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Around the AL East, Week 9: The Orioles are back in first place

Things got bleak for the Orioles early on this past week, but by the end of it they were back atop the AL East.

The past week did not begin as well as it ended for the Orioles. For a while there, things looked quite dire indeed as they lost the first two games to the Red Sox, falling a season-high three games out of first place in the American League East.

As bad as you might have felt about the team on Tuesday night, things have turned around since then. After Sunday's unlikely rally against the back of the Yankees bullpen, the O's are once again leading the division by percentage points.

Not to be lost in the shuffle, however, is the fact that the Blue Jays have pulled themselves up within 2.5 games of first place. Like winter, the redcoats, and the drums in the deep of Moria, they are coming.

The O's themselves will get to have a say in the Jays ascent or descent in the standings at the end of this week. The teams have not played since mid-April. Four games await, starting on Thursday.

Baltimore Orioles

  • Record: 32-23
  • Last Week: 4-3 (2-2 vs. Red Sox, 2-1 vs. Yankees)
  • Games Ahead: 0 (gained a game on Red Sox)
  • Upcoming: 3 games vs. Royals, 4 games at Blue Jays

Many things are bad about the Orioles right now, the starting pitching chief among them. The rotation has been giving up runs like it's going out of style. The O's have only had two quality starts in their last eleven games. They're 6-5 in those games. It can't last forever.

Yet for all the bad stuff you've been feeling about them, consider this: The Orioles are on pace to win 94 games. Maybe a bit less, since they have more road games remaining than home games and they aren't as good on the road, but still. It's not a fluke that the Orioles are winning.

There are real strengths on this team. They have the MLB home run leader, again. Manny Machado is looking like an MVP candidate. Even with Darren O'Day hitting the disabled list, the Orioles have Brad Brach and possibly even Mychal Givens capable of picking up that slack.

They'll have to keep playing well to do this dang thing, obviously. But they're capable of doing so. Don't let anybody tell you differently - not even me, when I'm feeling bummed after a loss.

Boston Red Sox

  • Record: 33-24
  • Last Week: 3-4 (2-2 at Orioles, 1-2 vs. Blue Jays)
  • Games Behind: 0 (lost a game on Orioles)
  • Upcoming: 2 games at Giants, 3 games at Twins

Two off days in the same week for the Red Sox. What a charmed existence. By the end of this week there won't be any more percentage points involved in the division - they'll have played the same number of games as the O's.

For what's seemed like the entire season, the Red Sox have had the MLB active hitting streak leader. Although the 20-gamers have been broken, the Vandal David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia are now each working on 13-game hitting streaks.

Old friend Koji Uehara, now 41 years old, is striking out nearly a third of batters he faces this season and he has an impressive-looking WHIP of 1.062 - but despite those good numbers, Uehara has a 4.57 ERA. Bad luck, or a guy coming to the end of the line?

Worth keeping an eye on as the season moves along. Uehara has lost a couple miles per hour off of his fastball since he pitched well enough for the O's to get himself traded for Chris Davis.

Injuries For Everyone: On Over the Monster, Ben Buchanan wrote of a flurry of roster moves made before Sunday's game, including two catchers being placed on the disabled list. They'll have to get by without Blake Swihart and Ryan Hanigan for a little while.

Bad Luck With That: Also on OTM, Bryan Joiner argues that the Red Sox should extend Xander Bogaerts. Sometimes I call him a poor man's Manny Machado because my schtick on this website is to disrespect all Red Sox, but objectively, Bogaerts may be making The Leap that Machado did last year.

Toronto Blue Jays

  • Record: 31-27
  • Last Week: 5-1 (3-0 vs. Yankees, 2-1 at Red Sox)
  • Games Behind: 2.5 (gained 1.5 games on Orioles)
  • Upcoming: 3 games at Tigers, 4 games vs. Orioles

The first time all season that the Jays were more than two games above .500 was this past Wednesday. They've ridden a late May/early June hot streak back into the division picture, and if they keep it up, then it will truly be a three way race at the top.

