Here we are, with just over a month left in the regular season, and the American League playoff race couldn’t be more jumbled. Seven teams are in the mix for the second wild card spot. That includes the plucky Twins, one of the surprise teams in the league.
But there might be a team even more surprising than the Twins — the Los Angeles Angels, who seemed left behind when superstar outfielder Mike Trout was injured.
The more you look at it, the more you will find that both teams have taken the same path to get to this point — the Angels entered Saturday 1½ games behind the Twins for the second wild-card spot.
Like the Twins, the Halos didn’t make a dominant run until this month. Almost like the Twins, Los Angeles has been crushed despite pitching injuries. While the Twins have used 16 starters, the Angels aren’t that far behind with 12 — including former Twins Ricky Nolasco and Alex Meyer.
Both teams have played most of the season without their projected closers. For Los Angeles, it’s Huston Street. For the Twins, it’s Glen Perkins.
Los Angeles has used 49 players, the same amount as the Twins. The Twins, however, can’t match them for the absence of a superstar.
Trout missed 39 games because of a torn left thumb ligament, during which Los Angeles went 19-20. The Twins visited Anaheim during this time and won three of four games. The one game they lost was when Albert Pujols hit his 600th career home run off Ervin Santana. The Twins clearly looked like the better team.
It wasn’t like the Angels had a deep lineup, so it was easy not to take them seriously when Trout when down. But there are few dominant teams in the AL this season — and several flawed ones with records around .500, such as the Twins and Angels. Those teams, despite their warts, never have strayed far from the periphery of the playoff picture.
Since Trout returned, the Angels entered Saturday 20-16 despite pitchers moving in and out of the rotation and with Bud Norris closing games. Sound familiar, Twins fans? Bud Norris, meet Matt Belisle.
Los Angeles started out 10-3 in August to climb into wild card contention. Trout entered Saturday hitting .313 with 1.013 OPS since coming off the DL. Shortstop Andrelton Simmons had a career high 13 homers, was batting .289 and, with 25 defensive runs saved, is the second-best fielder in the game.
And the Angels are getting healthier. Lefthander Andrew Heaney returned Aug. 18 from a torn elbow ligament. Staff ace Garrett Richards, out since early April because of biceps nerve irritation, expects to pitch in September.
The Angels and Twins don’t appear to be going away in the wild card race, contributing to what could be a wacky final month of the season.
Cleveland: The Indians are trying to hold onto its lead in the division despite a run of injuries. Danny Salazar (elbow), Andrew Miller (knee) and Jason Kipnis (hamstring) are all on the disabled list, and Carlos Santana missed three games because of a tight back before returning Friday.
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Kansas City: Salvador Perez should still be on the disabled list because of an intercostal strain, but this is a man who hates to take any days off. So Tuesday he returned to the Royals lineup, trying to help their playoff push. Some of his swings will look bad because of lingering pain, but he’s going to fight through it and the Royals are going to play him.
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Detroit: Righthander Zac Reininger has been called up to the majors, capping a season in which he began at Class A level but quickly rose through an organization needing power arms. Reininger, 24, has missed time because of Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery, but is now throwing fastballs at 98 miles per hour. He could be a needed addition to the bullpen.
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Chicago: Tim Anderson has been inconsistent in the field and undisciplined at the plate, leading to head-scratching among some in the organization. But he has been better of late, and came through with his first career walkoff hit when his single beat the Twins on Wednesday. He is a .305 career hitter vs. the Twins.
The 3-2 pitch
Three observations …
• Maybe the Twins were right in moving Jaime Garcia after one start. He has a 5.95 ERA in four starts with the Yankees. Opponents have a .900 OPS off him. Yes, that is high.
• Getting Neil Walker to play second — and getting Jonathan Villar off second — was a very good move by the Brewers.
• It’s surprising umpires didn’t issue a warning when Detroit’s Michael Fulmer hit the Yankees’ Gary Sanchez on Thursday. Crews usually are reminded when teams might have grudges, and four batters were hit July 31 at Yankee Stadium — one by Fulmer. And we saw how Thursday turned out, when there were three bench-clearing incidents.
… and two predictions
• Recent Red Sox acquisition Rajai Davis, who homered off Aroldis Chapman in Game 7 of last year’s World Series, will homer off him again before the season is over.
• Former Twins closer Brandon Kintzler is going to struggle down the stretch for the Nationals because manager Dusty Baker is going run him into the ground. Kintzler on Thursday appeared in his 12th game this month, matching his high total for a month with the Twins.