With the trade deadline in the past, it’s time to think about the playoff contenders in baseball. In the American League, there are plenty of teams that have a real shot at making the postseason. As is always the case, a lot can change between now and the end of the season. However, don’t expect any of the better AL teams to go down without a fight. The division and wild card races are going to be intense, and every game is going to mean a lot for the contending teams. Here is a breakdown of the teams that are vying one three division titles and two wild card spots in the American League.
After one season in the gutter, the Red Sox are back with the best record in the American League. The pitching has been better than expected, but the real strength of this team is the potent offense. As of August 7, Boston has scored more runs than any team in baseball. There’s no reason to think that the bats will cool off any time soon. That’s a good thing because the remaining schedule is tough. Despite that, the Red Sox will return to the playoffs.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays have been surging since the All-Star Break, and that slow start is a distant memory. The pitching has been great all season for the Rays, and the bats have come alive. Young stars like Wil Myers give this team a whole new element, and veteran Evan Longoria has regained his form. This team is good enough to stay in the division race all season.
The Orioles have been struggling lately. After sweeping the Rangers on the road, they lost a couple of tough series against the Kansas City Royals and Seattle Mariners. The pitching is still a major question mark, but Baltimore can make up for that with their offense. Led by slugger Chris Davis, Baltimore has enough power to make the playoffs for a second straight season.
What don’t the Tigers have? They have dominant pitchers in Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer. They have elite hitters like Miguel Cabrera, who’s on a quest for a second straight Triple Crown. This is the best hitting team in baseball, so it’s no surprise that they’ve won 10 in a row through August 6. The Tigers have a great chance of repeating as AL champs.
Manager Terry Francona has made his impact felt with the Indians. The team can hit, pitch, and field. With those three things going for them, the Indians are good enough to claim a wild card spot. The remaining schedule will be hard, but Cleveland has shown that it can win against any team. The surprisingly strong offense will keep them in the race.
Kansas City Royals
You have to feel bad for the Royals. This is their best season in ages, and they recently had a nine-game winning streak. But with the Tigers and Indians surging as well, Kansas City has barely made up any ground. Still, this team will remain in the mix thanks to their strong pitching staff and their talented young hitters.
As it turns out, the 2012 season was no fluke. The Athletics are for real, but they don’t have much breathing room in the AL West. The offense is a weak point for this team, but the pitching is strong. Oakland has a team WHIP of 1.19, which is tops in baseball. If the pitching stays consistent, the A’s could stage another strong finish to the season.
The Rangers have become perennial contenders, and that losing key free agents like C.J. Wilson and Josh Hamilton hasn’t changed that. Texas has a wealth of young talent, including one of the top pitching staffs in baseball. Lucky for them, the remaining schedule is pretty favorable. They still have 10 games remaining against the lowly Houston Astros, which certainly works in their favor. Given all of that, Texas should wind up returning to the postseason once again.
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