Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, August 15, 2012 at 12:34 PM
Just a few weeks ago, it looked like two true stunners were going to make the playoffs as Wildcard teams. The Pittsburgh Pirates were in great shape in the National League with a powerhouse record and a soft remaining schedule. The Oakland A’s had caught fire in the American League while so many other contenders had been treading water.
But, over the last couple of weeks:
*Oakland is 5-8 its last 13 games after dropping a 5-0 decision on the road last night to lowly Kansas City. When they were hot, the A’s were lighting up the scoreboard on the road against good teams. Now they’re getting shut out by bad teams.
*Pittsburgh is 6-9 its last 15 games after getting bludgeoned 11-0 last night by the LA Dodgers. The Pirates have lost four of five, five of seven, and seven of 11 within this disappointing decline. They no longer look like a team ready to shock the nation in the postseason. In fact, they’re starting to look way too much like the Pirates of old on their worst days.
These two teams have a lot more in common than recent slumps.
*Both are small market franchises who have to do their best with limited financial resources.
*Both have a few YOUNG impact players who don’t have any experience pacing themselves for a pennant race.
*Both have a few players who were probably playing way over their heads during the best of times this year. We mean, WAY over their heads. Now that reality has set it, the teams as a whole just aren’t all that scary.
*Both are fighting for Wildcard spots against teams who have more resources, and against teams who have more depth at the moment. Oakland’s battle for a Wildcard spot is coming against the deep-pocketed Angels, the slugging Tigers, and the savvy Rays. Pittsburgh’s dealing with either money or experience with the NL West teams, and then both with the St. Louis Cardinals in their own NL Central division. The Cards are the defending World Champs.
As handicappers, you need to keep an eye on BOTH of these teams as they deal with potential debacles. We’re not saying that both are stuck for certain under a cloud of doom. But, they’re now dealing with PRESSURE after the joys of the “shock the world” stretches wore off. Winning was easy when the wind was at their backs. The wind is blowing in their faces right now and grabbing victories is becoming tougher and tougher, even against the likes of Kansas City or San Diego.
UP AHEAD FOR PITTSBURGH
Wednesday Night and Thursday Afternoon: vs. the LA Dodgers
Friday-Sunday: at St. Louis (monster series!)
Monday-Wednesday: at San Diego (playing better lately)
Friday-Sunday: vs. Milwaukee
Monday-Wednesday: vs. St. Louis
There’s obviously a sense of urgency now with SIX games against ST. LOUIS on the immediate horizon. The Pirates aren’t going to get a Wildcard if they don’t finish ahead of the Cardinals. Atlanta basically has one of the WC spots wrapped up over in the AL East. A tailspin could turn into a train wreck over the next several days.
UP AHEAD FOR OAKLAND
Wednesday and Thursday: at Kansas City
Friday-Sunday: vs. Cleveland
Monday-Wednesday: vs. Minnesota
Thursday-Sunday: at Tampa Bay
The A’s really can’t afford to struggle during this soft current stretch. Tampa Bay is looming very soon…and then September’s schedule is going to get nasty. We’ll talk more about that in a couple of weeks if the A’s are still in the Wildcard picture then. You just can’t slump against the likes of KC, Cleveland, and Minnesota!
Often playoff races aren’t “won” by teams getting hot…but are “lost” by teams who fall out of the picture It’s like a marathon where some runners hit a wall at the 20-mile mark while others maintain their steady pace. Did Pittsburgh and Oakland hit a wall the last two weeks? If you’re placing Las Vegas bets, you need to have a good read on these side-by-side developing stories.
Our VSM handicappers always have a good read on Major League Baseball. And, there are some fantastic offers available for you Wednesday Night!
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Be sure you visit the VSM home page every day for big play announcements and early bird football bulletins. Additional information is available on the “Buy Picks” page (including news about a “Big Five Guarantee” in the NFL Preseason from Kelso!). Hot handicappers are always waiting to hear from you!