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Around the AL East, Week 10: Orioles, Red Sox duel for first continues

You’re probably bummed about the Orioles after the last two games, but they’re still in first. A crucial week awaits, however.

Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

The past week did not end as well as it began for the Orioles. After rattling off five consecutive victories, the Orioles went on to lose three straight to the hard-charging Blue Jays, who are looking to make it a three-team race atop the AL East.

A crucial week awaits for the Orioles, as they will be playing the Red Sox for three games followed by three games against the Blue Jays. Stakes are high for a week in June. This is a chance to gain games directly against their closest competition.

After a week in which the Red Sox had two off days, the Orioles and Red Sox have finally played the same number of games. Tied is tied - no percentage points involved here. The winner of the next series will be the sole leader in the AL East, at least for now.

Baltimore Orioles

  • Record: 36-26
  • Last Week: 4-3 (3-0 vs. Royals, 1-3 vs. Blue Jays)
  • Games Ahead: 0 (same)
  • Upcoming: 3 games at Red Sox, 3 games vs. Blue Jays

There’s still more than a month and a half until the non-waiver trade deadline, but you should prepare yourself now, because the Orioles are going to trade some prospect(s) you like for a starting pitcher you do not like. It’s not an exciting possibility, but they really have no choice.

Ubaldo Jimenez is a hot mess. It may be that neither Mike Wright nor Tyler Wilson are destined to long be in a big league rotation. The only help on the horizon, such as it is, might be the return of Yovani Gallardo from the disabled list. He had a 7.00 ERA before going on the DL.

And still the Orioles offense is nearly good enough to overcome this problem. Two impressive rallies on Saturday and Sunday nearly salvaged the series in Toronto. Only nearly, though, because various bullpen arms were so bad that one rally wasn’t enough. Alas.

With a 3.5 fWAR, Manny Machado has the fifth-best fWAR among all major league players. He will lose a chance to keep up the pace whenever he serves his suspension for punching the headhunting Yordano Ventura in the face.

Boston Red Sox

  • Record: 36-26
  • Last Week: 3-2 (1-1 at Giants, 2-1 at Twins)
  • Games Behind: 0 (same)
  • Upcoming: 3 games vs. Orioles, 3 games vs. Mariners

Are things improving for David Price? The Red Sox would like it if that was so about their $217 million man. After a 5.76 ERA in April, Price posted a 4.62 ERA in May and has a 2.40 ERA through two June starts.

Although they aren’t quite as bad off as the Orioles in the starting rotation, the Red Sox rotation is also a bit of a mess. Knuckleballer Steven Wright is their sole good starter. Other than that, Rick Porcello is OK and everyone else is bad.

Joe Kelly and Henry Owens have gotten themselves demoted. Clay Buchholz got kicked to the bullpen. Eduardo Rodriguez has only made three starts all year due to a DL stint and he has a 6.06 ERA with seven walks in 16.1 innings.

So far the Red Sox have papered over that weakness with a ridiculous offense that includes five players slugging over .500, including the Vandal, David Ortiz, who is posting a not-at-all suspicious .340/.423/.708 batting line while leading all of MLB in runs batted in.

Groome-d for a Big Payday: Some people thought that New Jersey high school righty Jason Groome could go in the top five picks, but he ended up sinking to the Red Sox at #12 in the draft. Over the Monster’s Marc Normandin notes that Groome is seeking top five money and tries to figure out how the Red Sox could approach that sum.

Power Outage: OTM’s Matt Collins wonders, where did Hanley Ramirez’s power go? If Orioles fans are lucky, it will stay gone. Ramirez has a career .489 slugging percentage, and slugged .426 for the Red Sox last year, but this season so far he’s slipped to a .379 SLG.

Toronto Blue Jays

  • Record: 35-30
  • Last Week: 4-3 (1-2 at Tigers, 3-1 vs. Orioles)
  • Games Behind: 2.5 (same)
  • Upcoming: 4 games vs./at Phillies, 3 games at Orioles

As great as their O’s series went, the Blue Jays enter this week the same number of games behind as they started last week. They’ll have an advantage this week, though. Where the Orioles have to play the Red Sox for three games, the Jays get four games against the Phillies, who have scored the second-fewest runs of any MLB team.

