It's make or break time for the 2015 Oakland A's. If they're going to make any kind of move, it has to come soon. Normally the chances would be nearly nil for a team eight games under .500, but the league is so evenly matched right now that the playoff picture is still as wide-open as I can ever remember seeing it this late in the year.
Without even playing a game on Monday, the A's passed the Red Sox for 23rd in the MLB standings, percentage points ahead of Cincinnati. The next five teams are within 1½ games -- White Sox, Rangers, D'Backs, Braves, and Padres -- and after that come the Indians, who Oakland will play next week. It will not take much to jump up to at least 18th in MLB, and it might only take a week or two if the A's can finally get on a roll.
17. Indians (13.5 games back of MLB lead)
18. Braves (14.5 GB)
18. Padres (14.5 GB)
20. D'Backs (14.5 GB)
21. Rangers (15 GB)
22. White Sox (15 GB)
23. A's (16 GB)
24. Reds (16 GB)
25. Mariners (16.5 GB)
25. Red Sox (16.5 GB)
(for ties, standing number listed in italics)
Third place in the Wild Card race belongs to a team one game over .500 (Orioles), and the top two spots are held by the Twins and Astros, who could disappear as quickly as they emerged (especially the Twins). They still play every team ahead of them in the Wild Card except the Twins and Tigers, with 10 against the Astros (7 at home), 6 against the Jays, 7 against the Orioles, 3 against the Rays, 4 against the Indians, 6 against the Rangers, and 4 against the White Sox.
1. Twins (virtual tie) (0 heads-up games remaining vs. A's)
2. Astros (virtual tie) (10 games remaining)
3. Orioles (3.5 GB) (7 games remaining)
4. Blue Jays (4 GB) (6 games remaining)
4. Tigers (4 GB) (0 games remaining)
6. Rays (4.5 GB) (3 games remaining)
7. Indians (5.5 GB) (4 games remaining)
8. Rangers (7 GB) (6 games remaining)
9. White Sox (7 GB) (4 games remaining)
10. A's (8 GB)
11. Mariners (8.5 GB) (9 games remaining)
11. Red Sox (8.5 GB) (0 games remaining)
(Note: The A's are done playing the first-place Royals and the first-place Yankees, though they do still have four left against the first-place Dodgers.)
The division is 10 games away, but the Angels have exactly three good hitters and three good starting pitchers; they are not invincible. The A's still have 6 games left against the Angels. On the downside, they also have to face Madison Bumgarner, Clayton Kershaw, and Zack Greinke in a four-game stretch starting this weekend. Just their luck to draw Kershaw/Greinke in a two-game series.
2. Astros (2 GB)
3. Rangers (9 GB)
4. A's (10 GB)
5. Mariners (10.5 GB)
If there was ever a year for a sunk team to make an epic comeback, it would be this one, with so few teams setting themselves apart. There are only 14 games separating the best AL team from the worst, whereas the difference is 26½ in the NL. The odds are incredibly slim, but they're not nearly as bad as they would be in almost any other season.