When you're just three games out of first place with only one team to catch, your focus is squarely on the division crown - but that doesn't mean you don't keep sneaking a peak at the Wild Card race...Count me in as one of the fans who figured the AL Wild Card might come out of the Central this year - with Cleveland and Detroit fighting for the division crown - and who has recently figured the Yankees would be the biggest threat in the Wild Card race.
The Yankees can score runs, they have a recent history of hitting their stride mid-June and not looking back, and their rotation of Wang, Mussina, Pettitte, Joba, and Rasner, is not, in my opinion, as mediocre as it has been made out to be. Until now. Wang's injury, which will keep him out until September, leaves the Yanks with a rotation of Mussina, Pettitte, Joba, Rasner, and Question Mark, and I can see where that crew will have difficulty separating the Yankees much from the .500 mark. I do think the Yankees made the correct decision in moving Joba to the rotation (how good does that look now, as they would have had to anyway once Wang went down), simply because it is far easier to go out and acquire a solid middle reliever than it is to go out and acquire a good starting pitcher. But even with Joba in the rotation, the Yankees might have endured one injury they cannot overcome, as replacing your #1 starter with your #6 starter is especially troublesome for teams that lack much depth in their 1-5 to begin with.
Meanwhile, the Rays face a chase in which very few of their players have been in a pennant race before. In contrast, the relatively young A's still have a ton of key players (Harden, Blanton, Duchscherer, Street, Foulke, Embree, Ellis, Crosby, Chavez, Thomas) who have been there and done that. The Tigers and Indians may yet be heard from, but they have spotted Oakland 6.5, and 5.5 games, respectfully - or at least respectively. The Twins have played exactly as projected: right around .500, and only the mediocrity of the teams around them have put them in the playoff conversation.
In other words, the A's are hanging in there big-time in the division, and the Wild Card truly appears to be wide open as a viable "second avenue to the playoffs" if the Angels should surge. Harden stays.
NOTE: Remember, tonight's game at Arizona begins at 6:40pm PDT. I always forget about that 25-minute time zone they have in Phoenix.