MLB Coverage: American League Playoff Race Update

The New York Yankees have played their way back onto the radar in the American League playoff race, thanks to a four-game sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays in the early part of last week, the latest example of the Pinstripes taking advantage of soft schedule. Even with losing a weekend series in Tampa, the Yanks are within 3 ½ games in a wild-card race that has five teams jousting for two spots and Derek Jeter is expected to return to the lineup today.

New York’s arrival back onto the AL playoff race landscape, replacing faltering Kansas City in the wild-card picture is the most significant development of the past week. Here’s a rundown on other notable news in the race…

AL East: Boston came up with a clutch week out west, going 4-2 in games at the Giants and Dodgers. The Red Sox got their own positive injury news in that Clay Bucholz made a rehab outing. Tampa Bay is still neck-and-neck with Boston, as the Rays had their own big week. Tampa won four of six against Baltimore and New York, and they’ll have Matt Moore make a rehab start this week, with his anticipated return next week.

AL Central: Detroit briefly stumbled in the early part of last week, losing a home series with Minnesota. But the Tigers swept the Mets in New York over the weekend and maintained a comfortable six-game lead on the Cleveland Indians. Detroit catcher Alex Avila also went on a minor league rehab stint as he recovers from a concussion.

AL West: I just have to wonder if Texas is going to regret this recent stretch of games before it’s all over. The Rangers again lost a winnable series, dropping two of three to the Chicago White Sox over the weekend. Texas is now 3-5 in recent games against the White Sox, Brewers and Mariners.

The Rangers have been saved by the fact they swept Houston, and Oakland keeps struggling. But the lead is only 2 ½ games, and after Oakland gets through this coming week at Detroit and home against Tampa, the Oakland schedule is going to lighten dramatically. With the exception of head-to-head showdowns between the AL West leaders, which begin on Labor Day.

Wild-Card: Last week, TheSportsNotebook’s MLB coverage broke down the Baltimore Orioles, as they entered a huge 15-game stretch against contenders. After one week, it’s too close to call. The Birds dropped two of three to Tampa, but won a pair this weekend against Oakland and are still within two games of the last wild-card. The Orioles’ big stretch continues in Fenway and the Bronx this week.

Cleveland is only a game and a half out, and with their three-game sweep of the Angels and series win over the Twins, the Tribe seems to have stabilized. They’re a game and a half back of Oakland and can expect starting pitcher Cory Kluber back from the disabled list in early September.