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Around the AL East, Week 23: Orioles lose ground in a tightening wild card race

Orioles sweep in Cleveland extend losing streak to four, dropping them one game below .500. They are still in the playoff chase, three games back of the second wild card spot. Red Sox manager John Farrell is like Sergeant Schultz.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Cleveland Indians David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles rolled into Cleveland to face the hottest team in recent history and failed to win any of the three games. Last night’s starter, Jeremy Hellickson, saved the rotation from a completely disastrous week by providing a tough performance in the 3-2 loss. But the debacle that is the Orioles starting rotation is coming into sharper focus as the number of remaining games to play quickly shrink.

And the view is not good.

Ubaldo Jimenez was removed from the rotation only to be reinstated a few days later, amidst the surprising announcement that Gabriel Ynoa has replaced Chris Tillman. Does it really matter when the options are so unappealing? On this team, Ynoa’s 4.19 ERA over 19.1 innings this year sadly sounds like an upgrade.

Given the holes the starters frequently dig, the bats have to take over. Unfortunately, the Orioles offense also took a down turn last week scoring just 16 runs in six games contributing to their first series loss to the Yankees at Camden Yards since 2013.

Even if the Birds are able slug their way to victories, there is still no room for Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy to ever deliver anything but quality starts. Last week, they both failed by giving up a combined 10 earned runs and three homers in just seven innings. That can’t continue if the Orioles want to sniff the playoffs.

Last week: 1-5 (1-2 vs. Yankees; 0-3 at Indians)

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

Boston Red Sox

In perfect New England fashion, the sneaky Red Sox showed their true colors again in the Apple Watch scandal. It should be no surprise with a manager like John Farrell who is just like summer vocation – no class. Orioles fans shouldn’t forget how Farrell mishandled the bean ball attacks on Manny Machado earlier in the season to the point where Dustin Pedroia had to break his team allegiance.

Fanrag’s Jon Heyman reports that an executive from another team compared Farrell to Hogan’s Heroes’ Sergeant Schultz of “I know nothing” fame for Farrell's claimed lack of knowledge that electronic devices were being used to steal signs from the Yankees. He makes a good pair with Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi who resembles Colonel Klink.

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

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

New York Yankees

The Yankees won their third series in a row this past weekend, stretching their wild card lead to 4.5 games and maintaining their pursuit of the first-place Red Sox.

Rookie Aaron Judge has begun to emerge from his post All-Star funk highlighted by a two-home run performance in yesterday’s 16-7 thrashing over the Rangers. He now leads the A.L. in homers with 41 and walks with 107.

Aroldis Chapman returned to the closer role and immediately recorded his 17th save in Saturday’s 3-1 victory over Texas.

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

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

Tampa Bay Rays

The residents of Tampa Bay aren’t the only ones trying to keep their heads about water; their Rays are as well, playing .500 baseball for yet another week keeping them three games below the mark for the year.

The Rays are just 20-28 in since July 19, but closer Alex Colome continues to close out victories in his quietly impressive season. He’s successfully saved games in his last 13 tries and leads the league with 43 for the year.

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

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

Toronto Blue Jays

Never able to recover from his season-long battle with blistered fingers, starter Aaron Sanchez has officially been shut down for the year. Limited to just 36 innings for the year, Sanchez is one of many Jays who were just too banged up to produce consistently.

Jose Bautista has been healthy but non-productive in a year when Toronto unwisely signed him to an $18.5 million deal. Joey Bats is hitting just .210/.316/.384 for the season.

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

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