As we reach the start of the home stretch in the MLB season, some teams know that October will bring postseason pressure. For others, October will bring tee times. The unbridled optimism of Spring Training has evaporated for those squads and been replaced by bad breaks and disappointment.
To assuage their frustration, these teams would like nothing more than to ruin their opponents' playoff aspirations, and they have the talent and opportunities to do so. Here are five "spoiler" teams to watch out for over the final six weeks of the year.
Los Angeles Angels (62-63)
The lead selling point for why the Angels can be a "spoiler" is obvious: They have the only player in the Majors who can impact an entire game. This was on full display Wednesday night in Detroit as Shohei Ohtani pitched eight innings of one-run ball and crushed a pitch 430 feet for his 40th homer. He ranked third in wRC+ and had a top-40 WAR among starting pitchers with a minimum of 100 innings entering Sunday. Although Ohtani can be a one-man wrecking crew, the Angels have more to offer. Max Stassi and Jared Walsh have each shown that their 2020 success wasn't a fluke. Top hitting prospect Brandon Marsh has five multi-hit games since Aug. 12. And maybe -- just maybe -- Mike Trout will return in September to wrestle back the title of "best player in baseball" from Ohtani.
The Angels have not performed well against top competition; their -128 run differential versus winning teams is the third-worst mark in MLB. But they will have ample chances to affect the pennant races, as all but three of their final 24 games will come against opponents with a better-than-.500 record. Besides 13 meetings combined with the Mariners and Astros, the Angels' remaining schedule includes matchups with the Padres, Yankees and White Sox.
Colorado Rockies (57-66)
It's not hyperbole to say we have never seen a team vacillate between success and failure based on location as drastically as the Rockies. Their winning percentage on the road is a paltry .237. At home, their .667 win rate entering Saturday was third-best in baseball. That would go down as the widest home-road win percentage split over a full season in MLB history. Let's focus on the more positive side for the purposes of this article.
Entering Sunday, the Rockies have won nine consecutive games at Coors Field, plating 8.2 runs per game, and no team has scored more often either at home or on the road than the Rockies' 380 runs in their spacious confines. The home cooking helps the starting pitchers, too; Colorado's rotation possesses a 3.61 ERA at Coors, 5.30 everywhere else.
In September, the Rockies will have two crucial homestands during which they can put their fingerprints all over the postseason picture. Thirteen of their 16 home dates that month include two series with the Giants, three games versus the Dodgers and a four-game set against the NL East-leading Braves.
Detroit Tigers (59-66)
The Tigers probably wouldn't have minded if this season's first five weeks didn't count. They haven't been considered a postseason threat all year long, but since May 8, Detroit has put together a respectable 50-42 record.
Miguel Cabrera's journey to 500 home runs gets most of the publicity in the Motor City, but don't overlook that Jeimer Candelario has a .931 OPS since the All-Star break. Jonathan Schoop is having his best season since he was an All-Star in 2017. Robbie Grossman might end up doubling his previous career high in home runs (11); he's at 18 right now. Catcher Eric Haase is currently on the IL, but he has bopped 19 homers and inserted himself into the Rookie of the Year discussion despite not debuting until May 13. Plus, high-upside starters Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal have logged enough quality outings to give fans hope that they can lead this franchise back to the playoffs in the not-too-distant future.
The Tigers claimed a series against the Red Sox earlier this month and have 27 games left against other contenders, including Sunday's series finale at Toronto. The Tigers will battle the White Sox six times over the season's final two weeks. They will also play a series against each of the NL Central's three playoff hopefuls, the Brewers, Reds and Cardinals.
Minnesota Twins (54-70)
The Twins are already disrupting the best-laid plans of winning teams. Earlier this month, they went 8-4 during a stretch in which they faced the Reds, Astros, White Sox and Rays. Jorge Polanco has been on a tear in the second half. Miguel Sanó and Josh Donaldson can still provide decent pop. Luis Arraez is hitting .375 since July 4. And just think about how much more potent this lineup can be if Byron Buxton plays a big role in the closing weeks. A strained hip and a broken hand have caused the uber-talented outfielder to miss all but three games since May 6. But up until that point, Buxton led all players in WAR. He began a rehab assignment at Triple-A St. Paul on Friday.
Minnesota won't see the White Sox again this year, but it will have many opportunities to impact the AL East and Wild Card races. Even after this weekend's series in the Bronx, the Twins have 13 games remaining against the Rays, Red Sox or Blue Jays. They will also host the Brewers for three games.
Arizona Diamondbacks (41-82)
Yes, the D-backs have the worst record in the National League and have slogged through a couple of record-setting losing streaks this year. But recently, this group has looked like anything but a pushover. Their 6-1 homestand against the Padres and Phillies this past week serves as evidence. Arizona hit .309 and scored 37 runs in those games. Utilityman Josh Rojas did a lot of damage as he went 15-for-26 at the plate, and Tyler Gilbert provided the moment of the D-backs' season in his first Major League start.
On the other end of the MLB experience spectrum, Madison Bumgarner seemingly found the fountain of youth while he was on the injured list. He has recorded a 1.93 ERA and a 0.90 WHIP across seven starts since his return. The 32-year-old outdueled NL Cy Young candidate Zack Wheeler in Thursday's victory.
Three-fourths of the D-backs' remaining games are versus contenders. Nine games will pit them against the Dodgers or the Giants, against whom Arizona is just 4-25 this year. They will also see the Mariners, Astros and Braves. But with Bumgarner performing like an ace and burgeoning batters such as Rojas and Daulton Varsho proving their worth of late, the D-backs' record is a little deceiving.