It's weird that Adam Jones has been leading off for the Orioles lately. It's about as weird that Jose Bautista has been leading off for the Blue Jays. He has 15 starts atop the order and through Saturday was batting .246/.338/.474 out of that spot. That's working better than Jones is as leadoff for the O's.

Edwin Encarnacion is hitting what is, for him, a fairly pedestrian .789 OPS. Reigning AL MVP Josh Donaldson is picking up that slack somewhat with an .856 OPS, and, surprisingly, the team's leader in the triple slash line categories is Michael Saunders, batting .289/.367/.519.

The Jays quietly have a very good starting rotation, with three pitchers very near or below a 3.00 ERA. Their starter with the highest ERA, Marcus Stroman, has a 4.82. The Orioles wish they could say that.

Fire Up The Grilli: The Jays acquired Jason Grilli from the Braves over the past week. On Bluebird Banter, Jared Book reacted to the news - along with all of the commenters. Grilli wasn't bad last year.

Dr. Marcus and Mr. Stroman: BB's Eric Elliott looks at the two sides of Marcus Stroman. This one probably sounds familiar to Orioles fans.

New York Yankees

  • Record: 26-30
  • Last Week: 2-5 (0-3 at Blue Jays, 1-0 at Tigers, 1-2 at Orioles)
  • Games Behind: 6.5 (lost two games to Orioles)
  • Upcoming: 4 games vs. Angels, 3 games vs. Tigers

The Yankees were well on their way to a tough week even before they had to be in three cities in three days. For all of that, though, if it wasn't for two Orioles rallies against the normally-reliable Dellin Betances, the Yankees would probably be back at .500. They haven't been above .500 since April 13.

Betances has now been used in 28 of the 56 games the Yankees have played. That's a heavy workload. Could that be a factor in the weekend's struggles? Brach has pitched in 24/56 for the O's and has faced nine more batters than Betances, but four fewer nights pitching probably makes more of a difference than we might think.

Of the ten Yankees who have over 100 plate appearances, only two have an OPS+ higher than 100 - that is, better than league average. Heading into Sunday, as a team, they were last in the AL in batting average and slugging percentage. Perhaps not coincidentally, the average age of their hitters is the highest in the division.

Time For The Fork? On Pinstripe Alley, Ryan Chichester wonders whether Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira are in slumps from which they might emerge, or if this is just all that the 40 year old and the 36 year old have left in them.

Trades Of Our Lives: Also on PSA, Andrew Mearns writes about a rumor that Andrew Miller could be on the trade market, possibly to the Giants. On the one hand, I'd be happy for Miller to be out of the division. On the other hand, I don't want the Yankees to more easily reload with younger players.

Tampa Bay Rays

  • Record: 25-30
  • Last Week: 3-4 (0-3 at Royals, 3-1 at Twins)
  • Games Behind: 7 (lost a game to Orioles)
  • Upcoming: 3 games at Diamondbacks, 3 games vs. Astros

In the offseason, there was a bit of hype for the Rays acquiring outfielder Corey Dickerson from the Rockies, with some people in Birdland wondering why the O's couldn't acquire Dickerson. He is batting .193/.239/.422 on the season. Bad luck? Maybe - only a .215 BABIP so far. But I'm glad that's not our problem.

The best Rays hitter continues to be former Oriole Steve Pearce. That's weird, right? Pearce only has about 150 plate appearances but his .316/.399/.534 number is good enough to lead the Rays in all three of those categories.

Another former Oriole, Dana Eveland, is hanging out on the Rays roster. Things aren't going as well for Eveland, who has appeared in 18 games with a 6.32 ERA. Eveland is making less than $1 million and when the Rays (probably) inevitably get rid of him, they will just eat that cost and not give up a draft pick in the process. Not that I'm still bitter about Brian Matusz.


There's no such thing as an easy week for the Orioles at this point in time. They'll be facing two winning teams this week while their top competition gets two off days and three games against a team that's on pace to win all of 46 games.

The O's are in first place for now, though, and that's not nothing. It just doesn't mean as much as being in first when the season ends.