MLB Standings: Important Series Matchups to Watch as AL Playoff Race Heats Up

Steven Cook@@stevencookinFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 11, 2012

The American League playoff race is heating up, and there is no shortage of star power and top-quality baseball despite some surprising teams in the hunt.

We saw how crazy this race can get last year, on what some of the nation has dubbed the best day in MLB history (according to ESPN's SportsNation). It'd be foolish not to tune in to these massive games that will have major implications on this year's World Series.

Now that the grueling, 162-game season that began in late March is finally coming close to an end, it's time to gear up for what should be an exciting conclusion to the season that will likely come down to the final game. 

Boston Red Sox 4, New York Yankees 3 - F

The Red Sox season may be nearing it's end, but they proved Tuesday night that they've yet to give up on what many people see as a lost cause. 

After the Yankees went up 1-0 early thanks to a Robinson Cano groundout, Boston rallied in the third inning to take the lead, 2-1. Early-rotation hitters Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia each earned RBIs on singles to put the Sox ahead.

It wasn't for long, as a Derek Jeter ground-rule double would score two runners and put the Yanks up, 3-2. 

Then, Pedroia came up big for the Bobby Valentine's squad once again to tie the game. Ellsbury ended things in the bottom of the ninth with his walk-off single, and Boston's 2012 woes were put on hold for at least the night. 

Yankees: 79-62 (first in AL East)

Red Sox: 64-78 (last in AL East, ninth in AL wild card)

Baltimore Orioles 9, Tampa Bay Rays 2 - F

The Baltimore Orioles should send a thank you note to their Boston rivals after Tuesday night's action.

With a Yankees loss to the Red Sox and this Baltimore victory, the Orioles are once again in a tie for the AL East lead with the Bronx Bombers. 

The Orioles, like usual, came up with a big-time win. J.J. Hardy hit two home runs for Baltimore, who had the happy bats compared to a cooled-off Rays team that had just five hits. Hardy finished 4-for-5 for the day.

The Rays now sit two games back of both teams.

Rays: 77-64 (third in AL East, third in AL wild card)

Orioles: 79-62 (second in AL East, tied for first in AL wild card)

Texas Rangers 6, Cleveland Indians 4 - F

The Texas Rangers are still uncomfortable at the top of the AL West with the Oakland A's on their heels, but they were able to beat one of the MLB's worst teams at home, 6-4, in a game they needed.

Texas started things off with a bang as they tallied four second-inning runs and they got a significant contribution from winning pitcher Matt Harrison, who tallied his 16th win of the season.

Indians pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez, once a Cy Young candidate with the Colorado Rockies, now has the most losses in the MLB with 16. 

Rangers: 84-57 (first in AL West)

Indians: 59-83 (tied for last in AL Central, tied for last in AL wild card)

Detroit Tigers 5, Chicago White Sox 3 - F

The Tigers took a big bite out of their AL Central deficit Tuesday night by beating the division-leading White Sox, 5-3. 

The series is tied at one game apiece with two games remaining after a strong performance by Tigers centerfielder Austin Johnson, who finished 2-for-3 with 2 RBI's. 

Starting pitcher Doug Fister got the much-needed win for Detroit, who are now just two games back from Chicago. They'll have a chance to tie up the division before leaving the Windy City.

Tigers: 74-67 (second in AL Central, fifth in AL wild card)

White Sox: 76-65 (first in AL Central)

Oakland Athletics 6, Los Angeles Angels 5 - F

The Indians weren't able to do them any favors Tuesday night, but the A's took care of their own business and topped the Angels, 6-3. 

Dan Straily (2-0) notched a win in just his fifth career start, and seems able to fill in a rotation spot for a team who desperately needs it. If Straily's able to get hot down the stretch, it could turn into a magical season for Oakland.

A's reliever Grant Balfour nearly blew a save by giving up two runs and nearly loading the bases, but Jerry Blevins came in to clean up the situation and put the A's 21 games over .500 for the first time this season.

The Angels are reeling out of playoff contention at this point, and need some good fortune throughout the rest of this series (and in Arlington, Texas) to get back into the thick of things. They're certainly capable. 

Athletics: 81-60 (second in AL West, tied for first in AL wild card)

Angels: 77-65 (third in AL West, fourth in AL wild card)

On Deck for Wednesday

New York Yankees vs. Boston, 7 p.m. ET

Tampa Bay vs. Baltimore, 7 p.m. ET

Cleveland vs. Texas, 8:05 p.m. ET

Detroit vs. Chicago White Sox, 8:10 p.m. ET

Oakland vs. Los Angeles Angels, 10:05 p.m. ET


NY Yankees 79 62 .560 -
Baltimore 79 62 .560 -
Tampa Bay 77 64 .546 2


Chicago W.Sox 76 65 .539 -
Detroit 74 67 .525 2
Kansas City 64 77 .454 12


Texas 84 57 .596 -
Oakland 81 60 .574 3
LA Angels 77 65 .542 7.5

Oakland 81 60 .574 -
Baltimore 79 62 .560 -
Tampa Bay 77 64 .546 2
L.A. Angels 77 65 .542 2.5
Detroit 74 67 .525 5


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