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AL contenders check-in: Orioles take over first, Yankees fall to the cellar

The Orioles are leading the AL East by one game. Who is trying to knock them out of playoff position?

Tyler Glasnow of the Rays throws a pitch at Tropicana Field Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

We are in the thick of the second half and the Baltimore Orioles are in the thick of a race for the postseason. The Orioles and Rays battled last night for sole possession of first place in the AL East, with our Birds coming out on top in an exciting win.

The four-game series is the most important thing happening for the Orioles right now, but the Rays aren’t the only team breathing down the Orioles’ necks.

This weekly feature will look at the teams the Orioles are battling for a playoff position. We’ll keep it going until the season ends or the unthinkable happens, the Orioles fall out of contention.

AL East

Team W L PCT GB L10
Team W L PCT GB L10
Baltimore Orioles 59 37 0.615 - 8-2
Tampa Bay Rays 60 40 0.600 1 3-7
Toronto Blue Jays 54 43 0.557 5.5 7-3
Boston Red Sox 51 46 0.526 8.5 7-3
New York Yankees 50 47 0.515 9.5 2-8

Tampa Bay Rays

  • Currently: 60-40, 1 GB in AL East, +5 in Wild Card
  • Last seven days: 2-5
  • Baseball Reference playoff odds: 98.8%

The Rays got themselves a big cushion in the AL East when they started the season 13-0 and they have wasted away every bit of it. They started last week with a doubleheader sweep of the Royals but it was all downhill from there. They lost the final game against the Royals, were then swept by the Rangers, and of course, lost game one in their series against the Orioles.

The Rays have three more games against the first-place Orioles before a day off on Monday and a two-game series against the Marlins. The Rays have currently played four more games than the Orioles but will be cut to three on Monday as the Orioles play the Phillies on the Rays’ off day.

Injury Report: Andrew Kittredge (Tommy John surgery) is on a rehab assignment and last night pitched to five batters at the Triple-A level. He is expected to return to the team by the end of the month.

Toronto Blue Jays

  • Currently: 54-43, 5.5 GB in AL East, +0.5 in Wild Card
  • Last seven days: 4-2
  • Baseball Reference playoff odds: 64.7%

The Blue Jays have been playing good baseball lately, going 7-3 over their last 10 games. In the past week, they swept the Diamondbacks in a three-game series on the road then came home and lost their first two games against the Padres. They salvaged a win in the final yesterday.

A six-game west-coast road trip awaits the Blue Jays this week. They play three games against the Mariners this weekend followed by another three in LA against the Dodgers.

Injury Report: Team ace Kevin Gausman hasn’t started since before the All-Star Game after feeling left-side discomfort in his last start. He is on the mend, though, and will start this weekend.

A boon for the Jays could be the return of Hyun Jin Ryu, who has been out since last summer after having Tommy John surgery. Ryu is currently rehabbing at the triple-A level and could return by the end of the month. Of course, Ryu is 36 years old so maybe not.

AL Wild Card

Team W L PCT GB L10
Team W L PCT GB L10
Tampa Bay Rays 60 40 0.6 5 3-7
Toronto Blue Jays 54 43 0.557 0.5 7-3
Houston Astros 53 43 0.552 - 5-5
Boston Red Sox 51 46 0.526 -2.5 7-3
New York Yankees 50 47 0.515 -3.5 2-8
LA Angels 49 48 0.505 -4.5 4-6

Houston Astros

(Below info does not include last night’s west coast game against the A’s)

  • Currently: 53-43, 4.5 GB in AL West, +0 in Wild Card
  • Last seven days: 3-2
  • Baseball Reference playoff odds: 71.2%

The rise of the Texas Rangers this season has put the Astros in unfamiliar territory: second place. They are 4.5 games out of their division and are battling to keep the third Wild Card spot. Over the past week, they won two out of three vs the Angels and split a two-game series with the Rockies.

Coming up, the Astros have a road series against the miserable Athletics and then an important home series against the first-place Rangers. Their four-game series in Oakland began last night but ended too late for this writer to include in the write-up.

Injury Report: Both Yordan Alvarez and Jose Altuve could return soon for the Astros. Alvarez, who has been out since early June with an oblique strain, has begun his rehab assignment. And Altuve, also with an oblique strain, could be nearing a rehab assignment.

Boston Red Sox

  • Currently: 51-46, 8.5 GB in AL East, 2.5 GB in Wild Card
  • Last seven days: 3-3
  • Baseball Reference playoff odds: 32.2%

A 3-3 road trip isn’t terrible but when you start 2-1 and then play three against the A’s, that’s a letdown. Too bad, so sad Red Sox. They had a winning series against the Cubs and then went out to the west coast and lost two out of three to the A’s.

The Red Sox have been playing better lately but are pretty buried in the division race. They could still grab a wild card, which is wild as a fourth-place team. But that’s the AL East for you.

This weekend the Red Sox are home to play a series against the underachieving Mets followed by two games against the best team in the National League, the Atlanta Braves.

Injury Report: Trevor Story (elbow surgery) begins a rehab assignment tonight that could last 20 days. Reese McGuire (oblique) and Corey Kluber (shoulder inflammation) could return in August.

Other Teams

Texas Rangers (58-39) - They’re not a direct threat to the Orioles as long as they keep their division lead. They have not lost in the second half with sweeps of the Guardians and Rays. They begin a series with the Dodgers tonight.

New York Yankees (50-47) - I thought I liked when the Red Sox were in last place, but I like it better when it’s the Yankees. 9.5 games back in the division and 3.5 in the WC, they have lost four straight. They get a reprieve this weekend as they face the Royals.

Minnesota Twins (50-48) - It’s first place or go home for the team leading the weakest division in baseball. They are two games up on the Guardians in the AL Central.

Los Angeles Angels (49-48) - Mike Trout is injured and Shohei Ohtani might be traded, but until he is and the Angels stop treading water, they’re worth keeping an eye on. They just swept the Yankees and get to play the Pirates next.

*Note: Listed playoff odds are as of 7/19 and do not include last night’s games.