It's a miracle that Oakland, with so many injuries and slumps, was only 2� games out, especially since its ERA of 4.78 at the break was 13th in the American League. Watch for the A's to fly out of the gate in the second half, which they begin with 19 consecutive games against the Orioles, Indians and Yankees. Oakland will get a boost when injured third baseman Carney Lansford returns in late July, but unless the A's can fill the chasm left by the loss of shortstop Walt Weiss (torn ligaments in his left ankle), their vaunted defense will continue to betray them.
The Rangers should stay close because they have the most potent offense in baseball. With their pitching, they'll need it. They've already used 19 different pitchers, including 10 starters—both league highs. Nolan Ryan, Kevin Brown and Bobby Witt (whose right shoulder injury will sideline him until at least Aug. 1) have won only 15 games all told. But also keep in mind that Texas has played less than .500 baseball after the break in 10 of the last 12 seasons.
The Twins have pitching, defense and history on their side. This year they became the 12th American League team ever to win 15 consecutive games. Of the previous 11 teams, nine finished in first place, the others in second. But Minnesota has no chance if Scott Erickson, who gave a Cy Young performance in the first half, stays on the disabled list for very long with a strained right elbow.
The White Sox stayed close despite playing poorly, especially on defense. That they won 20 games in their final at bat shows their spunk. Chicago needs to acquire a big-hitting DH, or its shortage of firepower will spell doom. That's where the Sox's wild card might come into play. One American League West manager says he fears the return of Bo Jackson, because "[just] his presence will affect teams." Bo may be back in September.