With less than two months to go, there’s not a lot of drama in the National League races.
The Nationals most likely will play either the Cubs, Brewers or surging Cardinals in the Division Series, while the Dodgers will play the winner of the projected Diamondbacks-Rockies wild card game.
The American League is more complex. Teams are bunched and a .500 record keeps a team thinking October.
The Orioles are contenders even though they were seven games under on July 16.
The Orioles’ schedule gives them a break in the short term. The Yankees and Red Sox, who are trying to make the playoffs together for the first time since 2009, play 10 games between Friday and Sept. 3.
Meanwhile, five of the Orioles’ next six series are against the Athletics, Mariners and Angels. The other series in that stretch is in Boston, the Orioles’ final trip to Fenway Park.
If 85 wins the second wild card, the Orioles will have to go 29-21 in their final 50.
Here’s a look at the competition heading into the stretch:
* Boston: The Red Sox might be missing David Ortiz, but their offense has perked up and is among the AL leaders in runs, home runs and average during August. ... With Chris Sale, who has 15 10-strikeout games, and Rick Porcello, last year’s AL Cy Young Award winner, breaking out of his season-long slump, there doesn’t appear to be many losing streaks on the Red Sox’s schedule. Even Doug Fister has won two consecutive starts. ... The Red Sox have their leader, Dustin Pedroia, back from the disabled list, so that helps an offense that has seen kids such as Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. struggle. ... Eduardo Núñez, acquired from San Francisco, has been a hot-hitting player that gives manager John Farrell versatility in the infield. ... The Red Sox released Pablo Sandoval, and with the way prospect Rafael Devers is playing, the Red Sox are more than fine at third base.
* New York: The Yankees have used eight different starters since the All-Star break. Luis Severino has been lights-out. Masahiro Tanaka has a 2.93 ERA, but CC Sabathia has too many walks. Newcomer Sonny Gray pitched well in his first game and is excited about pitching in pinstripes. ... The bullpen’s newest arrivals - David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle - have been flawless with lots of strikeouts in a ‘pen that has Dellin Betances and closer Aroldis Chapman. ... The new third baseman, Todd Frazier, isn’t hitting for average, but his acquisition has allowed hot-hitting Chase Headley to move to first base and plug the hole there. ... Yankees manager Joe Girardi benched his power-hitting catcher, Gary Sánchez, because of sloppy defense. ... After a monster first half that put him on track to win the AL MVP and Rookie of the Year, Aaron Judge is struggling to hit .200 in the second half. But his defense is strong. The up-and-down is typical of a young player.
* Tampa Bay: The biggest difference in the second half for the Rays is their offense, which ranked sixth in the AL for run production in the first half, but is 14th in the second. ... Lucas Duda was acquired from the Mets to help and the Rays are counting on Steven Souza Jr., Corey Dickerson and Evan Longoria. ... The Rays hope that new relievers - Steve Cishek, Sergio Romo and Dan Jennings - will fix a leaky bullpen. ... One of the best trades the Rays made came early in the season when they picked up shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria. ... Alex Cobb is on the disabled list, but the Rays are waiting for a strong run from their rotation.
* Minnesota: After triple-digit losses last year, the Twins struggle to stay above .500. ... Brian Dozier’s power is coming on in August, which is a compliment to power-hitting Miguel Sanó. ... Eddie Rosario has been the Twins’ most consistent hitter in the second half, even though nobody in the lineup has a .300 average since the break. ... Center fielder Byron Buxton’s defensive range might be the best in the league, and his hitting has come around in the second half. ... Joe Mauer is struggling in the second half after hitting .286 in the first half. ... The Twins traded their All-Star closer, Brandon Kintzler, to the Nationals, so that leaves Matt Belisle as the closer with Dillion Gee the backup. ... Ervin Santana anchors the rotation even though he’s not as dominate in the second half as he was in the first. ... Ageless Bartolo Colon - The Big Sexy - is pitching well and the kids - Adalberto Mejía and José Berríos - are growing amid a race.
* Kansas City: The Royals’ biggest news is that catcher Salvador Perez, one of their middle-of-the-lineup hitters, is out with an intercostal strain, meaning Drew Butera, a strong defensive guy, takes over. ... The Royals, recently swept by the Orioles, were in last place at the end of May, but they’ve added three pitchers for the stretch run: Brandon Maurer, who hits 97 mph with his fastball, and lefty Ryan Buchter (95 mph) help stabilize a bullpen that sets up closer Kelvin Herrera, giving them the same pitching plan - just enough in the rotation to get to a strong bullpen - as they had when they won the World Series in 2015. That year, the Royals won 94 percent of the time when they led after five innings. ... The Royals added Trevor Cahill - a dependable six-inning pitcher - to their rotation and that’s a plus. Danny Duffy is their ace with Ian Kennedy, Jason Vargas and Jason Hammel in the rotation. It’s not a big-name rotation, but it’s a rotation that can consistently get to the rebuilt bullpen.
* Los Angeles: Given their standing-room-only disabled list is filled with pitchers, it’s amazing the Angels are even in the conversation at all. ... Past-his-prime Ricky Nolasco, reliever-turned-starter J.C. Ramirez, and former Oriole farmhand Parker Bridwell have held the rotation together. Tyler Skaggs is back from the disabled list. Andrew Heaney and Garrett Richards are about to return. ... Former Nationals prospect Alex Meyer was pitching well, but landed on the disabled list. ... The bullpen has held together despite losing their three top relievers, Huston Street, Andrew Bailey and Cam Bedrosian. ... Mike Trout spent time on the disabled list, but he’s putting up big numbers. Surprises in the Angels offense: Shortstop Andrelton Simmons is hitting .375 since the All-Star break and Ben Revere, who had a year-long slump with the Nationals in 2016, has been consistent as well.
* Seattle: The Mariners, who have never been more than two games above .500 this season, have used 15 pitchers. ... Felix Hernandez (4.28 ERA) is on the disabled for three or four weeks with shoulder bursitis. So will Yovani Gallarado, Ariel Miranda, Sam Gavigio and Erasmo Ramírez be enough in the rotation? ... Starter James Paxton is their only reliable starter and he could be difficult in a wild card game. ... The Mariners bullpen also took an injury hit when David Phelps, who had 11 strikeouts in seven innings after arriving in a trade from the Marlins, is also on the disabled list with an elbow impingement. ... The Mariners never stop dealing and they picked up Yonder Alonso from Oakland to help with run production at first base.