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Around the AL East, Week 12: The Orioles start to pull away, for now

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The Orioles now hold their largest lead of the season at four games. Can they keep it up as they head out west?

The passenger side mirror of your car reminds you, “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.” This is true also for baseball teams, including the first place Orioles. There can be no letting off the gas or the teams chasing them will catch up in a hurry.

That said, every team that’s trying to chase down the Orioles lost ground on them this week and the O’s now hold their largest division lead of the year. They lead the Red Sox by four games. It can be erased in the span of the week to come, if Boston gets hot and the Orioles go into a slump.

Four games isn’t THAT far back. The Red Sox are closer than they appear, yes, but they are behind the Orioles and it’s up to them to find a way to catch up. Their starting rotation is not much better off than the Orioles.

We’ll see how things look following the Orioles nine game west coast swing. Eventually they will stop playing last place teams.

Baltimore Orioles

  • Record: 45-30
  • Last Week: 5-2 (0-1 at Texas, 1-1 vs. Padres, 4-0 vs. Rays)
  • Games Ahead: +4 (gained three games on Red Sox)
  • Upcoming: 2 games at Padres, 4 games at Mariners

Remember how bad you felt on Tuesday night after the Orioles bullpen inexplicably blew that game against the Padres? Well, you didn’t have to worry so much because an awesome few games were still to come. But the Orioles aren’t as good on the road and they head out west for a while.

For quite a lot of the season, the Orioles trailed the Red Sox by a very wide margin in runs scored. It’s still not exactly neck and neck, but the O’s, with 377 runs scored, have taken a big bite out of the lead Boston, with 419 runs scored, once held over them.

One reason why that may be is because the Orioles keep hitting home runs. They’re up to 51 for the month of June, with the MLB record for the month being 55. They have three games left to play this month, two of which are in San Diego, generally regarded as a pitchers park. Can they do it? It’s always possible with these guys.

Catcher Matt Wieters, after his two home runs in Saturday night’s game, is now sporting what would be a career-best OPS of .802. Let’s hope he’s on more than just the Adam Jones one-week OPS improvement-and-then-crater plan. Speaking of Jones, after a 4-4 game on Sunday, he’s up to a .776 OPS, up nearly 100 points since a June 11 low point.

Here is a thing the Orioles are trying to make happen:

I don’t mean Manny Machado, of course. We already know he’s good. I mean Manny Magic, with Machado’s gnome being given away on July 9. If you missed hearing Camden Yards announcer Ryan Wagner reading the promo “fairy tale” about the Machado gnome this past homestand, I am sorry. It was a real treat.

Boston Red Sox

  • Record: 41-34
  • Last Week: 2-5 (1-3 vs. White Sox, 1-2 at Rangers)
  • Games Behind: 4 (lost three games)
  • Upcoming: 3 games at Rays, 3 games vs. Angels

It’s Boston’s turn to get a week full of last place teams this time around. We just saw how moribund the Rays are, and the Angels are now 12 games below .500 despite having Mike Trout on their team. That’s pretty pathetic indeed.

The Red Sox are now 9-14 in June. The Orioles are 17-8 this month. The O’s have yet to have a losing month this year, and that’s why they’re now in first and Boston is not. It feels pretty good.

Since certain elements of the national media occasionally play a game called “Ignore Everything That Makes A Team Good And Then Say They’re Not Good” (see last week’s section about the Orioles) let’s play that about the Red Sox.

If you take out a three-game sweep of the Athletics in May, where the Red Sox scored at least 13 runs in each of the three games, the Red Sox offense no longer looks so otherworldly - in fact they’d be right about where the Orioles rank. That’s still good, of course.

At least for the last week their own offense is not doing a great job of overcoming the struggles of starting pitchers. I feel so bad for them, except not at all.

Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Players: One trade rumor that came up over the past week is that the Red Sox are interested in Atlanta’s Julio Teheran, but as Over the Monster’s Ben Buchanan writes, that didn’t happen, or at least not yet.

Dire Straits: OTM’s Matt Collins suggests that one possible answer to their rotation issues, or at least a player who might soon get a shot, is 27-year-old Aaron Wilkerson, who is not found anywhere on the Red Sox’s top 30 list. Is that so much better than having Mike Wright in the rotation?

