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Around the AL East, Week 16: The Orioles keep a slim division lead

The Orioles are only ahead in the AL East by one game, so they’re just going to have to keep on winning.

One more week of the baseball season is down and the Orioles still find themselves in first place atop the AL East. The trade deadline has passed. Teams made their additions, or subtractions, and will be marching on to the end with what they’ve got. In the Orioles’ case, that’s pretty much the same team that put them in first place to begin with.

There are three teams within three games of the AL East lead. Neither the Red Sox nor Blue Jays can be written off. The Orioles may be in first place but with a lead of only one game, they need to keep playing well as they head out west or they won’t stay there for long.

Baltimore Orioles

  • Record: 63-47
  • Last Week: 4-2 (2-1 vs. Rangers, 2-1 at White Sox)
  • Games Ahead: +1 (gained a game on Blue Jays)
  • Upcoming: 4 games at Athletics, 3 games at Giants

There is something interesting happening with Dylan Bundy. Yes, he’s now only made five starts at the big league level, but he’s almost looking better every single start. No one in the baseball media really seemed to ever expect Bundy to amount to much of anything after all of his injury problems.

Now he looks like the starting pitcher the Orioles desperately needed. Oh yeah, and he’s striking people out like it’s going out of style, so all you concern trolls from May can put a sock in it.

Not all of the news is great for the Orioles pitching staff, though. Darren O’Day currently has the worst ERA he has had since joining the Orioles by more than a full run. And Brad Brach, who subbed in as the eighth inning guy while O’Day was on the disabled list, has a 3.24 ERA since the All-Star break.

Many Orioles hitters struggled in the month of July. Pedro Alvarez was not one of those hitters. In the 19 games since the All-Star break, Alvarez has hit nine home runs. That’s doubled his total from the 54 games he played prior to the break. If Alvarez is going to stay hot, that’s a big boost to the Orioles lineup.

Toronto Blue Jays

  • Record: 63-49
  • Last Week: 4-3 (3-1 at Astros, 1-2 at Royals)
  • Games Behind: 1 (lost half a game)
  • Upcoming: 3 games vs. Rays, 3 games vs. Astros

You might have been underwhelmed by what the Orioles did at the trade deadline, as you should have been, but at least the Orioles weren’t pretending that Scott Feldman and Francisco Liriano were the moves to make.

Are the Jays really going to go with a six man rotation after adding Liriano? That seems like a farfetched notion, but it’s what they’ve done for the first week after the deadline. Having fewer starts from J.A. Happ and Marco Estrada is not what they need. I’ll take it, though.

The Jays are presently running with a short bench of only three men, and that bench is not offering them much help. Their backup catcher, Josh Thole, is really just a knuckleball catcher. Melvin Upton hasn’t done much in the couple of weeks since getting traded to Toronto. Darwin Barney can’t hit either. So they have to ride their regulars.

Meet The Prospects: On Bluebird Banter, Jake Sinclair writes about the two prospects the Jays received in that Liriano trade. Turns out that, since the Jays were taking on the salary, they also got the Pirates to give up a couple of prospects. Maybe not a bad deal after all.

The Puig-ssant Hitter: Also on Bluebird Banter, Mike Hannah says that the Jays should try to trade for the out-of-favor Yasiel Puig.

Boston Red Sox

  • Record: 60-50
  • Last Week: 3-4 (2-2 at Mariners, 1-2 at Dodgers)
  • Games Behind: 3 (lost 1.5 games)
  • Upcoming: 3 games vs. Yankees, 3 games vs. Diamondbacks

Has a better version of former Orioles prospect Eduardo Rodriguez shown up for good? In five starts since returning from a minor league demotion, Rodriguez has allowed ten earned runs in 28.1 innings of work - and that’s despite a .333 BABIP allowed.

The Orioles aren’t the only ones who’ve been slumping since the All-Star break. The Vandal, David Ortiz, is batting .214/.278/.371 in 19 games in the second half of the season. No one in Birdland will be shedding tears if that continues.

Boston also pulled off a “add a guy from within the organization after the trade deadline” maneuver by promoting one of their top prospects, Andrew Benintendi, within the last week. The 21-year-old Benintendi was batting .295/.357/.515 in Double-A. He’s batted .385 in his first week as a big leaguer.

The Evolution of E-Rod: On Over The Monster, Matt Collins has a look at the evolving arsenal of Eduardo Rodriguez. I guess he needs to evolve since he was kind of bad earlier this year.

Laugh Like Jabba: Also on Over The Monster, Ben Buchanan discusses what he calls “a very 2011 stretch” for the 2016 edition of the Red Sox. But don’t get too cocky, because they’re just three games out.

New York Yankees

  • Record: 56-55
  • Last Week: 4-3 (2-2 at/vs. Mets, 2-1 vs. Indians)
  • Games Behind: 7.5 (lost half a game)
  • Upcoming: 3 games at Red Sox, 3 games vs. Rays

How annoying is it that the Yankees are having the kind of off year that caused them to be sellers at the trade deadline and yet they’re still above .500 as we head through August? My wish for the Yankees to be mid-00s Orioles bad is just not coming true.

The Yankees will be getting younger in a hurry. At the end of the season, they’ll have Mark Teixeira retiring. Alex Rodriguez is being shuffled off into the old baseball players home within a week. And it has nothing to do with the age, but they finally foisted the disappointing Ivan Nova off on another team.

With the trade of Carlos Beltran, the best remaining Yankees hitter is Didi Gregorius, who’s batting .288/.317/.456 for the season. Seriously, how is this team a game above .500? These guys need a ten game losing streak.

A-Rod Is Not Dead Yet: On Pinstripe Alley, Andrew Mearns writes the kind of A-Rod retrospective that only a Yankees fan who’s seen him for more than a decade could write.

The New Philosophy: Also on PSA, Tyler Norton discusses the new Yankees youth philosophy, which will be seen, probably, in the increasing playing time for catching prospect Gary Sanchez.

Tampa Bay Rays

  • Record: 45-65
  • Last Week: 3-4 (2-2 vs. Royals, 1-2 vs. Twins)
  • Games Behind: 18 (lost 1.5 games)
  • Upcoming: 3 games at Blue Jays, 3 games at Yankees

The only way the Rays will impact the AL East is if they play spoiler. If they want to go ahead and find a way to sweep the Jays in Toronto, well, that would be awfully nice of them.

**

The Orioles have started their ten game road trip off by going 2-1. That’s nice, but seven games out on the west coast await, including three games against the first place Giants. The Jays are breathing down their necks and the Red Sox aren’t far behind.

They can catch their breath in November. There’s no resting until then.