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MLB Standings Update: Only 13 Teams Are Legitimately In Contention With 7 Weeks Left

As the season begins to wind down, only 13 teams can truly be considered to be in contention for either a division title or a Wild Card, although I will add one more team this week that is on the very edge of contention. With seven weeks to go, an 8.5 games deficit could be overcome, although the context of who that team would have to catch makes that unlikely.

Be that as it may, here is a look at the standings among contenders as another weekend of the 2011 baseball season commences.

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The American League has pretty much boiled down to seven of the 14 teams being out of it, but I will give props to the Rays, since they are within ten games of a playoff spot as things stand right now, and will claim that there are eight teams still in the hunt.

In the AL Central, the Tigers (62-55) saw their lead over the Indians (58-57) trimmed to three games after losing two-of-three in Cleveland. Detroit moves on to Baltimore for a weekend series against the Orioles, while Cleveland will be home for three against the Twins. With the Birds buried in the East and Minnesota always tough for the Tribe, we will consider ourselves fortunate if the deficit is not larger for The Good Guys come Sunday night.

And then there are the White Sox (58-59), who are hanging around at four games out and who will be hosting the Royals this weekend before taking on the Indians at the beginning of next week.

The AL East is essentially a two-team race, but I will -- as said above -- be generous and include Tampa Bay in the mix, at least for now.

The Red Sox (72-44) have a one-game lead over the Yankees (71-45). Boston is in Seattle to take on the Mariners this weekend, while New York will be home to the Rays (63-54). Tampa Bay trails the Yankees by 8.5 games for the Wild Card, so it is fair to say that the Rays simply have to win this series in the Bronx or they can pretty much write off contending in 2011.

The AL West is definitely down to two teams. The Rangers (66-52) hold a two-game advantage over the Angels (64-54). Nobody else is within 12 games of the lead. Texas is at Oakland this weekend, while Los Angeles is in Toronto.

As far as the American League Wild Card goes, New York is firmly in front with an eight-game lead over their nearest challenger, which is Los Angeles.

And by the way? The AL Wild Card isn't going to come from the Central. Even the first-place Tigers trail the Yankees by 9.5 games, and if the Tigers do not hold on to the division lead, they certainly won't at the same time make up enough ground to catch New York (or Boston) for the AL's last playoff spot.

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The National League has condensed into just six teams in true contention.

In the East, the Phillies (77-40) are running away with the division, with a solid 8.5 game lead over the Braves (69-49).

But before we feel sorry for Atlanta having little chance to win the East, consider that the Braves presently hold the NL Wild Card, and are leading San Francisco by five games for that spot.

The NL Central has suddenly become a two-team race where a couple of weeks ago it was a four-team battle. The Brewers (67-51) and the Cardinals (63-55) are the only teams within 10 games of first, as the Pirates and the Reds have both faded out of the picture.

Finally, we have the NL West, which is also a two-team battle. The Diamondbacks (65-53) have a slim one-game lead over the World Champion Giants (64-54), with nobody else closer than 10.5 games.

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We will check back on Monday for our next update. Will some team that is "out of it" now suddenly get back in? Will the Rays make a move or fall into oblivion?

Come back on Monday and find out.

Photographs by spatulated, Triple Tri, and chrischappelear used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.