Toronto Blue Jays

  • Record: 41-36
  • Last Week: 2-3 (1-1 vs. Diamondbacks, 1-2 at White Sox)
  • Games Behind: 5 (lost two games)
  • Upcoming: 3 games at Rockies, 4 games vs. Indians

For a time towards the end of last week, the Jays had pulled within a game of the Orioles and the AL East looked to be a three team race. Things have gone less well for the Jays since then and they’re now five games back, though it’s still a three team race, I’m sure. Big ups to the White Sox for winning series against both of our closest competitors this week.

How ARE things going for the Jays? One way to answer this question is to say that they have called up one of the many failed 2015 Orioles outfielders, Junior Lake, over the weekend. Lake hit a home run off Chris Sale, naturally.

Guess who is still bad? It’s the Blue Jays bullpen! They continue to lead the American League in losses out of their bullpen, with 17 games being lost by relievers.

However, with Gavin Floyd landing on the disabled list, the pitchers responsible for nine of those losses (Brett Cecil taking up another five) aren’t on the active roster any more. Floyd’s spot on the roster will temporarily be occupied by someone named Bo Schultz.

Innings Limits, Or Not: The Jays have five starters who’ve tossed at least 90 innings, which I can’t even imagine. One of these guys, Aaron Sanchez - the best of the bunch - could be staring at an innings limit of around 160 for the year, writes Bluebird Banter’s Matt W.

Stroman Is An Island: One of the things going on in this article by BB’s Tom Dakers is a hope that Stroman will do better - his ERA has raised from 3.54 to 5.33 in his last eight starts - when he stops facing AL East teams. But he gave up four runs in five innings to the White Sox on Sunday.

New York Yankees

  • Record: 37-37
  • Last Week: 3-2 (1-1 vs. Rockies, 2-1 vs. Twins)
  • Games Behind: 7.5 (lost a game)
  • Upcoming: 4 games vs. Rangers, 3 games at Padres

There is one player on the Yankees roster who has an OPS higher than .750, and that’s 39-year-old Carlos Beltran, who somehow has a .901 OPS - almost as weird as the David Ortiz explosion in Boston.

That’s no way to run a railroad, especially not when that railroad has an Opening Day payroll of $225 million. The Steinbrenners are probably paying for a bit more than a team that went nearly two months without going above .500 until it won Saturday’s game to scratch one game above.

This may have some relation to the fact that the Yankees only have two regular hitters younger than 30. I mean, you think?

Misreading The Signs: Pinstripe Alley’s Andrew Mearns reacts to a rumor that, not only are the Yankees not entertaining the idea of selling off assets like closer Aroldis Chapman, but that they’ve considered extending Chapman’s contract.

All Rise For The Judge: When you’re clamoring for five different Triple-A players, as PSA’s Ben Diamond does here, it’s probably a bad sign. Yankee fans seem particularly interested in getting to see very tall outfielder Aaron Judge, who hits baseballs a long way.

Tampa Bay Rays

  • Record: 31-43
  • Last Week: 0-7 (0-3 at Indians, 0-4 at Orioles)
  • Games Behind: 13.5 (lost five games)
  • Upcoming: 3 games vs. Red Sox, 4 games vs. Tigers

Yowza. The Rays now have four outfielders on the disabled list, and it’s five if you count Steve Pearce as an outfielder. Pearce doubled as the best Rays hitter, by the way. Tough combination to absorb.

You almost have to feel bad for a team that’s lost 11 in a row. How does that even happen? One way it’s happened is probably that they’ve given up at least five runs in each of those 11 losses. They have two good starting pitchers and one good reliever and that’s about it.

The pitching problems can’t be blamed on the disabled list - only one Rays pitcher is on the DL. They just aren’t doing very well, and now they’re likely toast for the season. Rumors of who to sell will surely grow louder over the next month.

**

...but the Orioles do still have a bad starting rotation with no answers on the horizon other than the uncomfortable likelihood of a disappointing trade. They can’t hit 50+ home runs every month. Well, they can, but they probably won’t. So where’s that leave them?

For now and for another four days at least, it leaves them in first place in the American League East. And if you think the starting rotation might actually find a way to improve - and hey, it might - then the sky is the limit for this team. As it is, they’re on pace to win 97 games.

They probably won’t win that many, but then again, who would have ever predicted them to be 45-30 at this point in the season?