MLB Coverage: American League Playoff Race

The American League playoff race remains by far the more interesting of the two leagues, although it picked up a little clearer focus this week, thanks mainly to the results of the big five-game weekend series between the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals.

Detroit won three of the five games at Comerica Park, maintaining a lead of seven games over the Cleveland Indians and eight and a half over Kansas City in the AL Central. It was as good an opportunity as any for this race to tighten and it didn’t. The Tigers have gone 7-2 in their nine recent games against the Indians and Royals and kept this race under firm control.

The results also meant that Kansas City slipped six games out of the second wild-card spot, now tied with the New York Yankees at 64-59. This is going to sound nit-picky, but I’ve got five games as the borderline for considered “on the radar” in the playoff race. I’m not saying a team more than five back is out of it, but they need at least one really good week of baseball just put themselves in the thick of it and then that has to be sustained. The Royals and Yanks each have some work to do simply to get on the radar.

The races in the AL West and AL East remain tight. Texas holds a half-game lead over Oakland coming off a week that both teams missed opportunities. Texas lost three of five in a week that saw them play the Milwaukee Brewers and Seattle Mariners. Oakland lost a series to the Houston Astros, though at least the A’s rebounded to take a key weekend series from the Cleveland Indians.

Cleveland is 4 ½ games back of the wild-card, still not recovered from losing four straight home games to Detroit recently, and the Baltimore Orioles are still nestled in between everybody, three back of the final playoff berth. The Orioles, with a crucial two-week stretch ahead, drew the attention of TheSportsNotebook’s MLB coverage today.

The Orioles have also played their way back onto the AL East radar, winning consecutive games over Colorado to rescue what had been a tough week. But the week was even tougher for frontrunning Boston, who lost series to both Toronto and New York. Tampa Bay is hanging a game back, and that sets up perfectly for the big Rays-Orioles series from Camden Yards that starts tonight. The series opener will be on MLB Network and the Wednesday finale will be on ESPN.