With two and a half weeks to go in the season, only two teams — Boston and Detroit — would seem to have playoff spots nailed down. Detroit has a comfortable lead in the American League Central, while Boston’s margin in the A.L. East is borderline luxurious. Meanwhile, five other teams — Tampa Bay, the Yankees, Baltimore, Cleveland and Kansas City — are in the battle for the league’s two wild-card spots. And two more teams, Texas and Oakland, are in that scrum, too, although one of them will ultimately emerge as the A.L. West winner and be able to step away from the wild-card fray.
So there you have it. An unpredictable second half of September looms, with Alex Rodriguez trying to get the Yankees into the postseason even as Major League Baseball tries to get him temporarily barred from the sport; with the slumping Rays searching for victories (and fans); with the Indians and the Royals maybe wondering how they got this far in the first place; with the Orioles trying to hit enough home runs to cover up their pitching deficiencies; with the Athletics trying to Billy Beane their way into the playoffs for the second straight season; and with the Rangers trying to succeed without Nelson Cruz, who, unlike Rodriguez, accepted his drug suspension without appealing.