Power Rankings: AL Central showing unusual life in playoff race

by | Baseball Writer

With recent hot stretches from the Indians and Royals, it looked like the Tigers might have company in the AL Central race. The Indians won 10 of 11 through Sunday while the Royals won 12 of 13 through Monday. Streaks like those have a way of making possible one-team races into three-teamers.

Then again, the Tigers were playing games, too. And they've won 14 of 15, increasing their lead over the Indians from 1½ games to five. They have the look of baseball's best team at this point in my opinion, as you'll see below.

Still, with these three teams being so hot, another storyline emerged. For several years, the AL Central has been generally regarded as baseball's worst division. In fact, the division hasn't put two teams in the playoffs since 2006. The NL West hasn't done so since 2009 and the other four divisions did it last year.

The AL Central has been an afterthought in the wild-card race for years. The Tigers won the AL Central with a worse record than two teams which missed the AL playoffs last year (Rays, Angels). In 2011, the second-place Indians finished 11 out of the wild card. In 2010, the wild-card Yankees had a better record than the AL Central-winning Twins. The same thing happened in 2009 (Red Sox) and again in 2008 when Boston was six wins better than the White Sox.

So, yeah, it has been a long time since an AL Central team even considered the wild card late in the season.

Yet here we are in 2013 and the AL Central has a legitimate chance to send a pair of teams to the postseason for the first time since the Mets were playing in the NLCS.

As things stand through Tuesday's action, the Indians are only 1½ games out of the second wild-card spot, while the Royals are five out.

They'll be competing with the likes of the Rangers, Orioles and Yankees, and obviously the Red Sox, Rays, Tigers and Athletics all factor in. I firmly believe the two AL Central challengers have a legitimate shot at hanging around to the end. It's definitely something that bears watching as we get closer to the stretch run.

Please feel free to contact me with comments either on Twitter (@MattSnyder27) or via email: matt.snyder@cbs.com. These were posted the morning of Aug. 7. Any action coming after posting wasn't included here -- a fact that seems to escape many people later in the week.


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