New York Yankees
The Yankees are in a holding pattern, attempting to avoid becoming the eighth team in history to blow a 10-game lead. They are 20-26 since July 18, when they were sitting atop the American League East by 10 games. They now share the division lead with Baltimore and are two games in front of Tampa Bay. The 1951 Brooklyn Dodgers blew the biggest lead (13 games). The '95 California Angels couldn't hold on despite an 11-game lead. The '79 Houston Astros failed despite a 10 1/2-game lead. And the '42 Dodgers, '78 Boston Red Sox, '93 San Francisco Giants and 2006 Detroit Tigers all saw 10-game leads evaporate. The Tigers did at least claim the AL Wild Card and advanced to the World Series, where they lost to St. Louis.
The Yankees are in Baltimore this weekend, where after rallying in the top of the eighth on Thursday to wipe out a 6-1 deficit, they saw the Orioles answer with four runs in the bottom of the inning for a 10-6 victory. The two teams have three more meetings this weekend, and then the Yankees host Tampa Bay for three games next weekend. Big deal? Real big. Because after that, other than three games with Oakland, the Yankees have a schedule that sets up for a season-ending surge -- six games against Boston, seven against Toronto and three against Minnesota.
Tampa Bay and Baltimore, meanwhile, have six games remaining against each other, including three games starting Tuesday and a season-ending series at Tropicana Field. The Rays also have those three games with the Yankees, three this weekend against Texas and a four-game visit to the Chicago White Sox as a warmup for that regular-season finale with Baltimore. In addition to this weekend's matchup with the Yankees and six remaining games against Tampa Bay, Baltimore still has a three-game visit to Oakland on its schedule.
San Francisco Giants
San Francisco has a chance to rid itself of the challenge of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West during a three-game series at AT&T Park this weekend. The Dodgers go into the series having fallen 4 1/2 games back of San Francisco, and tied with Pittsburgh at 1 1/2 games behind St. Louis for the second NL Wild Card. They are five games behind NL Wild Card leader Atlanta.
The Dodgers do have Clayton Kershaw set to pitch in the series finale, but does it matter? Kershaw has allowed the Giants only six runs in 31 innings this season, but he's 1-3. He won a 4-0 shutout. The Dodgers scored only two runs in his three losses. The Dodgers can only hope that Boston refugee Josh Beckett, who starts the opener, is finally back on track following his 2-1 victory against Arizona last Saturday -- his first win since July 15. The right-hander was 0-5 with a 7.17 ERA his seven starts in between. He hasn't faced the Giants since 2005 when he was with Boston. Chris Capuano, who starts the middle game, is in a 12-start funk in which he has gone 2-7 and his ERA has climbed from 2.69 to 3.63. He has lost his three starts against the Giants in the last two seasons.
The Giants counter with an interesting trio of starters -- Tim Lincecum (4-3 in his last seven starts but more than three runs allowed in only one of them), Matt Cain (Giants have won his last five starts) and Barry Zito (Giants have won his last six starts).
The Rangers opened a 5 1/2-game lead on Oakland in the AL West. But now, while the A's are in Seattle for the weekend, the Rangers head to St. Petersburg for a matchup with the postseason-hopeful Rays. Rangers did take two of three from Tampa Bay at Arlington Aug. 27-29, the middle of a stretch in which the Rangers have won six consecutive series. That's allowed the Rangers to improve to 82-55, their best record after 137 games since their inception as the expansion Washington Senators in 1961. Joe Nathan has made sure nothing gets wasted. He has converted his past 28 save opportunities and is 30-for-31 for the season.
The A's, who do have seven of the final 10 games of the season against Texas, are looking to rebound in the Pacific Northwest, where they are 3-3 this season. The A's have been the surprise of the second half of the season, and rattled off a nine-game winning streak that had them closing in on Texas before the Angels showed up in Oakland and swept a three-game series this week that seemed insignificant in light of right-hander Brandon McCarthy being hit in the right sight of his head by an Erick Aybar line drive. McCarthy suffered a fractured skull and brain contusion. The good news is McCarthy came through surgery in good shape.
Now the A's head down the stretch with four rookies in the rotation, having called up Dan Straily, who was 1-0 with a 3.18 ERA in three starts last month, to go with rookie right-handers Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin, and lefty Tommy Milone. Brett Anderson, 24, who underwent Tommy John surgery last season, and didn't make his 2012 debut until Aug 21, is the elder statesman.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Just when it looked like Angels were ready to make a late run at getting back into the postseason battle, they were dealt another major blow. AL Cy Young Award candidate Jered Weaver came out of his start against Seattle on Sunday when he was hit on the right shoulder by a line drive off the bat of Dustin Ackley. Tests on Thursday revealed tendinitis in his right biceps, and left the Angels to wonder if that could be why Weaver (16-4, 2.86) allowed 17 earned runs in 22 1/3 innings in his past four starts.
Beginning with a three-game weekend series against the Tigers, the Angels are about to embark on a stretch in which they play 13 of their next 16 against contenders Detroit, Oakland (four), Texas (three) and the Chicago White Sox (three). They have gone from manager Mike Scioscia planning to start Weaver in seven of the final 29 games in hopes of making a late run, to being uncertain when Weaver will pitch again.
Having had Thursday off, the Angels will bring the four other members back on regular rest the next four games. That means, in a perfect world, Weaver could return to the rotation Tuesday against Oakland, but that won't be known until Saturday or Sunday. The alternative would be to starter either journeyman Jerome Williams (6-7, 4.59) or September callup Barry Enright, who was 7-11 with a 4.87 ERA in 24 starts the previous two years with Arizona.
The Indians are trying to avoid a last-place finish for the first time since 1991 (also the most recent time they lost 100 games), and they got a little giddy this week when they took two out of three from Detroit. The reality is, however, that those two wins gave them four victories in their past 21 games, which explains their free-fall. And to think, at the All-Star break a year ago, the Indians were so convinced their latest youth movement was ready to take off that they dealt Alex White, their No. 1 pick in 2009, and Drew Pomeranz, their No. 1 pick in '10, to Colorado for Ubaldo Jimenez with the idea Jimenez could anchor the rotation.
So much for that idea. Jimenez has gone 1-8 with a 7.43 ERA his past 11 starts, and 13-19 with a 5.44 ERA since his arrival in Cleveland. His most recent win was on Aug. 9, and it came against Boston in a game in which he gave up three runs in six innings.
Things have gotten so bad that uncensored closer Chris Perez added the Indians ownership and management to his verbal targets of 2012. Perez criticized Indians fans for not showing up when the team was in first place. That's right, first place. They actually led the AL Central by 3 1/2 games back on May 24. Then he got into a profanity-laced shouting match with a fan in Oakland, which wound up on the Internet. And now, well, he most likely has put himself in position to be the first Indians player dealt in the offseason.
The Marlins stole the offseason headlines. They moved into a new stadium. They shelled out a four-year, $10 million contract for manager Ozzie Guillen. They signed free agents Mark Buehrle, Heath Bell and Jose Reyes to guarantees worth $191 million, and gambled on taking Carlos Zambrano off the hands of the Chicago Cubs while assuming only $2.55 million of his contract.
And what's it gotten them? Well, with six losses in their past eight games, they arrive in Washington on Friday night one loss away from joining the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs as the only teams to be official eliminated from a division race this season.
And to think, back on June 3, having gone on a 23-of-32 stretch, the Marlins were actually tied for the division lead. But they have gone 30-54 since and haven't had a winning streak of more than two games in two months. Oh, and they rank 12th in the NL attendance, ahead of only Houston, San Diego, Pittsburgh and Arizona .
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com.