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Around the AL East, Week 17: The Orioles still lurk in the wild card race

The Birds drop to 5.5 games back of the red-hot Royals for the wild card, as KC comes to town for a three-game set. The Yankees reclaim first place winning six of seven.    

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Texas Rangers Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Orioles

As talk swirls around town of the Orioles trading for the future, they instead made a move to help their embattled rotation by trading for two-month rental Jeremy Hellickson. The former Phillie sports a 4.73 ERA with 65 strikeouts in 112.1 innings.

Shortly after the trade was announced, Hellickson was involved in a minor car accident but was not injured.

As of this writing, closer Zach Britton remains in the orange and black but yesterday’s save proved that he can pitch on back-to-back days. This may be enough to convince the Astros, Dodgers or Nationals to make an offer Dan Duquette could not refuse.

Yesterday’s victory over the Rangers was the Orioles' sixth victory in their last seven Sunday games, keeping their slim playoff hopes alive. Now 5.5 games behind the Kansas City Royals, the Birds have a golden opportunity to close the gap as they host KC for three games starting tonight. It won’t be easy facing a team that has won 10 of its last 11 and won’t face Kevin Gausman, but let the games begin.

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

Week ahead: 3 games vs. Royals; 4 games vs. Tigers

Boston Red Sox

The cracks are widening for the Red Sox, exposing weaknesses on different fronts. Their horrible production at third base, thanks to relying on the now-jettisoned, always-overrated Pablo Sandoval, has led to bringing up prospect Rafael Devers – a tall order for any 20-year-old, despite hitting two home runs in his first week in the bigs.

The Sox also traded for Eduardo Nunez to help at third, but he has had to fill in recently at second base due to Dustin Pedroia’s knee injury.

David Price’s left elbow is barking again, putting him back on the DL for at least a couple of weeks. And if his on-field struggles this year haven’t been enough of a pain for the Red Sox faithful, Price has proven himself to be nothing more than a jackass off the field as well.

Recently publicly insulting NESN announcer and Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley for doing his job and sometimes criticizing the team, Price has created an unnecessary distraction for a struggling team.

The biggest concern for the Red Sox may be the deteriorating performance of 2016 All-Star Xander Bogaerts. The young shortstop has dealt with a hand injury and illness that have contributed to a .168 batting average and a .225 OBP over his past 27 games.

Last week: 2-4 (1-2 at Mariners; 1-2 vs. Royals)

Week ahead: 3 games vs. Indians; 4 games vs. White Sox

New York Yankees

Ahh, the benefits of having a deep farm system – something the Orioles could learn from – have helped the Yankees win six of seven to re-take first place.

A trade with the White Sox for Todd Frazier, David Robertson, and Tommy Kahnle has helped the Yankees surge ahead of Boston to take the division lead by a half game. They also added former Braves and Twins starter, Jaime Garcia and are reportedly the front-runners for Athletics pitcher Sonny Gray.

Last week: 5-1 (2-0 vs. Reds; 3-1 vs. Rays)

Week ahead: 2 games vs. Tigers; 4 games at Indians

Tampa Bay Rays

For the second week in a row, the Rays finished the week poorly and blew a chance to move up in the standings. Two weeks ago they lost four straight; this time they dropped three of four to the first-place Yankees.

Tampa Bay attempted to address their most glaring weakness – the bullpen – by acquiring Dan Jennings from the White Sox and Steve Cishek from the Mariners. They remain one of the many American League teams in the playoff hunt – 3.5 games behind the first-place Yankees and 2.5 behind the Royals for the last wild card spot.

Last week: 3-4 (2-1 vs. Orioles; 1-3 at Yankees)

Week ahead: 4 games at Astros; 3 games vs. Brewers

Toronto Blue Jays

Ex-Oriole Steve Pearce had a momentous week for the Blue Jays, hitting two walk-off grand slams in the span of four days. Yesterday he saved Toronto from being swept by the Angels, capping off a seven-run ninth inning with a grand salami off of former Oriole Bud Norris. He cranked his other on Thursday in the tenth inning to seal the Jays’ four-game sweep over the Athletics.

Pearce has battled calf and knee issues for most of the year that has limited him to 10 homers in 195 at-bats. Toronto would welcome a healthy Pearce, but it’s likely too little too late for the cellar dwellers.

Last week: 5-2 (4-0 vs. Athletics; 1-2 vs. Angels)

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