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Around the AL East, Week 16: Orioles stay afloat with Rangers sweep

After sweeping the Rangers in four straight, the Orioles salvage one victory against the AL-best Astros and pull to 3.5 games of last wild card.

MLB: Texas Rangers at Baltimore Orioles Patrick McDermott-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Orioles

So many things went right for the Orioles in their four-game sweep over the Rangers to begin the week. Chris Tillman finally showed velocity on his fastball, hitting 95 on the radar gun for the first time this year, and the offense fired on all cylinders scoring 31 runs in the last three games.

Coupled with strong performances from the team’s talented but frustrating young bucks, Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman, the starting staff showed that maybe they can show marked improvement in the second half and slow talks of the team becoming sellers this year.

Then the Houston Astros came to town, and the Birds’ warts grew back to cauliflower size. The Orioles allowed a total of 23 runs, including six more in 5.1 innings in another wretched performance by Ubaldo Jimenez. Haven’t we seen enough of him?

Zach Britton got his first save in yesterday’s 9-7 victory since returning from the DL, setting the AL record with 55 consecutive saves. The numerous scouts watching him closely during the week witnessed his impressive velocity and improving location.

The Astros are one team known to be interested in trading for Britton and saw first-hand what Zach can do as he struck out two in the ninth inning.

Last week: 5-2 (4-0 vs. Rangers; 1-2 vs. Astros)

Week ahead: 3 games at Rays; 3 games at Rangers

Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox announced what they plan to do to fill their void at third base since the Pablo Sandoval plan failed again, and the parade of limited role players playing the hot corner resulted in bupkis.

Their 20-year-old super prospect 3B Rafael Devers will be recalled from Triple-A after hitting .355 with two dingers in his brief stint of eight games for Pawtucket. Devers hit .300 with 18 homers for Double-A Portland.

After the Yankees traded for 3B Todd Frazier, other trade options didn’t seem to appeal to Boston as much as giving a chance to the young third sacker from the Dominican Republic.

Last week: 3-4 (2-2 vs. Blue Jays; 1-2 at Angels)

Week ahead: 3 games vs. Mariners; 3 games vs. Royals

New York Yankees

The Yankees had played 10 straight series without winning one before taking three of four against the Mariners to complete the week. Newly acquired reliever David Robertson got a hold in yesterday’s game by pitching a scoreless eighth inning. He joins 3B Todd Frazier and bullpen mate Tommy Kahnle as additions to the team after a trade with the White Sox.

A rough subtraction for New York is losing starter Michael Pineda to Tommy John surgery. He’s not expected to return until the second half of next year at the earliest.

Last week: 4-3 (1-2 at Twins; 3-1 at Mariners)

Week ahead: 2 games vs. Reds; 4 games vs. Rays

Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays finished the week on a four-game losing streak, halting their rise in the division and returning them to third place. They lost three straight one-run games at home against the Rangers, in large part due to the bullpen – highlighting an area of need the Rays may address before the trade deadline.

Last week: 2-4 (2-1 at Athletics; 0-3 vs. Rangers)

Week ahead: 3 games at vs. Orioles; 4 games at Yankees

Toronto Blue Jays

Any dreams the Blue Jays had of digging their way out of their season-long stronghold on last place were crushed with a three-game weekend sweep in Cleveland. The defending AL champ Indians got hot against our lowly neighbors to the north dropping Toronto to a double-digit deficit of 10 games behind the division-leading Red Sox.

A sturdy nail in their coffin is the continued inability of star pitcher Aaron Sanchez to recover from blisters on his fingers (insert sound of electric guitar chord here). Specifically, it’s the middle finger on his pitching hand that has bothered him for most of the season. The Jays put him on the DL for the fourth time this year.

Last week: 2-5 (2-2 at Red Sox; 0-3 at Indians)

Week ahead: 4 games vs. Athletics; 3 games vs. Angels