The York Revolution celebrates its 2017 Atlantic League title, the third in franchise history.
Just more than two weeks ago, the York Revolution’s Atlantic League playoff hopes appeared to be dead in the water.
Fifteen games and 13 wins later, the hot-hitting Revs are in the thick of the postseason chase with less than a week left in the regular season.
Riding a season-high six-game winning streak, manager Mark Mason’s crew now stands a season-best 10 games over .500 at 65-55, including a 33-24 record in the second-half Freedom Division standings. York, the defending Atlantic League champion, stormed back from a five-run hole Saturday night to earn a pulsating victory over Somerset, 10-8. York was then rained out Sunday and was idle on Monday.
The Revs sit five games behind first-place Sugar Land (38-19) in the second-half race. With just six games left in York’s regular season, catching the Skeeters for the second-half Freedom title is extremely unlikely.
That does not mean, however, that the Revs’ playoff hopes are over. Revs fans can thank the Atlantic League’s somewhat-complicated playoff format for that.
Playoff format: Sugar Land won the first-half Freedom title and is almost a sure bet to win the second-half crown, too.
The Somerset Patriots took the first-half Liberty Division crown, and Long Island has a two-game lead over Somerset in the second-half chase. The first-half and second-half champs in each division are guaranteed playoff spots.
Since Sugar Land looks destined to win both the first-half and second-half Freedom championships, at least one wild-card team will likely make the four-team Atlantic League playoffs. If Somerset can rally to add the second-half Liberty crown to its first-half title, two wild-card teams would qualify for the playoffs.
Wild-card teams are determined by overall record during the entire regular season, regardless of division.
If only one wild-card team makes the playoffs, the Revs’ playoff chances aren't good. Lancaster (69-51) has a four-game edge on the Revs in that scenario.
Under the two wild-card team scenario, York’s chances are better. The Revs and Long Island boast identical 65-55 overall records for a potential second wild-card berth.
The bottom line? The Revs have a chance to make the playoffs — not a great chance, but a chance.
That was highly unlikely on Aug. 24, when York sat wallowing around .500.
Mashing the ball: How has York turned things around? By mashing the ball. In the last 15 games, York has outscored its opposition, 107-61, averaging more than seven runs per game, while giving up just more than four runs per game.
The return of slugging infielder Telvin Nash is one big reason that York has surged. Nash was named the Atlantic League’s Player of the Month for August. He returned to York after starting the season in the Mexican League. In 25 games with York in August, Nash compiled team-leading totals in batting average (.375), on-base percentage (.472) and slugging percentage (.761). He also led the Revs with nine home runs and 17 walks while ranking second in RBIs (26), runs (23) and hits (33).
For the season, Nash is hitting .368 with nine homers and 33 RBIs in 33 games.
He’s far from York’s only hitting standout, however.
Melky Mesa (league-best .339 average with 20 homers and 83 RBIs), Alexi Casilla (.329, three homers, 36 RBIs), Welington Dotel (.316, seven homers, 55 RBIs), Henry Castillo (.309, one homer, 18 RBIs) and Isaias Tejeda (.302, two homers, 16 RBIs) are each hitting .300 or better for York. Three other York hitters are at .273 or higher, and for the season, York is hitting .276 as a team.
That’s some serious slugging.
Finishing on six-game homestand: York also has the advantage of finishing the season on a six-game homestand at PeoplesBank Park, including two games vs. the dreadful Road Warriors (28-93 overall) on Tuesday and Wednesday, and four games vs. Somerset from Friday through Sunday.
Of course, the Somerset series could be a case of good news-bad news. Beating Somerset will obviously help York’s overall record, but it will also hurt Somerset’s chances of winning the Liberty Division second-half title, which is likely a key component if York wants to make the playoffs.
Mother Nature, however, might have a big say in the playoff chase. There’s at least a 40 percent chance of rain each day from Tuesday through Sunday, and those percentages could go way up, depending on the track of Hurricane Florence, which is bearing down on the East Coast.
No matter what happens, York will play some meaningful ball games over the next week and could yet get a chance to defend its league crown and chase its fourth overall Atlantic League championship.
On Aug. 24, that looked like a complete pipe dream.
— Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at email@example.com.