MLB Coverage: The American League Playoff Race

The American League playoff race has the same eight teams in realistic contention that there were when we covered this topic in last Monday’s MLB coverage, but the cards were shuffled a bit, thanks in no small part to the devastation the Detroit Tigers wreaked on the city of Cleveland.

Detroit came rolling into Cleveland for a four-game set in the early part of last week with the two teams in a tight race in the AL Central. By the time the Tigers left town, they had four wins in their back pocket and their lead in the Central now sits at a hefty seven games.

We realistically need to take the Indians off the radar as far as winning the division, though they remain within four of the wild-card. The Royals are in similar straits—7 ½ back of Detroit, but just 4 ½ off the wild-card. Kansas City gets its own chance to reshape the landscape when they go to Comerica Park for a five-game series with the Tigers that starts Thursday night, and includes a James Shields-Justin Verlander matchup on Friday afternoon.

While the AL Central was seeing teams move out of the race for first, the AL East was tightening up a bit. Boston lost three of four in Kansas City this weekend, but Tampa Bay could not capitalize. The Rays lost two in Arizona and then were swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Rays’ bullpen blew a big lead and a win for David Price on Friday, then got trounced for a national TV audience on Saturday and Sunday.

What that meant was opportunity for Baltimore. The Orioles had been in the heat of the wild-card race, but had drifted off the AL East title radar. By sweeping a pair in San Diego, then taking a weekend series in San Francisco, the Orioles moved to within 4 ½ games of the division lead, while staying within a game and a half of the wild-card.

For the Giants, a tough season just got worse—they couldn’t even avenge their home city in the first sporting event the cities of Baltimore and San Francisco have played since last year’ Super Bowl.

And the AL West has seen a turnabout. Texas is red-hot, while Oakland, in spite of taking two of three this weekend in Toronto (and playing a Monday afternoon wraparound game today in the Rogers Centre), has otherwise struggled. The Rangers, six games back on July 28, are now in the lead by a game. Last year, it was Oakland who came from behind to beat Texas. Maybe that’s going to reverse itself this season.

The Rays and A’s still lead the wild-card standings in spite of their rough weeks and both are obviously still right in the thick of their division races—Tampa trails Boston by three games. But their struggles, along with those of the Indians, were a big part of a week that shuffled the deck in the American League playoff race.