Via Bob Nightengale -
A year after one of the zaniest regular-season finishes in history, baseball is up to its tricks again, reminding to never count anyone out.
The Detroit Tigers, Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Angels were pronounced all but dead five days ago but enter the final week of the regular season full of life.
The surging Angels swept the Chicago White Sox in Anaheim — with owner Arte Moreno announcing that manager Mike Scioscia would return in 2013 — while climbing within 2½ games of the Oakland Athletics for the American League’s second wild-card spot. The Tigers took advantage of the White Sox’s lost California weekend and entered Sunday night a half-game behind Chicago in the AL Central.
“It’s a different feeling when you’re out of it at this point of the season,” said Tigers MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera, the first player to be leading or tied in the Triple Crown categories this late since Carl Yastrzemski won it in 1967. “You go nowhere, you go to your house. But right now, it’s like, ‘We got a shot, man.’”
The Rays, on a five-game winning streak, are threatening to make history. One year after passing the Boston Red Sox on the season’s final day, they’re attempting to become the third team to reach the playoffs by overcoming a deficit of at least six games with 14 or fewer games left. The 1964 St. Louis Cardinals and ’51 Brooklyn Dodgers are the only ones to pull that off.
The Rays are 3½ games behind the Athletics, who Sunday beat the New York Yankees. Seven of Oakland’s final 10 games are against the AL West division-leading Texas Rangers.
“Anxiety lives in the future,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “You’ve got to stay in the present. If we keep the blinders on it’s going to be real interesting around here.”
Per the math, the Rays and Angels still have a shot. But, they both need help to make it happen. And, that’s the hard part.