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Around the AL East, Week 12: Orioles pull within four games of first

Only five games separate first from last place in the AL East. The Yankees continue to scuffle, but no other team is taking full advantage.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Orioles

For the second weekend in a row, the Orioles won the last two games of a three-game set to somewhat salvage another disappointing week. Keep the Saturdays and Sundays coming. Things could be so much worse but by defeating the Rays on the road by scores of 8-3 and 8-5, the Birds are only four games behind the Red Sox and Yankees who sit atop the division.

Improved performances by Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman were welcome signs for the beleaguered rotation. But the team’s less talked about offensive struggles also took an upturn, scoring 16 runs the past two games. Buck Showalter shifted Jonathan Schoop to the three-hole and stuck with it even after Schoop went 0-for-4 Saturday. Johnny Baseball responded yesterday with two hits, including his 15th homer.

Trey Mancini may be the next to move up in the order, as he continued his solid rookie campaign by hitting safely in his last six games batting .455 with two home runs.

After pitching a total of three innings rehabbing in Delmarva without giving up a run, closer Zach Britton is scheduled to pitch at Bowie today and Thursday, before continuing on to Frederick and Norfolk. If all goes well, he could be back in the big-league bullpen by July 5.

Last week: 3-4 (1-3 vs. Indians; 2-1 at Rays)

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

Boston Red Sox

Just when you thought it couldn’t any worse for Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval, he was placed on the DL with an ear infection. Addition by subtraction as the overpaid Panda’s .212 AVG and .269 OBP isn’t quite living up to his $17 million salary.

The carousel of mediocre replacements at third continued to disappoint in yesterday’s 4-2 loss to the Angels. Devon Marrero’s 0-for-2 dropped his average to .156.

In the meantime the Boston’s primary third sacker lasts year, Travis Shaw, is hitting .289/.345/.544 with 15 long balls for the Brewers. Tyler Thornburg, the pitcher the Red Sox obtained for Shaw is out for the season after surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome.

Last week: 3-3 (2-1 at Royals; 1-2 vs. Angels)

Week ahead: 4 games vs. Twins; 3 games at Blue Jays

New York Yankees

The Yankees lost two more series last week but maintain a percentage point lead over the Red Sox to hang on to first place.

Masahiro Tanaka pitched his first decent game in a long while Friday and what a beauty it was … no hits, two walks and nine strikeouts in eight innings against the Rangers. New York won the game, 2-1, in ten innings. Good thing too, since the Yankees went on to drop the next two 7-6 and 8-1.

The Yankees have now lost 10 of their last 12 games and face a seven-game road trip this week.

Last week: 2-4 (1-2 vs. Angels; 1-2 vs. Rangers)

Week ahead: 4 games at White Sox; 3 games at Astros

Tampa Bay Rays

Corey Dickerson continued his sizzling season last week, hitting safely in the Rays’ last five games and upping his batting line to .330/.371/.587. His 17 homers and three triples are helping the Rays lead the division in both categories.

Last week: 3-3 (2-1 vs. Reds; 1-2 vs. Orioles)

Week ahead: 3 games at Pirates; 3 games at Orioles

Toronto Blue Jays

Closer Roberto Osuna shared that he’s been dealing with anxiety issues recently that has caused him to miss a few games when a save was needed. He pitched yesterday for the first time since Wednesday in a low-stress situation – the ninth inning of an 8-2 blowout win over the Royals. Osuna struck out the side and lowered his ERA to 2.40.

The Jays will need Osuna to reclaim the closer role and add to his 19 saves if they wish to contend this year.

Last week: 3-4 (2-2 at Rangers; 1-2 at Royals)

Week ahead: 3 games vs. Orioles; 3 games vs. Red Sox