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AL contenders check-in: Houston activates Alvarez and Altuve, and the Angels are going for it

The Orioles are holding on to first place, the Astros had a good week, and the Angels think they have a chance

MLB: Game One-Los Angeles Angels at Detroit Tigers
This guy, he’s good
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Orioles spent the last week putting their fans on a roller coaster of emotion. They took first place in the AL East outright with their series win against the Rays, then went into Philadelphia and went a disappointing 1-2 with all their cracks starting to show. The Orioles need pitching and they need it fast if they want to continue to hold on to first place in the East. With the trade deadline approaching, all we can do is hope that Mike Elias does what it takes to stabilize the bullpen and the rotation.

Playoff Odds

Team Postseason Wild Card Division
Team Postseason Wild Card Division
Tampa Bay Rays 97.20% 44.50% 52.70%
Baltimore Orioles 93.20% 53.50% 39.70%

Baltimore Orioles

  • Currently: 62-40, +1.5 G in AL East
  • Last seven days: 3-3
  • Remaining Strength of Schedule: .498
  • Up next: Three games vs Yankees, Four games @ Blue Jays

Tampa Bay Rays

  • Currently: 62-43, 1.5 GB in AL East, +4 G in Wild Card
  • Last seven days: 2-3
  • Remaining Strength of Schedule: .520

Baseball Reference’s playoff projection gives both the Rays and Orioles a greater than 90% chance of making the postseason but still believes that the Rays have a much better chance at winning the division. The Orioles have held on to sole possession of first place for about a week but will have to do so for quite a bit longer to make a dent.

The Rays had two days off in the past week and now have played just three more games than the Orioles, which are all in the loss column. They lost the series with the Orioles last weekend, then had a day off before splitting a two-game series with the Marlins. They kick off a road series against the Astros tonight followed by three games at Yankee Stadium.

The Orioles will again play one more game in the week to inch closer to evening the two teams’ games played total.

Injury Report: The Rays may have lost more than the game against the Marlins on Wednesday as pitcher Zach Eflin had to exit the game with a knee injury. The Rays are still waiting to see how long he’ll be out. Yandy Díaz (groin) also injured himself in the series, but MRI results show that it’s minor and he could be ready this weekend.

AL Wild Card

Team W L PCT GB L10
Team W L PCT GB L10
Tampa Bay Rays 62 43 0.590 4 2-8
Houston Astros 58 45 0.563 1 7-3
Toronto Blue Jays 57 46 0.553 - 5-5
Boston Red Sox 55 47 0.539 -1.5 6-4
New York Yankees 54 48 0.529 -2.5 5-5
LA Angels 54 49 0.524 -3 8-2

Houston Astros

  • Currently: 58-45, 2 GB in AL West, +1 G in Wild Card
  • Last seven days: 4-2
  • Baseball Reference Playoff odds: 67.7% (-3.5%)

The Astros had a good week, winning back-to-back series against the Oakland A’s and Texas Rangers. Though they currently hold the second wild card spot, they’re also just two games back in their own division with three head-to-head games remaining. They’ve gained ground in both races over the past week.

Coming up, the Astros are home for three-games series against the Rays and Guardians, then head on the road to New York for a four-game series that begins on Thursday.

Injury Report: Yordan Alvarez (oblique) and Jose Altuve (also oblique) were both activated before Wednesday’s game, which could be huge for the team going down the stretch. The Orioles and Astros still have two series to play this season so that could really affect the Orioles as well.

José Urquidy (shoulder inflammation) has made three rehab starts and should be ready to rejoin the Astros’ rotation by early August.

Toronto Blue Jays

  • Currently: 57-46, 5.5 GB in AL East, +0 G in Wild Card
  • Last seven days: 3-3
  • Baseball Reference Playoff odds: 65% (+0.3%)

The Blue Jays are coming off of a 3-3 West Coast road trip in which they lost their series against the Mariners and won their series against the Dodgers. They slipped below the Astros in the Wild Card race but are still holding on to the last slot, 1.5 games ahead of the Boston Red Sox.

This week the Blue Jays are home for seven games. First up is a weekend series against the Angels, then four games against your Baltimore Orioles. So far this year the Orioles have handled the Blue Jays to the tune of a 5-1 record, so let’s hope for more of the same.

Injury Report: Hyun Jin Ryu (Tommy John) is very close to returning. He threw a bullpen session yesterday after rejoining the team following his rehab start last week. No word on his activation date, but it seems imminent. Chad Green (Tommy John) is throwing to live batters and rehabbed with single-A Dunedin last week. He could return in early August.

Boston Red Sox

  • Currently: 55-47, 7 GB in AL East, 1.5 GB in Wild Card
  • Last seven days: 4-1
  • Baseball Reference Playoff odds: 39.3% (+7.1%)

The Red Sox are still a long shot to make the playoffs, but they are making it interesting. They took two out of three from the Mets and then swept a mini-series against the Braves. The end result is 1.5 games gained in the division and one game gained in the Wild Card race.

They hit the road for a West Coast trip this week, playing three games each against the Giants and Mariners.

Injury Report: Corey Kluber (shoulder inflammation) is rehabbing in the minors with mixed results. He could be activated in early August. Chris Sale (left shoulder injury) will begin a rehab assignment on August 1st with the goal to return sometime this month. Trevor Story (elbow surgery) could also return in August.

Other Teams

Texas Rangers (60-43) - If the Orioles can hold on to win the division, it’ll be between them and the winner of the AL West for the highest seeding in the playoffs. The Rangers went 2-4 this week and are currently 2.5 games worse than the Orioles.

New York Yankees (54-48) - The Yankees remain in last place in the division but are activating Aaron Judge before the series in Baltimore this weekend. That’s just great.

Minnesota Twins (54-50) - The Twins, meanwhile, continue to thank their lucky stars they play in the AL Central, where they hold a two-game lead over the Guardians. If they played in the AL East with that record they’d place sixth.

Los Angeles Angels (54-49) - After weeks of speculation about Shohei Ohtani’s trade value, the Angels declared him off the market because they are going for it. Their chances are slim to none, but Slim hasn’t left town just yet. They are 8-2 in their last 10 and after their announcement of no trade, Ohtani pitched a complete game one-hitter in game one of a doubleheader and hit two home runs in game two.

*Note: Listed playoff odds are as of 7/26 and do not include last night’s games. However, the only team in action yesterday was the Angels.