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MLB Standings Update: Indians Embark On Critical Road-Trip Hanging On By Their Fingernails

The Indians enter the first days of August in big trouble in the AL Central, as the Detroit Tigers have opened up a 2.5 game lead over the Tribe as Cleveland heads out on what could be a brutal visit to Boston and Texas.

In this latest look at the standings it will be noted that Detroit's lead is now tied for second for the widest margin in the Majors.

Here is a look at what the contenders in each league look like, and who plays who in the American League at the beginning of the week:

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In the AL Central, the Tigers (57-51), as said, lead the Indians (53-52) by 2.5 games. Detroit entertains Texas beginning Tuesday night while the Tribe heads for four in Boston starting Monday.

The White Sox (52-54) find themselves four games back as they get ready to face the Yankees at home beginning Monday, and the Twins (50-58), seven games behind, now face the Angels at home starting on Tuesday.

Only two teams in the AL East are at present in contention, with the Red Sox (66-40) two games ahead of the New York Yankees (64-42). Third place Tampa Bay is 10.5 back, and that, in the East, is surely a near-insurmountable margin.

The AL West is also a two-team race, with the Rangers (61-48) leading the Angels (59-50) by two games.

The AL Wild Card is pretty much a two-team race as well at present, with the Yankees 6.5 games up on the Angels. Next in line, but 8.5 games back in the wild card race, are the Rays.

In case you wonder, the Indians are a full 10.5 games back of the Yankees. In other words, it pretty much boils down to: win the Central or watch the playoffs on TV.

The National League features eight teams that are in or on the cusp of contention. At this stage of the season, I would say that that would be any team within ten games of a division lead, although in truth, it is getting a bit too late even for a team that far back, although of course there is the wild card.

The NL East is assuredly a two-team race, with the Phillies (68-39) checking in six games up on the Braves (63-46). The Braves are the leader in the wild card battle in the National League, 3.5 games ahead of the Diamondbacks.

In the NL Central, the Brewers (60-49) have a solid 2.5 game lead over the Cardinals (57-51), while the Pirates (54-52) have faded to 4.5 games back. Also in marginal contention in the Central are the Reds (53-55), 6.5 games in arrears of Milwaukee.

The NL West features a two-team race, with the World Champion Giants (61-47) coming in two games ahead of the Diamondbacks (59-49).

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Obviously there is still time for the 14 teams at least ten games back to make a move, and also obviously, a couple of these teams have a much better chance than -- say -- the Astros, owners of baseball's worst record at 35-73.

But in truth, it looks more and more as if each league might have as few as eight teams in contention for four playoff spots as August rolls along.

Be sure to check back on Friday for our next update.

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