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Around the AL East, Week 21: Orioles get back to .500, close in wild card race

The Orioles sweep the first-place Red Sox and move into third place. More important, they jump three teams in the wild card chase.  

Baltimore Orioles v Boston Red Sox Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

Baltimore Orioles

What a difference one week can make when the wild card competitors are full of mediocre teams. Not to take anything away from the Orioles though in their quest for the playoffs – their offense sprung to life and the rotation strung together quality starts to move them ahead of the Royals, Rays and Rangers who went a combined 9-10 last week.

The Birds now only have three teams ahead of them in the chase for a wild-card berth and are just two games behind Minnesota who currently holds the second spot. The Orioles' 65-65 record marks the first time since August 7 that they’ve had a .500 record.

And if it’s the Twins they have to edge out, the Orioles are healthier right now. Minnesota’s best player, Miguel Sano, is on the disabled list with a left shin injury that is lingering longer than expected. Landing on the DL on August 20, Sano had not been allowed to resume any baseball activities as of yesterday.

This leaves a big hole in the Twins’ offense that, like the Orioles, needs to produce on a pitching-challenged team. Through Saturday, Minnesota is fifth in the A.L. in runs allowed – just five behind the third-slotted Orioles.

Orioles rookie Trey Mancini continues to contribute to the team’s offensive surge. He’s gone 8-for-17 in the last four games and drove in eight runs. His batting line for the year sits at .293/.344/.516. But his choice to use "Trey" as his jersey nickname for this past players' weekend was a disappointment, when he could have chosen Henry, Pink Panther or Peter Gunn.

Last week: 5-1 (2-1 vs. Athletics; 3-0 at Red Sox)

Week ahead: 3 games vs. Mariners; 4 games vs. Blue Jays

Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox finished the week losing three at home versus the Orioles to extend their losing streak to four games. Their hold on first place has shrunk to just 2.5 games over the Yankees who they face in a four-game match in New York this coming week.

Boston is still hoping their $217 million man, starter David Price, will make it back from his elbow injury before the season is through, but his replacement pitched well in two starts last week. Doug Fister lost a close one yesterday to the Orioles, 2-1, after tossing a one-hit complete game gem against Cleveland. That's good enough for a 1.69 ERA in the two starts.

Last week: 2-5 (2-2 at Indians; 0-3 vs. Orioles)

Week ahead: 3 games at Blue Jays; 4 games at Yankees

New York Yankees

Veteran pitchers Masahiro Tanaka and C.C. Sabathia have pitched very well of late, leading the Yankees in their pursuit of the first-place Red Sox. Tanaka gave up just one run in yesterday’s 10-1 defeat over the Mariners for his second win of the week since returning from a short stint on the disabled list. He helped the Yanks defeat the Tigers 13-4 on Tuesday and has struck out 14 batters and walked just one in 14 innings over the two starts.

Sabathia pitched to a no-decision in his start against Seattle on Saturday, but allowed only one run in seven innings in the Yankees 6-3 victory.

The huge brawl that occurred in Thursday‘s game in Detroit resulted in just a four-game suspension for sucker-puncher Gary Sanchez. The catcher got off lucky after seizing several opportunities to hit unsuspecting, opposing players from behind.

He is appealing the verdict, but may still miss some of the upcoming series against Boston. But whenever he serves the suspension, the Yankees will especially miss his hot bat now that certain Hall of Famer Aaron Judge continues to create a nice breeze with his swings at the plate. Judge is batting just .186 for the month of August with an uninspiring 39 strikeouts in 24 games.

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

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

Tampa Bay Rays

Outfielder Kevin Kiermaier has provided a spark to the Rays’ meager offense and may have returned from the disabled list just in the nick of time to keep them in the playoff hunt. No major-league team had scored fewer runs than the Rays (3.18 per game) since the All-Star break, but Kiermaier’s .325 AVG, three homers and eight RBIs have helped Tampa Bay score 38 runs in the nine games since coming off the DL.

The Rays have dropped to fourth place behind the Orioles but remain just three games from the wild card.

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

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

Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays lost two more series to remain in last place and fell 12 games behind Boston. After talk about the Jays contending for a playoff spot last week, they returned to their old ways and are now six games from a wild card berth with seven teams ahead of them.

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

Week ahead: 3 games vs. Red Sox; 4 games at Orioles