East: The Yankees and Rays are deadlocked in a tie for first in the A.L. East with identical 73-46 records. The Yanks have been in the driver’s seat for the past couple of months, but the Rays are playing better baseball right now. B.J. Upton is finally hitting like the Rays had hoped he would and recent call-up Jeremy Hellickson is mowing down hitters. With David Price looking like a legitimate Cy Young candidate, the Rays could have a real shot at stealing this division from the defending champs.
However, we’re still talking about the Yankees here, a team that expects to sell MLB Playoff tickets on an annual basis. It should be a great race down the stretch, though one can’t totally discount the possibility of a three-team race with Boston sitting just 5.5 games back.
Central: The first place Minnesota Twins have been playing great baseball as of late, winning their last four games and eight of their last 10. The Minnesota rotation has really come together this season. Led by a resurgent Francisco Liriano, the Twins’ staff is a deep bunch. Once playoff time rolls around, this could be a tough team to take down due to their starting pitching.
The Twins have also found a new battery for their lineup in Delmon Young. Young has helped carry the offense throughout Justin Morneau’s DL stint, and guys like Jason Kubel have really stepped up their game. They don’t have the division wrapped up as of yet, though, as they sit four games ahead of the Chicago White Sox. The Sox are having a tough go of it lately, losing seven of their last 10 contests. Chicago has been a streaky team this season, but they’ll have to get hot if they’re going to catch the Twins.
West: The Texas Rangers boast the biggest divisional lead in the bigs. When Nolan Ryan predicted the team would eclipse 92 wins for his club prior to the season, experts balked, but Ryan appears to be having the last laugh. At 67-51, the Rangers might not necessarily reach that win total, but they’re sporting an eight-game lead over divisional powerhouse Los Angeles and could be a legitimate contender to reach the World Series.
The Rangers have the frontrunner for the American League Most Valuable Player in Josh Hamilton powering their lineup. Hamilton is having a fantastic season, leading the majors in hits (161) and batting average (.362). Hamilton anchors a potent offensive lineup that has consistently given their pitching staff ample run support in 2010. Texas made a big splash when they dealt for left-hander Cliff Lee at the trading deadline. Lee joined an overachieving, young staff and instantly gave the team a bona fide ace to head up the rotation. The Rangers could conceivably have both the MVP and Cy Young on their team this season.
Wildcard: The Wildcard will likely to go whichever team doesn’t win the East, whether it be New York or Tampa. Boston has a small shot, and a Chicago and even smaller one, but it’s hard to see anyone aside from either Tampa or New York snagging this playoff spot.