Week Ahead: Postseason push set to heat up

Surging Red Sox to face division-rival Rays, Yanks

Week Ahead: Postseason push set to heat up

The recently revamped rosters are ready … for now.

The big-name acquisitions that lit up the non-waiver Trade Deadline headlines last week have begun to settle in with their new clubs.

The pennant races we're keeping ever-watchful eyes on as August rolls along are redefining themselves with each pitch in the American and National Leagues.

Yes, there's a lot to think about as the week ahead dawns in Major League Baseball.

Less than a month remains before the furious final four weeks of the 162-game regular-season grind, and contending teams are jockeying for position in the divisional and Wild Card races while figuring out how to incorporate new players into new roles.

They're also making sure their 25-strong rosters are healthy and rested once the stretch run begins in earnest, while not ruling out more wheeling and dealing.

If you're looking for hard evidence, the American League East is a good place to start in the week ahead.

The Red Sox have been scorching of late and have asserted themselves in the division, taking a three-game lead over the second-place Yankees heading into Monday after winning their sixth consecutive game Sunday.

But the two teams behind them, the Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays, both made several moves at the July 31 Deadline and might make more before Aug. 31, the last day to acquire postseason-eligible players via trade waivers. Both have the chance to impact the standings in a major way this week.

The Rays stick around St. Petersburg and await a huge three-game series against those very Red Sox, with the opener set for Tuesday night at Tropicana Field. The Rays have to deal with Boston ace Chris Sale right off the bat.

Sale's scoreless outing

Then again, the Rays are set to welcome right-hander Jake Odorizzi back from the disabled list in time for Wednesday's start, and Tampa Bay has been particularly resilient of late. It enters Monday only a half-game out of a Wild Card spot.

"I'm excited about it, man," Rays third baseman Evan Longoria said. "That's what we come into Spring Training for and what we prepare for, to be in this position late in the year."

The Red Sox, meanwhile, have that road test followed by another -- a three-game weekend series against the Yankees in the Bronx that would have been intriguing even if the teams weren't separated by such a thin margin.

Speaking of that, it's time once again to pay a bit of attention to the National League Central in the coming week.

Given that the NL East (Washington up by 13 games) and West (Dodgers up by 15 1/2, more on them later) and AL West (Astros up by 15) are in full-on runaway territory, it's fun to key in on the closest division race left in baseball. The defending World Series-champion Cubs have reasserted themselves of late, but they enter Monday with only a half-game lead over the Brewers.

"It's back -- the feeling's back," Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. "All those good vibes, all those good juices that we've had for the last couple years is back."

Contreras, Schwarber go deep

This week, the Cubs take a West Coast spin, playing three in San Francisco to start the week before a travel day Thursday takes them to the desert for three weekend games vs. the D-backs. The Brewers will spend Monday through Thursday with a four-game home-and-away Interleague series vs. the Twins, then head back home from Minnesota for three home games against the Reds.

Elsewhere, there's more intrigue afoot this week.

The Angels and Mariners are neck and neck in the AL Wild Card standings, and they'll face off in a four-game series that begins Thursday in Seattle, although the Mariners will have to do it without ace Felix Hernandez, who was just put on the disabled list with right biceps tendinitis.

And then there's our weekly look at possible history being made by the Dodgers, who enter Monday with a record of 79-32 -- by far the best in MLB.

The questions surrounding Los Angeles -- which has won 13 of its last 14, 24 of 27 and 44 of its last 51 games -- are less about a division title that seems a foregone conclusion and more about the potential of a truly historic season.

Dodgers slug five home runs

And maybe there's some scuttlebutt about the health of Clayton Kershaw, who's aiming to get back soon from the lower back woes that have sidelined him of late.

Given the fact that Deadline arrival Yu Darvish sparkled in his debut in Dodger blue last week, the beat seems to keep rolling along for manager Dave Roberts and his gang in a special year. The Dodgers are slated to play three in Arizona in the early part of the week before heading back to Chavez Ravine for a weekend three-gamer vs. the Padres.

"It is history in the making," Roberts said. "But when you get back to the day to day, I don't think anyone's aware of that. As we talked about a few weeks ago, this is who we are. We play the right way and we are finding ways to win games."

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.