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Around the AL East, Week 5: The Orioles are back in first place

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Another week of the season has gone by, and the Orioles find themselves back atop the division - at least for now.

The Orioles were in first place in the AL East after ten games of the season. They were still in first place after twenty games. Now, thirty games into their season, after a brief interruption, they are once again the team at the top of the AL East standings.

At this point, the season is only about 18% of the way over. There is a lot of baseball left to play. But who among the class of baseball pundits expected the Orioles to be good for even this long? Not very many, if any at all. The pattern is there. When they're good in the Dan Duquette era, nobody sees it coming.

They're not even exactly winning in a way that you would have guessed. Oh, sure, they're scoring a bunch of runs, but they're definitely not being helped by all of the usual suspects. Adam Jones is batting .200. Chris Davis is batting .200. This isn't even the best version of the Orioles that we could be seeing and they're in first place. That's pretty cool.

Baltimore Orioles

Record: 18-12
Last Week: 4-2 (2-1 vs. Yankees, 2-1 vs. Athletics)
Games Ahead: +0.5 (gained a game)
Upcoming: 3 games at Twins, 4 games vs. Tigers

You may have missed this fantastic collage of pictures of Orioles players with their moms:

I like our guys. I like that they hit six home runs for the moms of Birdland. I especially like that they're back in first place.

Boston Red Sox

Record: 18-13
Last Week: 3-3 (2-1 at White Sox, 1-2 at Yankees)
Games Behind: 0.5 (lost a game)
Upcoming: 3 games vs. Athletics, 4 games vs. Astros

Known vandal and whiny baby David Ortiz struck out looking in the ninth inning of Friday's game against the Yankees. He was ejected after pitching a fit, and then, after being ejected, pitched this other fit. The sequence looked a bit like this:

Obviously a completely measured and rational response. That was sarcasm just there. Say, what's one glaringly possible explanation for Ortiz's penchant for out-of-nowhere temper tantrums?

David Price, who is guaranteed $217 million from this season to 2022, has a 6.75 ERA after making seven starts. His fastball velocity is down 2.2mph compared to his full season numbers from last year.

Other People's Prospects Can Struggle Too: On Over the Monster, Ben Buchanan takes note of the fact that the Red Sox have demoted starting pitcher Henry Owens. Prior to the 2015 season, Owens was the #19 prospect in baseball according to MLB.com. He had a 4.57 ERA in 11 starts last year, and is sporting a 5.11 ERA through three MLB starts this year - including 13 walks in 12.1 innings.

The Struggle Is Real Against Lefties: Against LHP, the Red Sox have batted only .226/.301/.349 this season. On OTM, Matt Collins takes stock of some of the real struggles and tries to figure out why things are the way they are.

Tampa Bay Rays

Record: 15-14
Last Week: 4-1 (1-1 vs. Dodgers, 3-0 vs. Angels)
Games Behind: 2.5 (gained a game)
Upcoming: 3 games at Mariners, 3 games vs. Athletics

With a better week than the Blue Jays, the Rays have pushed themselves up into third place as well as above .500. They're really not that far out of it - another good week could even find them in first place. They'll be out on the dreaded west coast road trip, but that may not be a big problem for them as they're 6-5 on the road so far this season.

As a team, the Rays have only allowed 105 runs on the season. That's the fewest in the American League. But they've also only scored 102 runs, tied for second-worst in the AL and only a mere run better than the worst team. The good news for the Rays is that this time last week, their team OPS was .672 and now they've pushed that up to a .700. Maybe they are trending in the right direction.

We Know That Feeling, Too: On DRaysBay, Adam Sanford writes about Evan Longoria's problem: He's swinging too much. The third baseman has an unsightly .272 on-base percentage so far this season. That would look bad even on the Orioles.

Toronto Blue Jays

Record: 16-17
Last Week: 4-3 (3-1 vs. Texas, 1-2 vs. Dodgers)
Games Behind: 3.5 (same)
Upcoming: 3 games at Giants, 3 games at Rangers

The Blue Jays are one of those teams that perplexes some corners of people by not having a record that matches their expected record based on their run differential. With a +11 RD, they're "expected" to have an 18-15 record right now. Instead, they're below .500. Bummer, dudes. I'll be losing a lot of sleep over that one.

Troy Tulowitzki struggle watch: The light has not yet turned on for the star shortstop, who is batting .162/.266/.306 on the season and posted a .340 OPS over the last seven days. That's a horrendous OPS - but he's still doing better than Adam Jones. Ouch. Tulowitzki is signed through 2020.

The Jays have scored the same number of runs as the Orioles - 134. But they've done it in three more games than the O's have.

Kevin Pillar the Astronaut: On Bluebird Banter, Eric Elliott writes about the Jays center fielder, who basically soars through space every time he makes a catch. It's frustrating as a fan of another team, but it must be really fun for fans of the Jays to watch him do his thing.

Looking for Bench Help: Also on Bluebird Banter, Tom Dakers puts forth a candidate to bolster the Jays short bench: Andy Burns. I remember well the days of clinging to random Triple-A scrubs as the answer for the MLB club. They weren't fun.

New York Yankees

Record: 11-18
Last Week: 3-3 (1-2 at Orioles, 2-1 vs. Red Sox)
Games Behind: 6.5 (lost half a game)
Upcoming: 4 games vs. Royals, 3 games vs. White Sox

The last place Yankees - nope, not tired of that yet - actually did a solid for the O's over the weekend by taking two out of three from the Red Sox.

The big story for their team for this upcoming week has very little to do with their product on the field and everything to do with off-field stuff. Aroldis Chapman, acquired over the offseason, will be making his debut with the team after being suspended under MLB's new domestic violence policy.

In case you were wondering whether Chapman has reformed in any way, he maintains he has done nothing wrong. Chapman is expected to immediately unseat former Oriole Andrew Miller for the closer's role. May he fail at it miserably.

Sometimes, the Silver Lining is Lightning: On Pinstripe Alley, Jason Hecht wonders whether some silver lining of Alex Rodriguez's injury could be that Aaron Hicks will get more playing time. Hicks is batting .122 on the season.

Crowdsourcing Isn't Always The Answer: On Pinstripe Alley, Andrew Mearns asked readers what they would do to try to fix the Yankees various roster problems. The answers... oh geez. The answers.

**

So begins another week where the Orioles are in first place. Hopefully they will still find themselves in that spot another week from now. Then they can keep going from there. I'm a whole lot more excited for this team than I was for six weeks ago.