In the aftermath of the 1994 work stoppage that forced the cancellation of the World Series for the first time since 1904, wiped out the final weeks of that regular season and shortened the 1995 regular season, then-Commissioner Bud Selig instituted the addition of the Wild Card to the postseason.Selig
In the aftermath of the 1994 work stoppage that forced the cancellation of the World Series for the first time since 1904, wiped out the final weeks of that regular season and shortened the 1995 regular season, then-Commissioner Bud Selig instituted the addition of the Wild Card to the postseason.
Selig wanted to create an energy in the final months of the regular season and provide hope in cities where their teams weren't involved in pennant races and fans had begun to focus on the opening of NFL camps and the start of the college football season.
It's 23 years later, and the merits of the idea have been underscored by a season in which -- after the implementation of two Wild Cards per division in 2012 -- the fanbases of 20 of the 30 Major League teams head into the final 38 days of the season with hope for a season that will extend into October.
And that's with three of the six division races seemingly decided.
• Regular-season standings | Wild Card standings
The Dodgers head into the weekend sitting atop the National League West by 21 games. The Nationals have a 13 1/2-game edge in the NL East, and the Astros are up by 12 1/2 in the American League West.
There is, however, postseason hope in 17 other cities. As well as the NL Central-leading Cubs, the AL Central-leading Indians and the AL East-leading Red Sox, there are 14 teams that are within 5 1/2 games of a Wild Card berth.
And history has been kind to the Wild Card. Since the postseason was expanded in 1995, there have been 12 Wild Card teams advance to the World Series, with six of them winning it all. By contrast, of the 27 teams that compiled the best records in the past 22 seasons, only 10 have advanced to the World Series, with five of them claiming a championship.
These are the keys for the stretch drive for the 14 teams that are not in first place, but are in the postseason race:
National League Wild Card
D-backs (70-58, leading NL Wild Card)
Arizona got a boost to its rotation with the return of Robbie Ray from the concussion list on Thursday. He allowed one run in five innings of a 3-2 victory against the Mets. Ray is 10-5 and team is 13-8 in his starts, including a loss on July 28 when Ray departed after four outs with the concussion.
Rockies (69-58, second NL Wild Card)
Colorado is starting to see a Carlos Gonzalez revival. After hitting .214 with six home runs and 22 RBIs in his first 77 games of the season, he has hit .304 in the past 30, driving in 18 runs and helping extend the Rockies' lineup to six legitimate threats.
Brewers (66-62, 3 1/2 games back)
Milwaukee reinforced its rotation on Sunday with the return of Chase Anderson (7-2, 2.83 ERA) from a nearly two-month absence with a strained left oblique. He allowed one run in five innings at Coors Field on Sunday.
Cardinals (64-63, five games back)
St. Louis was dealt a serious blow when closer Trevor Rosenthal was told he needed Tommy John surgery. While the Cardinals hope someone claims the role, they did call up lefty Ryan Sherriff from Triple-A Memphis, giving manager Mike Matheny a bullpen mix of three left-handers and three right-handers.
Marlins (63-63, 5 1/2 games back)
Miami dealt its closer, AJ Ramos, to the Mets at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, but it has gotten a boost from the revival of Brad Ziegler. He had a 6.52 ERA at the end of June, but since the departure of Ramos, he is 8-for-8 in save situations in August, working 10 scoreless innings and allowing only 11 baserunners.
American League Wild Card
Yankees (68-58, leading AL Wild Card)
New York is counting on Gary Sanchez, who has hit .321 with 11 home runs in August, helping offset the struggles of Aaron Judge, who has hit .190 with seven home runs since July 9.
Twins (65-62, second AL Wild Card)
Minnesota climbed to three games above .500 after winning 13 of 19, including a four-game sweep of the Brewers and a three-game sweep of the D-backs. Yes, the Twins did trade closer Brandon Kintzler to the Nationals, but manager Paul Molitor has received saves from four players since then, including four by Matt Belisle.
Royals (64-62, half-game back)
Kansas City ignored the temptation to deal any of its six key free agents prior to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, and after an initial stumble in August, the Royals have won 7 of 11 games, as they eye one last hoorah from the nucleus of first baseman Eric Hosmer, third baseman Mike Moustakas, shortstop Alcides Escobar, center fielder Lorenzo Cain and starting pitcher Jason Vargas.
Angels (65-63, half-game back)
The Halos surged back into the postseason battle with a 14-8 August. Their success was built on playing nothing but contenders, and included a four-game sweep of the Mariners in Seattle. The Angels' bullpen -- anchored by Cam Bedrosian, Richard Parker and Jesse Chavez -- has been excellent.
Mariners (65-63, half-game back)
Seattle hasn't put together one of those take-charge stretches, but it keeps hanging around. Word of warning, though: The Mariners are 24-36 against teams with records of .500 or better, and 25 of their final 33 games are against winning teams: the Yankees (3), Astros (6), Indians (3), Angels (6) and Rangers (7).
Rangers (64-63, one game back)
Texas is back in the race after winning 11 of 15, thanks to an offense that has averaged 6.3 runs per game and that features four regulars hitting .340 or better. Adrian Beltre is batting .382 with five home runs and 16 RBIs in the 15 games.
Rays (63-66, three games back)
Tampa Bay was an early August surprise, but it has lost 13 of its past 18 games.
Orioles (62-65, three games back)
Baltimore has not been able to put together a run. The O's have lost nine of their past 16 games, with an unreliable starting staff.
Blue Jays (60-67, five games back)
Toronto is in last place in the AL East, but it is still harboring October hopes, although being swept last weekend by the Cubs at Wrigley Field slowed down the Blue Jays' charge. Their final 16 games are against teams with winning records, including two series against the Yankees and one against the Red Sox.
Tracy Ringolsbyis a columnist for MLB.com.