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American League down the stretch

Welcome to September, where the temperatures are starting to cool off in parts of the country but things are heating up all across the American LeagueThere’s still plenty of baseball left to change who sits atop of the AL East, AL Central and the AL West, as well as those final two playoff spots–the coveted AL Wildcard places. The current standings from MLB.com have the Toronto Blue Jays leading the AL East with the NY Yankees 3.5 games back, the Kansas City Royals leading the AL Central by 10.0 over the Minnesota Twins and the Houston Astros with a 1.5 game lead over the Texas Rangers.

Key AL Races:

AL Central

The Royals and the Twins don’t face each other for the rest of the season, and barring an epic meltdown, the Twins can kiss any hope of winning the AL Central goodbye–but weirder things have happened in recent history. Anyone else remember the 2007 NY Mets? If you don’t, here is the Reader’s Digest version. The Mets led the Phillies by seven games on September 12 and then they hit a skid and ended up finishing the season one game behind the Phillies. I’m not saying the Twins are out, but it will be hard for them to make up those ten games without facing them anymore this season. The bright spot for the Twins is the wild card where they are just one game back for the second spot.

AL East

The Blue Jays and Yankees face off in one last three-game series starting next Monday, September 21 in Toronto. This will give the Yanks a chance to make up some much-needed ground on the Jays in the East during this weekend’s series and give them some breathing room in the wild card race. Before they even start looking ahead to next week they have to take a series against the Rays in Tampa — that opens tonight — and a weekend series against the Mets. If the Yankees don’t take at least two of three from these next two series it could cause them some problems in the wild card race.

Prior to Sunday’s 5-0 win over the Jays, they had dropped five in a row — including three to Toronto. If the Bombers want to avoid having to play in the do-or-die wild card playoff game, then they’ll have to make a late run at Toronto now and show everyone why the Yankees are never out until the last out of the last game of the season.

AL West

If you had asked me three years ago if the Houston Astros would be challenging for the AL West I would have told you that you were crazy. In 2012 and 2013 they finished 42 and 45 games back respectively. Last year they improved, albeit slightly, and finished 27 games back. Now they have a 1.5 game lead on the Rangers and can open that lead up even more beginning tonight with a four-game series at the Rangers.

They’ll face them at home for three games the final weekend of the season before going out to Seattle to finish the season. Here’s the problem that both teams face with this series that starts today: The Rangers suck at home (34-33) and the Astros suck on the road (29-42). The question is, who’s going to suck less? That’s really a toss up because both teams are about even in their last ten games–Houston is 4-6 and Texas is 5-5. The Rangers have the added pressure of being the second wild card team right now and every other team is gunning for them (Sorry it’s Texas I was dying to work it in there somewhere). There are eight teams that are 8.0 games back or less and ten that are less than 15 games back.

AL Wildcard

Every team is in the wild card race right now it seems like. Some are more entrenched and some are barely hanging in there, but they’re all in there and there’s enough baseball left that anything can happen. The Yankees have a three-game advantage over every other team in the wild card race, with the Rangers holding onto a one game lead over the Twins.

The Twins open a three-game home stand against Detroit tonight and depending on how the Astros-Rangers game fairs, could see that gap close by the morning. Looking at the Twins remaining schedule they only face one club — the LA Angels — that are above .500. The Twins face the Tigers (.458) twice and Cleveland (.496) twice; facing both clubs once at home and once on the road. Thankfully for the Twins, they face the Angels at home too.

The Angels could really cut into Texas’ lead before facing the Twins, when they open up their series with Seattle tonight. The Mariners are six games below .500 (.479) and seven games back in the wild card race. The Angels will be looking to make it more after the series is over, while making themselves even with the Rangers and possibly the Twins.

The Indians open tonight’s series 13.5 behind the AL Central leading Royals which makes them a dark horse for the division. But they’re only 4.5 games out of the wild card, and with the Royals having a record of 3-7 in their last ten games, maybe Cleveland can sense a chink in that armor and start chipping away at that lead. These two teams face off in a total of seven games down the stretch, including tonight’s matchup, and if the Indians get hot they could do some serious damage.

 

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