The season is coming to a close, and with two weeks left in the season, the race for the playoffs is heating up. Late September has always been the most exciting time of the season and this year is no exception. The Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox are battling to the American League East, while in the Central Division the Chicago White Sox and the Minnesota Twins are fighting it out for a playoff spot. This week, we'll take a look at both of these battles.
Tampa Bay Rays vs. Boston Red Sox:
Currently the Red Sox are 2.5 games behind the Rays and they're closing in fast. Ace pitcher Josh Beckett has rejoined the rotation while Third Baseman and last year's World Series MVP Mike Lowell has returned to shore up the left side of the infield. And the Sox have been steadily gaining steam, winning 6 of their last 10 games. But the Sox recently dropped two out of three against the Rays, and the next nine games will be a real challenge. They'll be facing the red hot Toronto Blue Jays, who recently went 9 and 1 in their last 10 games, then they'll be facing the Tampa Bay Rays for another three game set, followed by three more games against the Blue Jays. This week could decide if the Red Sox can take this division.
Meanwhile the Tampa Bay Rays fight to remain at the top of the division, but have struggled recently losing 6 of their last 10 games, although they managed to win a big series against the Red Sox. Could the injuries to Evan Longoria and Carl Crawford be catching up to this team? And much like the Red Sox, the next 10 games could be a major test for this team. They'll be facing off against the New York Yankees in a three game set in New York and then a three game set against the Red Sox, followed by a four game set against the dangerous Minnesota Twins. The Rays showed life in the series against the Sox, and they'll need to carry that momentum forward to win the American League East.
Chicago White Sox vs. Minnesota Twins:
Few people expected this race to end up like this. Many thought the free spending Detroit Tigers and last year's AL Central champs, the Cleveland Indians, would be fighting for the division by now. But the White Sox and Twins have surprised many people. And with the Red Sox leading the Wild Card race by 5.5 games, this race could decide who plays in October and who goes home. Right now, only one game separates the Twins and the White Sox.
The White Sox have managed to keep their edge despite going a mere 5 and 5 over their last 10 games. But the coming week could be a big boost to this team. They'll be facing the Detroit Tigers for three games, the New York Yankees for four games in New York and then three games against the Kansas City Royals. Only one of those teams is above .500, and the Yankees haven't even shown much life lately. If the White Sox can take advantage of the schedule, this could be a big opportunity to gain an edge in the division.
The Minnesota Twins have a rocky road ahead of them, and they've struggled going only 4 for their last 10. The Twins will face the hapless Baltimore Orioles for three games, but then they'll be facing the Cleveland Indians who have been playing exceptionally well, and then the first place Tampa Bay Rays. The Twins will need to pull out all the stops if they want to avoid losing any ground in this race.
In Other News:
The Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians deserve special recognition for their recent success. The Blue Jays just won 9 of their last 10 games, overtaking the New York Yankees for third place in the American League East. The Indians have won 20 of their last 30 games.
While playoff hopes are a long-shot for both teams, they could play the role of spoiler as they both will be facing teams who are battling for a spot in the playoffs.
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