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Around the AL East, Week 25: Orioles continue free fall

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The Orioles are officially eliminated from the playoffs and guarantee their first losing season since 2011. The Red Sox firm up division lead, and the Yankees clinch a playoff spot.

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Baltimore Orioles Patrick McDermott-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Orioles

It was an eventful week for the Orioles, but the kind of events they’d rather skip. Not only were the Birds officially eliminated from the pennant race, they also guaranteed themselves a losing season by dropping their 82nd game, and fell to fourth place in the A.L. East. To subtract from that, the snooty Red Sox also swept them at home.

For better or worse, Zach Britton’s troublesome knee became MRI-worthy and the closer will be shut down for the season. It's possible we may never see Britton as an Oriole again, given a reasonable chance he'll be traded this off-season.

Look for Brad Brach to get the remaining save chances, which may not be any with just five games to play and victories hard to come by.

Yesterday was likely J.J. Hardy’s last game in an Orioles uniform at Camden Yards, as a player anyway. Can’t you picture him in black and orange as a coach one day? It was great to see him have a productive last game at home, going 2-for-4 with a two-run homer.

Last week: 2-5 (0-3 vs. Red Sox; 2-2 vs. Rays)

Week ahead: 2 games at Pirates; 3 games at Rays

Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox are just a couple of games away from being crowned 2017 A.L. East champions – up five with just seven to go. Their current hot streak has come at the right time, winning six straight and nine of their last ten.

Two of their three victories over the Orioles last week were 11-inning affairs, increasing the Red Sox record in extra-inning games to 15-3.

Last week: 6-0 (3-0 at Orioles; 3-0 at Reds)

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

New York Yankees

For the Yankees, the bad news is their run at the division title looks like a fool’s errand now that the Red Sox have taken a five-game lead. The good news is they clinched a playoff spot and swept the Twins in three games to solidify their hold on the first wild card spot. Now 4.5 games ahead of Minnesota, it’s looking like the A.L. Wild Card game will be played in New York.

After his August swoon, Aaron Judge has rebounded better than Bill Russell. The likely rookie-of-the-year will get some more MVP votes too if he continues his hot September. He slashed .185/.353/.326 in August, striking out 41 times in 116 plate appearances.

He’s more than turned it around since, yesterday hitting his 10th and 11th long-balls for the month and raising his September OPS to over 1.200. He has 48 homers for the year and is hitting a cool .281/.416/.610.

Last week: 4-2 (3-0 vs. Twins; 1-2 at Blue Jays)

Week ahead: 1 game vs. Royals; 3 games vs. Rays; 3 games vs. Blue Jays

Tampa Bay Rays

The even-Steven Rays continued playing .500 ball, but moved into third place anyhow thanks to the Orioles’ losing ways. The Rays are now 1.5 games ahead of the Orioles and could have gone up 3.5 with a better performance from starter Chris Archer yesterday. The alleged ace of the staff gave up six runs (five earned) and eight hits in just 3.2 innings in the 9-4 loss.

Archer has had a disappointing year, going 9-12 with a 4.22 ERA. He does have 243 strikeouts, but a lot more was expected from him as the leader of a young staff. He's a key reason the Rays won't be going to the post season in 2017.

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

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

Toronto Blue Jays

Now just 1.5 games out of fourth place, the Jays have a chance to emerge from last place for the first time all year in the season’s final week. Newly acquired outfielder Teoscar Hernandez is doing his part homering in his past two games. He now has five in his short time with the Jays after being traded from the Astros for Francisco Liriano.

Looking to firm up their 2018 starting rotation, the Jays signed potential free agent Marco Estrada to a $13 million deal. He has pitched to a career high 4.70 ERA this year, but has proven to be very reliable. He’s made 32 starts in 2017 and pitched 183.2 innings.

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

Week ahead: 3 games at Red Sox; 3 games at Yankees