The Orioles start the week 4 Â½ games behind the Red Sox in the American League East, and they are bunched with teams in the race for two wild cards. Here’s a snapshot of what’s going on with the other contenders:
* The Red Sox are coming off a tough series loss, losing three of four in Kansas City, but it is difficult to deny their rotation with Jake Peavy joining Jon Lester and John Lackey. ... How much Clay Buchholz (neck) will contribute remains a question. ... But the offense is humming with Jacoby Ellsbury leading the AL in stolen bases and Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz playing well enough to get AL MVP votes. ... The Red Sox likely have solved their third base problem by promoting Will Middlebrooks, who seems to have found his stroke in the minors. ... Also, former Oriole Koji Uehara has settled in as the closer with a string of impressive saves.
* The Rays were the hottest team in the AL during July, but they are coming off an 0-5 trip to Arizona and Los Angeles and the five-game losing streak is their longest streak since starting 2011with six consecutive losses. ... The rotation is slumping, and Jeremy Hellickson has continued his inconsistent pattern. Matt Moore is on the disabled list with a tight elbow and Chris Archer has been sidelined with a tight forearm. ... While the Rays don’t play well on the West Coast, they still have a 10-game trip there starting Aug. 30 against the A’s, Mariners and Angels.
* The Athletics have a solid rotation and bullpen, but they are going to need to score runs more consistently to stay in the race. The A’s need Josh Reddick and Yeonis Cespedes to hit for more power, and Reddick has shown signs of busting his slump. ... Former Nationals pitcher Tom Milone was sent to the minors, and the A’s are counting on Sonny Gray, their top draft pick in 2011, to fill his rotation spot. Gray has a mid-90s fastball with an excellent changeup and curve, but he didn’t do well in his first big league start.
* It’s hard to believe the Rangers were six games behind Oakland in the AL West on July 28. Now they are the favorite to win the division because of the additions of Matt Garza from the Cubs and Alex Rios from the White Sox. Garza has been a staple in a rotation that has Yu Darvish and Derek Holland. And soon, the Rangers will have Matt Harrison back from injury. Throw in Robbie Ross and Joe Nathan at the back end of the bullpen and the Rangers are loaded with pitching. ... Rios replaces the suspended Nelson Cruz, who led the team in home runs. Rios is a better defensive player than Cruz and gives the Rangers a good blend of speed and power.
* The Indians are an improved team, but they’ve gotten the message that they don’t match up with the pitching, hitting and experience of the AL Central-leading Tigers. ... The Indians are the streakiest team in baseball: They have losing streaks of eight, six and five (twice) this season while their winning streaks have reached eight, six and five (twice). Lately, though, they have tailed off with a weak average with runners in scoring position. Their pitching staff has slumped as well, and that’s why they are hanging on to wild card hopes instead of having a real chance to challenge the Tigers in the AL Central.