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THE RUNDOWN | A weekly look at the majors The Rundown: Six-team battle for two wild-card spots adds up to excitement

  • The Kansas City Star
  • Published Saturday, Sep. 21, 2013, at 9:01 p.m.
  • Updated Sunday, Sep. 22, 2013, at 3:49 p.m.

RAYS

• Record: 85-69

• Playoff odds: 78.1 percent

• Last 10: 7-3

• The schedule: 2 vs. Orioles, 3 at Yankees, 3 at Blue Jays

• Why they will: Tampa Bay is tied for the AL lead in WHIP (1.23).

• Why they won’t: That 36-39 road record leaves a lot to be desired, particularly since the Rays end the season away from Tropicana Field.

• Quote: “You have to be aware. Aware, aware, aware. Constantly. There’s no taking naps in these games, man. This stuff is for real.” | Rays manager Joe Maddon

INDIANS

• Record: 85-70

• Playoff odds: 59.9 percent

• Last 10: 8-2

• The schedule: 1 vs. Astros, 2 vs. White Sox, 4 at Twins

• Why they will: The last three teams they face this season have a combined record of 176-279 (.387) entering the weekend.

• Why they won’t: No. 1 starter Justin Masterson, who hasn’t pitched since Sept. 2 when he strained an oblique, may not pitch again this year.

• Quote: “It’s not always going to be pretty, but we’re going to find a way to get it done. We’ve got a scrappy group in here and we’re not done.” | First baseman Nick Swisher

RANGERS

• Record: 84-70

• Playoff odds: 49.7 percent

• Last 10: 3-7

• The schedule: 1 at Royals, 3 vs. Astros, 4 vs. Angels

• Why they will: Texas’ record in day games (19-24) is the worst among contenders, but six of their final eight are at night.

• Why they won’t: History. In 2012, the Rangers lost 12 of their final 20 games. They led Oakland by five games with nine to play but went 2-7 and lost the division.

• Quote: “What we’ve got to worry about is winning a ballgame every night from here on out.” | Manager Ron Washington

YANKEES

• Record: 82-73

• Playoff odds: 1.8 percent

• Last 10: 5-5

• The schedule: 1 vs. Giants, 3 vs. Rays, 3 at Astros

• Why they will: Because it seems like when you count them out, they find a way.

• Why they won’t: They are 10th in the American League in runs scored and ninth in runs allowed, which is not a way teams get to the postseason.

• Quote: “As long as we’re not mathematically out of it, we’ve still got a chance. There’s not a person in this room that feels any differently.” | Outfielder Vernon Wells

ROYALS

• Record: 81-73

• Playoff odds: 6.2 percent

• Last 10: 6-4

• The schedule: 1 vs. Rangers, 3 at Mariners, 4 at White Sox

• Why they will: The pitching is the best of the bunch in the race.

• Why they won’t: Jumping this many teams in a short span of time is tough to do.

• Quote: “Every game is so big. That’s what makes it fun. The intensity, the electricity in the ballpark that we’ve had during this push has been awesome. It is so much fun.” | Pitcher Luke Hochevar

ORIOLES

• Record: 81-73

• Playoff odds: 4.2 percent

• Last 10: 4-6

• The schedule: 2 at Rays, 3 vs. Blue Jays, 3 vs. Red Sox

• Why they will: The Orioles are on pace for a .992 fielding percentage, which would be the best in baseball history.

• Why they won’t: The Orioles are 17-28 in one-run games and have lost 12 of their last 15 one-run games. Last year, they were 29-9 in such games.

• Quote: “I don’t think we’re putting extra pressure on ourselves, but we know we need to win as many as we can. In a way, our backs are against the wall.” | Shortstop J.J. Hardy

NOTE: Odds are from Baseball Prospectus

More information

Three up

• The Padres’ Andrew Cashner is 5-3 with a 2.36 ERA in 10 starts since the All-Star break.

• The Athletics are 19-6 since Aug. 26, the best record in baseball.

• Toronto’s Moises Sierra has a major-league-best 12 doubles in September.

Three down

• White Sox first baseman Adam Dunn is hitting .130 with 27 strikeouts in September.

• Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum has a 4.72 ERA since the All-Star break.

• The Twins have the worst ERA in baseball in September (5.85).

Statistically speaking

• The Tigers’ Victor Martinez leads the majors with the most three-hit-plus games this season with 18.

• ESPN noted that Yankees outfielder Alfonso Soriano is the third player in major-league history with 16 or more home runs for both an AL and NL team in the same season (the others: Manny Ramirez and Mark McGwire).

• From MLB: In 2013, there have been 173 games in which a starter has struck out at least 10 batters.

You need to know

• The Cubs and White Sox have a chance to finish last in the same season for just the second time since 1901 and the first time since 1948. Among current and former two-team metropolitan areas, Philadelphia holds the dubious distinction of most last-place finishes for both teams (the Phillies and A’s) in the same season with nine.

• The Mariners have 48 walk-off losses since 2010, the most in the majors in that span.

• St. Louis manager Mike Matheny could become only the 11th manager in major-league history to take a team to the postseason in his first two full managerial seasons. The list includes Gabby Street, who led the Cardinals to NL pennants in 1930 and ’31, leading the club to the World Series championship in the second year. Also in the group are Ron Gardenhire (2002-04, Minnesota), Bob Brenly (2001-02, Arizona), Larry Dierker (1997-99, Houston), Dallas Green (1980-81, Philadelphia), Tommy Lasorda (1977-78, Los Angeles), Ralph Houk (1961-63, New York Yankees), Mickey Cochrane (1934-35, Detroit), Bucky Harris (1924-25, Washington) and Hughie Jennings (1907-09, Detroit).

Words of wisdom

“It’s really amazing what talent can do. We got healthy. Hanley Ramirez, Zack Greinke, Matt Kemp — those guys fought injuries all year. But whenever we’ve been able to get the team we thought we had on the field, our talent has been able to shine through.”

| Catcher A.J. Ellis on the Dodgers, who have a $233 million payroll, winning the division despite being in last place in the NL West on July 1

September baseball means knowing your math.

Here’s the equation: six teams, two wild-card spots, eight days to go in the regular season.

Sometimes it’s also about playing two games in one night as the Rays and Orioles did Friday night/Saturday morning. Tampa Bay eventually prevailed 5-4 on a RBI single by former Royals outfielder David DeJesus in the 18th inning.

“That is the hunt for October — that’s everything you play 162 games for,” Tampa Bay’s Chris Gimenez said afterward. “That win means a lot for us. To win it the way we did, I hope we can run with it. It couldn’t have happened at a better time. It’s a huge boost for us.”

The Rays won on Star Wars night, so perhaps it was fitting that in the wee hours of Saturday morning, Tampa Bay’s Luke Scott went to the clubhouse and returned wearing a Chewbacca mask. Reliever Jamey Wright threw curveball with a Gene Simmons look.

“In my book,” Rays outfielder Sam Fuld told reporters, “Chewbacca won us the game.”

The Force may indeed have been with the Rays, but it’s tough to harness that kind of power in late September. Particularly when five other teams are taking part in a game of musical chairs.

“It’s not easy to make the playoffs, it sure isn’t,” Orioles outfielder Nate McLouth told reporters last week. “Doing it last year was kind of an eye-opener on exactly how it’s got to be done. It’s a grind, it’s a battle to make the playoffs.”

Here’s how that battle shapes up:

To reach Pete Grathoff, call 816-234-4355 or send email to pgrathoff@kcstar.com

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