game

On Friday night, the Indians fell to the Nationals (WAS 8, CLE 2), and around the same time the Rays topped the Blue Jays (TB 6, TOR 2). The Cleveland loss punched the Athletics’ ticket to the postseason, and the Rays’ win means they’ll play Oakland in the AL Wild Card Game.

That AL Wild Card Game will be played on Wednesday, Oct. 2, with the winner advancing to the ALDS, likely to oppose the Astros. Where that Wild Card Game will be played is still uncertain. At this writing, the Rays trail the A’s by just a half-game in the race to determine home-field advantage for that one-and-done affair. If both teams finish with the same record, then Oakland would host by virtue of their winning the season series over the Rays.

For the A’s, it’s their second straight trip to the Wild Card Game. They fell to the Yankees last season. The A’s also played in the Wild Card Game in 2014, when they lost to the Royals. Oakland hasn’t advanced beyond the LDS round in the postseason since 2006. Manager Bob Melvin has now led the A’s to the playoffs five times.

And, with that, the playoff hunt is over, and all spots to claim have been claimed.

 

QLE Posted: September 28, 2019 at 12:20 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: al wild card, athletics, rays

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

The biggest roadblocks facing every MLB playoff contender down the stretch

With three weeks left in the season, the wild card races seem destined to come down to the final few games. The American League has three teams neck and neck for two spots with the defending champion Boston Red Sox hoping for a late surge.

The National League features seven teams competing for three spots, and the National League Central crown could be decided in the last week.

With so many teams in the race, here’s a peek into what could be the biggest roadblock for the teams that are hoping to play in October:

So, how threatening do we see these roadblocks?

 

QLE Posted: September 10, 2019 at 01:15 AM | 2 comment(s)
  Beats: al wild card, nl central, nl wild card, pennant race, roadblocks

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

September Storylines to Follow as MLB’s Stretch Run Begins

If players are defined by what they do in October, their fates are often sealed in September. This is the month that makes postseason success possible. Divisions will be won, wild-card berths will be secured and MVP races will be decided. Here are the top storylines to follow as summer turns to fall.

1. The Last Division Race Standing

The NL Central was expected to be a three-team race all season, as the Cardinals, Cubs and Brewers expected to be in contention for the division title. St. Louis has been surging in the second half, when Paul Goldschmidt got hot and Jack Flaherty and Dakota Hudson emerged as a strong one-two rotation duo. Entering play Monday, the Cardinals (76-60) are three games ahead of Chicago in the division after winning eight of their last 10.

The Cubs (73-63), who hold a 2 1/2-game lead for the second wild-card, have been wildly inconsistent for much of the season. Their last three series (nine games) are the perfect example: They got swept at home by the Nationals, then swept the Mets at Citi Field before returning home to Wrigley Field and dropping two of three against Milwaukee. Offensive consistency has been a problem, as has an overworked bullpen with a less-effective Craig Kimbrel as the closer. Chicago is ultra talented, with a lineup anchored by a handful of all-stars. The Cubs are more than capable of rivaling the Cardinals for the division title, making the NL Central a worthy narrative to follow the rest of the way.

So, do we agree with these claims, or are there other stories that could emerge between now and the end of the regular season?


 

 

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