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Around the AL East, Week 6: The Orioles hit their first skid of the year

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The Birds get the Royal treatment in Kansas City, as national media get ready to crown the Yankees AL East champs.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Baltimore Orioles
Caleb Joseph, chatting here with Matt Wieters, batted .524 last week.
Patrick McDermott-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Orioles

After re-claiming first place with two exciting wins against the Nationals in Baltimore to start the week, the Orioles went on to lose four consecutive one-run games and fell back to second place.

The most disappointing performance by an Oriole this year has no doubt been Kevin Gausman. Primed for a breakout year but only delivering two quality starts in his first eight tries, the Orioles needed him break the team’s three-game skid yesterday and handed him a 5-0 lead in the fourth inning.

Things were looking good but fell apart quickly as Gausman’s control failed him again, and the Royals scored five runs to tie the game and eventually win 9-8. Gausman’s ERA is currently an unacceptable 7.19.

Welington Castillo is expected to come off the DL as early as Tuesday to re-claim his starting role as Orioles backstop. Caleb Joseph did a tremendous job filling in, going 11-21 with three doubles, a triple and a home run last week.

Last week: 2-4 (2-0 vs. Nationals; 0-1 at Nationals; 0-3 at Royals)

Week ahead: 3 games at Tigers; 3 games vs. Blue Jays

Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox finished a difficult week dropping the rubber game of a three-game series, 11-2 to Tampa Bay. Earlier in the week they lost two of three against Milwaukee, as ex-Red Sox third baseman Travis Shaw went 4-for-11 with three runs scored and two RBIs.

Boston may be regretting trading Shaw last year for reliever Tyler Thornburg who has yet to play and is still experiencing discomfort in his tired right shoulder. In the meantime, Boston’s number one third sacker, Pablo Sandoval, remains on the DL after a horrible start to his season.

Center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr.’s struggles at the plate continue, causing thoughts that his 26-HR, .835-OPS 2016 year is a far cry from what he will end up doing this year. He went 0-4 yesterday with two Ks, dropping his current line to 182/.238/.299.

Last week: 2-4 (1-2 vs. Brewers; 1-2 vs. Rays)

Week ahead: 2 games at Cardinals; 4 games at Athletics

New York Yankees

There’s reason for Yankee fans to be happy with their team’s start, and ESPN is salivating at the thought of them returning to the post-season. New York’s four-game series with the first-place Astros – owners of MLB’s best record – was promoted as a preview of the 2017 playoffs.

And baseball pundits all over the country are touting the start of a new dynasty with a long-line of can’t-miss Yankee prospects on the horizon.

We’ll see, but don’t forget that all Yankee prospects are over-hyped (witness Jesus Montero, Brien Taylor, Dennis Heston, to name a few). But their offense is cranking, ranking in the top three for AL runs, HR, SB, BA, OBP, SLG and OPS.

Their current rookie destined to be a Hall of Famer, Aaron Judge, is leading the league in home runs, slugging and runs scored. Last year’s future-HOF rookie, catcher Gary Sanchez, hit safely in five of his first seven games back from the DL so it looks to many that New York is October-bound in 2017.

Or are they? They certainly can’t count on Judge’s power to continue at this rate – 45 percent of his fly balls are leaving the yard, which is unsustainable. Judge’s contact rate is dropping too, as pitchers are learning how to adjust to his strengths. He is a good young player, but don’t expect his end-of-year batting average to come close to his current .316.

As for Sanchez, questions remain about his defense as he manages the growth of young pitchers Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery. He didn’t sync well with battery-mate, Masahiro Tanaka, last night as the Japanese right-hander gave up seven hits and eight earned runs in 1.2 innings in a loss to the Astros.

Last week: 2-4 (1-1 at Reds; 1-3 vs. Astros)

Week ahead: 3 games at Royals; 3 games vs. Rays

Tampa Bay Rays

What’s wrong with Kevin Kiermaier? The platinum-glove winning center fielder has looked lost at the plate and in the field. He made three errors in last week’s four-game series against Kansas City, contributing to three losses for the Rays.

Two errors were nearly identical, as he turned routine singles into multi-base errors by allowing the ball to go under his glove. His four errors on the year are twice that for his entire 2016 season.

Maybe this is part of the Royals’ charmed week, but Kiermaier’s strength is his glove and Tampa Bay’s chances to compete rely upon their pitching and defense.

Kiermaier did hit his second homer of the season on Saturday - a two-run homer off Chris Sale in the Rays’ 6-3 loss to the Red Sox, and had two more hits yesterday. Still, his current line is a concerning .226/.315/.315.

Last week: 3-4 (1-3 vs. Royals; 2-1 at Red Sox)

Week ahead: 3 games at Indians; 3 games vs. Yankees

Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays were fortunate to host a Mariners team in a four-game series with four of Seattle’s five starting pitchers on the DL. To Toronto’s credit, they took advantage of the matchups and swept Seattle to finish the week on a five-game winning streak.

Kevin Pillar continued to get big hits, breaking a tie and hitting a two-out, game-winning homer in the ninth inning of yesterday’s game. He hit .500 in the series and is now stroking .314 with 24 runs scored for the year.

Toronto has no time to waste trying to get back into the AL East race after a terrible start. Winning six of seven this past week, the Jays were the only AL East team to play above .500 for the week as they moved to within 6.5 games of first place. Their MLB-leading 23 home runs so far in May are helping them make their move.

Last week: 6-1 (2-1 vs. Indians; 4-0 vs. Mariners)

Week ahead: 2 games vs. Braves; 2 games at Braves; 3 games at Orioles