Jays Rule 5 pick Joe Biagini, whom they snagged from the Giants, may go down as the best of the Rule 5 picks this year. At least in terms of ERA, Biagini is sitting pretty with a 2.35 through 23 innings - although, with a 1.478 WHIP, how long will that success last?

You wouldn’t know it from how the Orioles pitched to him and allowed him to hit in the series that just passed, but Russell Martin has been bad this year. A .391 OPS April was chased by a .629 OPS May. However, since the start of June, Martin has raised his average by 11 points, his OBP by 27 points, and his SLG by 34 points. It’s a long way to respectability but if he’s moving in the right direction, that’s something.

A Prospect Injured: The top Blue Jays prospect, outfielder Anthony Alford, was involved in a collision and taken to the hospital. Bluebird Banter’s Matt W. wrote about the situation, the severity of which is still not entirely known.

The Bullpen Woes: BB’s Eric Elliott writes that the Jays bullpen needs to be more than just Roberto Osuna. Unfortunately for the Orioles, they proved, at least in the most recent series, that they can be more than just Osuna.

New York Yankees

  • Record: 31-32
  • Last Week: 5-2 (4-0 vs. Angels, 1-2 vs. Tigers)
  • Games Behind: 5.5 (gained a game)
  • Upcoming: 2 games at Rockies, 4 games at Twins

The Yankees have not had a record above .500 since April 13. This could finally be their week to do it, as they’ll get a pair of games against the sub-.500 Rockies and, more significantly, four games against the on-pace-for-50-wins Minnesota Twins.

Unless you are the team presently operating with Satan’s explicit blessing, as the Red Sox are, it’s probably bad if a player in his late 30s or even 40s is your best hitter. That’s the case for the Yankees with Carlos Beltran, who is 39 and also their best performer on offense by a significant margin. Beltran is batting .277/.313/.554. No other Yankee has an OPS over .800.

There’s quite a fountain of youth up there in New York, actually, because their best starting pitcher is also their oldest starting pitcher. 35-year-old CC Sabathia has a 2.28 ERA through ten starts. What do you think is their secret?

And I Hate Him Already: On Pinstripe Alley, Matt Provenzano writes about how their first round pick, Blake Rutherford, is one of their best draft picks since Derek Jeter. Rutherford’s favorite player was supposedly Jeter - a match made in hell, truly.

Everybody Likes Ike: Mark Teixeira got hurt, so the Yankees turned to Chris Parmelee to play first base. He got hurt too. Now, writes PSA’s Tyler Norton, the Yankees will be adding Ike Davis.

Tampa Bay Rays

  • Record: 29-32
  • Last Week: 4-2 (2-1 at Diamondbacks, 2-1 vs. Astros)
  • Games Behind: 6.5 (gained half a game)
  • Upcoming: 3 games vs. Mariners, 3 games vs. Giants

I think I’ve mentioned Steve Pearce in this space in this feature most weeks. It's worth bringing him up again because he's having one heck of a season while playing about two-thirds of the time.

Surely the Orioles could have squeezed a .336/.410/.555 batter onto their roster somehow. He will cost $1 million less than Pedro Alvarez this season, and, as a righty batter who performs better against lefties, would have actually helped to mitigate one of the team's current deficiencies. Alas.

The Rays don't have any Ubaldo-level bad starters, but their rotation is not as good as it was supposed to be. Here with nearly 40% of the season in the books, they’ve got Matt Moore with a 5.05 ERA, Drew Smyly at 4.94, and Chris Archer at 4.61. Those gentlemen are at least averaging 5.2 innings per start. So that's something.

Sometimes, Less is Moore: On DRaysBay, Erik Hahmann considers the options of what the Rays might do with Moore. He is 27, about the age where you figure they are what they are... which is probably true a lot of the time and wasn’t true for the Orioles with Jake Arrieta.


It’s hard to call any week bad where the Orioles end up in first place, but if they don't play well this week, they may no longer be close to the top and they may never get close to the top again. The starting pitching situation needs some kind of solution and there may not be anything they can do about it.

Figuratively holding my breath for the week to come. Don’t literally hold your breath that long, though. You’ll run out of oxygen.