There is a new king atop the AL East.
Last week, it was the Yankees. This week it is the Orioles. Next week, it could be the Red Sox. What does all this mean? The race in the AL East is as tight as it has ever been and it is anyone’s guess as to who might come out of top. If this week is any indicator, the top team in the division will not be clear anytime soon.
Baltimore Orioles (20-15, 5-1, 1st in AL East)
The Baltimore Orioles were the best team in the east this week. The only blip in their resume was a three run loss to the Astros. Again, that was a minor blip in the grand scheme of things. This 2014 Orioles team looks very similar to the 2012 Orioles team. They won three games this week by a margin of one run, just as they did back in 2012. They also swept division rival Tampa Bay in Tampa. The Orioles are soaring and it certainly helps that star first baseman Chris Davis is back in the line up.
The Orioles did lose veteran catcher Matt Weiters to elbow problems this week.. While Weiters was limited to DH duty this week, his presence on the field will be missed, especially in their huge series against the Detroit Tigers.
New York Yankees (19-17, 3-3, 2nd in AL East)
The Yankees slipped this week, losing the top spot in the Division to the Orioles. Still, they were able to compete in the Division and go .500 for the week. It looks as though age is finally starting to take its toll on the Yanks. C.C. Sabathia was recently placed on the DL with inflammation to the right knee, but he was struggling well before that. Sabathia was posting a 5.28 ERA this season and was struggling to keep pitches in the strike zone.
However, do not count the Yankees out of the playoff race just yet. Most of the games the Yankees lost were by three runs or less. Their two losses to the Brewers were only by one run. They are also fueled by the impending retirement of shortstop Derek Jeter. This may provide enough spark and inspiration for the Yankees to continue their play well into October. New York will remain in the thick of the race for the playoffs and a contender in the division, if age does not catch up with them.
Boston Red Sox (19-18, 4-1, 3rd in AL East)
The Red Sox continued to climb up the ladder this week, with only one loss to the Texas Rangers. The only positive thing about that loss was that David Ortiz broke up Yu Darvish’s no hitter with two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning. Ignoring the one loss, the Red Sox had a very impressive week. After getting blanked in game one, the Red Sox went on to win games two and three against the Rangers 8-3 and 5-2 respectively. Their offense seems to be fully functioning, which helped them get back above the .500 mark.
The Red Sox have proven time and time again that they are a last half of the season team. They may not have a great start to the season, but come September and October, they are right in the thick of the race. Baseball fans should expect nothing different from the team this year. Boston will certainly make the race for the division and wild card interesting and fun to watch.
Toronto Blue Jays (18-20, 4-3, 4th in AL East)
The Blue Jays got a bit closer to .500 this week, going 4-3 and sweeping the Philadelphia Phillies. However, they continued to struggle against “better” teams in the league. The Blue Jays were swept by the Los Angeles Angels, who are in the thick of the race for the AL West. Before the series to the Angels, the Blue Jays were on a five game win streak.
The big problem with the Blue Jays seems to be their bullpen. Their starters have been competitive in each of their recents starts while the bullpen has been shaky. The relief pitchers have struggled throwing strikes across the plate and keeping games close after the starters are gone. If the Blue Jays plan to get above .500 and make a run for the division, they need to address this problem at the trade deadline. They are a team that can make a big move and have the players to deal. The question is, will the Jays make any moves?
Tampa Bay Rays (16-22, 1-5, 5th in AL East)
The Tampa Bay Rays were supposed to have the most dominating pitching staff in Major League Baseball. Their farm system is known for churning out quality starters and relievers year after year. This season has been different, as the Rays are not seeing the results. Their ace David Price has a 4.53 ERA but holds the best strikeout-to-walk ratio in the league. This season has had many ups and downs for the Rays, as they are on pace to have the franchise’s worst season since 2007. To make matters worse, the Rays may be forced to break up their starting rotation if they do not pick up their level of play. They may be forced to trade Price in order to replenish the farm system, which would initially be disastrous for the struggling team. Losing Price could mean losing their identity in the short run and the question is whether or not that drastic a measure has to be taken. The rotation has been plagued with injuries this season, which is one of the main reasons the Rays have struggled.
The Rays, like the Red Sox, are a second half team. If they want to keep Price, they have to surge and they have to do it quickly. Their identity and rotation are at stake, it will only be a matter of time before extreme measures have to be taken.