This is the time of the season that usually provides some excitement with teams competing for a division title


But this season is a little different. While the divisional races are all but decided, it’s the wild-card races that are still worth some scoreboard watching, especially in the American League.

Texas and Tampa Bay were the two AL wild-cards going into Tuesday’s games, with Cleveland a half-game behind, Baltimore two games out, and the New York Yankees and Kansas City each 2 1/2 behind.

The Rangers and Rays weren’t sure bets to make the playoffs though. Texas had lost seven straight and 10 of its last 11 games, and the Rays had gone 8-14 since Aug. 25.

Meanwhile, the Indians were the hottest among the wild-card contenders, winning four straight and seven of their last 10 before losing at Kansas City on Monday night.

“Seasons like this don’t come around very often,” Indians outfielder Nick Swisher said after his team completed a sweep on the road over the Chicago White Sox on Sunday. “We have a chance to make it into the playoffs and that’s what we’re doing.”

The Indians appear to have the most favorable schedule to finish the season with 10 of their final 13 games coming against Houston, the White Sox and Minnesota. Tampa Bay has 11 of its last 14 against the Rangers, Orioles and Yankees, and the Rangers play 11 of its remaining 14 contests against the Rays, Royals and an improved Los Angeles Angels team.

In the National League, the two wild-card teams likely will come from the Central Division. After the dust settles in a battle for first between Pittsburgh and St. Louis, Cincinnati will likely hold the second wild-card behind either the Pirates or Cardinals. The Reds will have to hold off a hot Washington Nationals team that came into this week going 8-2 in their last 10 games. But the Reds held a comfortable five-game lead over the Nationals for the last wild-card position.

The divisional races were all but decided through Monday’s games with Boston leading the Rays by nine games in the AL East; Detroit leading the Indians by six games in the Central and Oakland in front of Texas by 6 1/2 games in the West.

In the NL East, Atlanta held a 10-game margin over the Nationals; the Pirates and Cardinals were tied for first in the Central, 2 1/2 games ahead of Cincinnati and the Los Angeles Dodgers were 9 1/2 games in front of Arizona in the West.

StatsWatch: Here are the workhorses on the mound, pitchers with the most innings pitched, through Monday –

  • Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers, 223.0 innings pitched.
  • Adam Wainwright, Cardinals, 221.2
  • James Shields, Royals, 213.2
  • Cliff Lee, Phillies, 207.2
  • Cole Hamels, Phillies, 207.0
  • CC Sabathia, Yankees, 204.0
  • Hisashi Iwakuma, Mariners, 203.2
  • R.A. Dickey, Blue Jays, 202.1
  • Jon Lester, Red Sox, 201.1
  • Max Scherzer, Tigers, 201.1
  • Chris Sale, White Sox, 201.1

Quotable: “I try to do everything I can to help the team win and take it all serious.” – Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee, who struck out a season-high 14 batters and had three hits, including his first career triple, and drove in a career-high four runs in Philadelphia’s 12-2 win over Miami on Monday.

Diamond Notes: According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Angels recently sent a scout to Japan to check out unbeaten pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. The Rakuten Eagles right-hander set a Japanese professional baseball record by winning his 21st straight decision last week. Tanaka, 24, has won 25 straight games overall, dating to last season…Rockies first baseman Todd Helton announced his retirement last weekend. Helton, 40, has played his entire 14-year career with Colorado, hitting .317 with 367 home runs and 1,397 RBIs. He’ll retire at the end of this season…Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has taken over all of the decision making for the club, according to the Miami Herald. “He has marginalized the front office. The front office isn’t making decisions. Loria makes them all,” a source told the newspaper. The source went on to say that “the team is run in this sort of backwards way.” Miami, which was 55-95 going into Tuesday’s game, has a president of baseball operations in Larry Beinfest, and a team president in David Samson. Some of their decisions have been denied by Loria.

Copyright ã 2013 Bob Hurst. All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Hurst Sports Media.

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