With Major League Baseball’s stretch run about to set in, here is a look at the playoff contenders in the American League.
p. **AL EAST**
The Boston Red Sox currently hold the best record in baseball at 84-56, having enjoyed success despite injuries that have limited the home run production of Manny Ramirez (20) and David Ortiz (26). With home run production down from Boston’s big hitters, the Sox have relied on strong pitching performances to build and hold a six-game lead in the division over the New York Yankees. The ace of Boston’s rotation, Josh Beckett, is tied for most wins in the majors with 17 and is posting a 3.30 ERA this season. His performance has enabled Boston to make up for lower production by Ramirez and Ortiz.
p. The New York Yankees are 78-62 and sit six games behind the Red Sox in the East. The Yankees have had mixed success with their pitching rotation this year, as Chien-Ming Wang is tied with Beckett for the most wins in baseball with 17. However, Roger Clemens is only 6-6 and is suffering from a day-to-day elbow injury and Mike Mussina, at 8-10, has lost his last three starts. The offense is in better shape, as the Yankees have benefited from Alex Rodriguez’s league-leading 48 HRs and 138 RBI.
Prediction: Boston wins the division. New York wins the wild card.
p. **AL Central**
The Cleveland Indians are 81-58 and currently hold a seven-game lead over the Detroit Tigers in the ALC, having been red hot with a 9-1 record over their last ten games. The pitching performances of C.C. Sabathia (16-7), Fausto Carmona (15-8) and Paul Byrd (14-5) have been the catalysts to Cleveland’s success. Additionally, Grady Sizemore, Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner have produced steady run production for the Indians, as each has recorded over 20 HRs, while Sizemore has tallied 100 RBI.
Detroit has suffered from the injury bug this season, as starting pitcher Kenny Rogers (3-2) was hampered by an elbow injury this season and was also out for three months with surgery due to a blood clot in his pitching arm. Gary Sheffield is also currently on the disabled list, making a late-season run less likely.
Prediction: Cleveland wins the division and Detroit misses the playoffs.
p. **AL West**
The Los Angeles Angels are 82-57 and have a 7.5 game lead in the division over Seattle. The Angels have had excellent pitching performances out of Kelvim Escobar (15-7), John Lackey (16-8) and Jered Weaver (11-6). Combined with the offense of Vladimir Guerrero (22 HRs, 110 RBI), these pitching performances have put the division firmly in Los Angeles’ control.
p. The Seattle Mariners are 74-64, and 1-9 in the last 10 games. Seattle has suffered from weak pitching this year, having only two players with over 10 wins — Miguel Batista (13-10) and Felix Hernandez (11-7). The poor pitching means that Seattle is the only team in AL playoff contention currently allowing more runs than they score. Despite Ichiro Suzuki’s .352 batting average and Adrian Beltre’s 22 HRs, this team seems doomed by the lack of a strong starting rotation.
p. Prediction: Los Angeles wins the division, Seattle misses playoffs.
Dave Erhart may be emailed at [email protected]