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AL Wild Card race taking shape of thriller

MLB.com @matthewhleach

In case you missed it, the Yankees are as close to playing on the road in the American League Wild Card Game as they are to skipping the one-game first round entirely. And that could make for a more fun late summer in the AL than many folks anticipated.

The margin in the AL East as of Friday morning is 4 1/2 games in favor of the Red Sox, even after back-to-back Boston losses. That same margin stands between New York and Seattle for the first AL Wild Card spot. Oh, and Oakland is just one more game back.

In case you missed it, the Yankees are as close to playing on the road in the American League Wild Card Game as they are to skipping the one-game first round entirely. And that could make for a more fun late summer in the AL than many folks anticipated.

The margin in the AL East as of Friday morning is 4 1/2 games in favor of the Red Sox, even after back-to-back Boston losses. That same margin stands between New York and Seattle for the first AL Wild Card spot. Oh, and Oakland is just one more game back.

Wild Card standings

That is not -- at all -- to suggest that New York can't or won't chase down Boston for the AL East title. There's more than two months of baseball left, including 10 head-to-head meetings between the old rivals.

But what looked a bit like a fait accompli, that one AL East beast would have home field in an AL Division Series, the other in the AL Wild Card Game, looks a bit less secure with the A's recent rally.

Surging Oakland now not only trails Seattle by one game for the second AL Wild Card spot, it's within 5 1/2 of first-place New York. And while the Yankees have made two significant pitching adds this week, they sustained a loss bigger than either when Aaron Judge suffered a broken bone in his right wrist.

Video: Castrovince, Justice on Judge's fractured wrist

And let's be clear. For a variety of reasons, Oakland looks like the bigger threat than Seattle right now. The A's run differential is quite a bit better (+39 to +1). Their upcoming schedule is friendlier (though not as friendly as the Yankees'). And history tells us that if any front office is likely to make an aggressive, bold, unexpected move, it's Oakland's.

So, yes, definitely keep an eye on that AL East race. There's not much that's more fun than Red Sox-Yankees games with high stakes. And don't forget that the A's and Mariners have their own head-to-head history, and a battle between those two rivals is plenty fun as well.

Video: OAK@TEX: Lowrie leaps for liner, Treinen records save

But while you're at it, don't lose sight of the possibility of those two races colliding with each other, turning into something a bit more complicated, unexpected and fun.

Matthew Leach is the National League executive editor for MLB.com.

Boston Red Sox, Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners, New York Yankees, Aaron Judge