American League East Race Is Set for a Wild Finish for Yankees, Orioles and Rays

Christopher BenvieCorrespondent IISeptember 28, 2012

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 22:  Manny Machado #13 and Chris Davis #19 of the Baltimore Orioles celebrate with J.J. Hardy #2 after scoring in the sixth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on September 22, 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

A grand total of four games in the loss column separates the Rays, Orioles and division-leading Yankees right now.

Tampa Bay is two games behind the Oakland A's for the second wild-card berth, while Baltimore is just one game behind New York in the division and leading the wild-card race by the same one-game margin.

Things are about to get very spicy.

All three teams have just six games remaining in the regular season with a whole lot on the line. It is time to take a lot closer look at just how these final six games may play out.


Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays have the toughest road to the playoffs. 

Not only are they four games back in the AL East, they are two games out of wild-card contention with three games left against the White Sox in Chicago, followed by a season-closing series with Baltimore at home.

On the season, the Rays are 1-3 against the White Sox, having dropped all three games played at home in May but winning last night in Chicago.

After this series, they move on to play the Orioles, against whom they own a 6-9 record on the season.


So far, the Rays have split the series three games apiece with the Orioles when playing at the Trop.


Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles have made for a great story this season and are hoping that the tale doesn't end prematurely.

They are just one game back of the Yankees for the AL East. If they should overcome the Yankees, it would mark the first time since 1997 that the Orioles would be AL East champions.

Realistically, they have a shot. 

Baltimore has three games remaining against Boston at home, and they finish out the season in Tampa Bay with a three-game series.

On the season, they are 10-5 against the Red Sox and 4-2 when playing at Camden.

As noted above, they are 9-6 against the Rays with a dead-even record at Tropicana Field (3-3).


New York Yankees


While the Orioles and Rays get to slug it out for three games, the Yankees have the luxury of playing two teams that are nowhere near contention.

They have three more games in Toronto, followed by three games at home against Boston.

On the season, the Yankees are 9-6 against the Blue Jays and 10-5 against Boston. The significance of that is huge.

They face two teams in which their season record (9-6, 10-5) is identical to that of the Orioles' final two (10-5, 9-6) series. 

When playing at the Rogers Centre this season, the Yanks are just 2-4.

When playing Boston at Yankee Stadium, they are just 3-3.

The road ahead looks to be insanely entertaining for all three involved parties. The Rays have the disadvantage of playing two teams that are tough opponents.

The Orioles have a slight edge, because their records against Boston and Tampa are slightly more favorable.

The Yankees, despite playing eliminated teams, may have a tougher road. The Red Sox, while not being active in the postseason, may be able to derail the Yankees hope of October baseball.

Comparing all of the information above, though, it is hard to see the Yankees not making it. However, a significant possibility exists that the Baltimore Orioles will win the AL East this season.

The only certainty in Major League Baseball right now is that this will easily be the most exciting week of play we've seen all season long.