2010 MLB Playoffs: How The Yankees, Rays, Rangers, And Twins Got To The ALDS

The MLB playoffs are set to kick off on Wednesday, so it's time to bone up on all the participants. Stay tuned to this updating StoryStream as we tackle the four American League representatives, offering season summaries and identifying key players.

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2010 MLB Playoffs: How The Minnesota Twins Got To The ALDS

The Twins were the first team in baseball to clinch their spot in the MLB playoffs, but they were the last team in the American League to get comfortable. The Rangers pulled away in June. The Yankees and Rays pulled away in July. It took the Twins until August, and believe it or not, this team was actually as many as 4.5 games out of first place on July 15th.

First, it was the Tigers who made a run and occupied first place in early July before thudding out of the race. Then, it was the White Sox who won nine in a row to leapfrog the competition. Chicago had sole possession of first until August 8th, and they were in a tie with the Twins on August 11th when the two teams headed off in completely opposite directions. Chicago lost ten of its next 16 while Minnesota caught fire, and the division gap was five games on August 18th and ten games a month later. The Twins kept up with their rivals, and blew by them when opportunities were presented.

So while the Twins had to sweat for a little while, they've also been able to relax over the past few weeks, just like everybody else. They're essentially at full strength, except for one guy - Justin Morneau, who hasn't played since July 7th due to a concussion. Morneau will not play in the postseason, which seems problematic, although the Twins did manage to go 49-29 without him. It helps when you have Jim Thome hanging around. The rotation is fronted by Francisco Liriano, and the bullpen has been bolstered by the in-season acquisitions of Matt Capps and Brian Fuentes. The principal worry will be how a pitching staff with only one true power arm will fare against a lineup like New York's.

Record

94-68

Key Players

Joe Mauer (C; .327 BA, .402 OBP, .469 SLG)
Delmon Young (LF; .298 BA, .333 OBP, .493 SLG)
Jim Thome (DH; .283 BA, .412 OBP, .627 SLG)

Francisco Liriano (SP; 3.62 ERA, 3.5 K/BB)
Carl Pavano (SP; 3.75 ERA, 3.2 K/BB)
Matt Capps (RP; 2.47 ERA, 3.5 K/BB)

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2010 MLB Playoffs: How The Texas Rangers Got To The ALDS

There are easy roads to the MLB playoffs, and there is the road the Rangers have taken. On June 7th, the Rangers were a half-game out in the AL West, courtesy of the Angels ripping off six wins in a row. Then began the run. At that point, the Rangers' next 18 games were against the Mariners, Brewers, Marlins, Astros, and Pirates. Texas went 16-2 over that span, coming out with a 4.5-game lead and never again looking back. The lead hit six games for the first time on July 22nd, and from that point on the Rangers' playoff odds remained stable and large.

I wouldn't say the Rangers have been coasting, but for months, now, they've had little reason to worry. The Mariners were dead. The Angels were gassed. The A's were never going to make a run. I won't say that they did, but if the Rangers let up on the pedal just a bit, I couldn't blame them. We did see them take their time late in the year with injuries to Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler. The wide division lead allowed them to be cautious and safe, and theirs is a roster that's at just about full strength with the playoffs set to begin.

Obviously, the big difference between the Rangers now and the Rangers six months ago is that the Rangers now have Cliff Lee, who they landed from Seattle in July. Lee was brought in to succeed in the playoffs, and now he'll get that chance. Behind him, the team is confident in CJ Wilson, Colby Lewis, and the bullpen. The questions will be whether Lee can shake off some inconsistency since the trade, and whether Josh Hamilton will be able to contribute from the middle of the order given that he's coming off some back and rib trouble. That he homered on Saturday should ease some concerns.

Record

90-72

Key Players

Josh Hamilton (LF; .359 BA, .411 OBP, .633 SLG)
Nelson Cruz (RF; .318 BA, .374 OBP, .576 SLG)
Vladimir Guerrero (DH; .300 BA, .345 OBP, .496 SLG)

Cliff Lee (SP; 3.18 ERA, 10.3 K/BB)
CJ Wilson (SP; 3.35 ERA, 1.8 K/BB)
Neftali Feliz (RP; 2.73 ERA, 3.9 K/BB)

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2010 MLB Playoffs: How The Tampa Bay Rays Got To The ALDS

For the second time in three years, the Rays are going to the MLB playoffs as winners of the AL East. It's a remarkable achievement, given the payroll disparities; the Rays' 2008 and 2010 combined payrolls still come out $97 million below this year's Yankees. The Rays are the best-run organization in baseball, and they deserve the results they're getting.

This year's edition of the Rays famously got off to a white-hot start, sitting at 32-12 on May 23rd. The Rays then fell back to the pack and found themselves in third place in the division as late as July 3rd, but then the Red Sox dropped off and the Rays went on battling with the Yankees for first. It all came down to the final day, when the Yankees' loss in Boston gave Tampa Bay the AL East crown.

Like the Yankees, the Rays have been a virtual lock for the playoffs for a few months. Unlike the Yankees, the Rays didn't make a flurry of trades at the deadline, although they did add a reliever in Chad Qualls at the deadline and then a bench bat in Brad Hawpe in August. They know they're strong at the front of the rotation with David Price, and in the back of the bullpen with Rafael Soriano, Grant Balfour, and Joaquin Benoit. The questions come down to offensive consistency and starting pitching behind Price. Though both have tremendous ability, both James Shields and Matt Garza finished among the league leaders in home runs allowed.

Record

96-66

Key Players

Evan Longoria (3B; .294 BA, .372 OBP, .507 SLG)
Carl Crawford (LF; .307 BA, .356 OBP, .495 SLG)
Carlos Pena (1B; .196 BA, .325 OBP, .407 SLG)

David Price (SP; 2.72 ERA, 2.4 K/BB)
Matt Garza (SP; 3.91 ERA, 2.4 K/BB)
Rafael Soriano (RP; 1.73 ERA, 4.1 K/BB)

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