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AL contenders check-in: Yankees crash and burn, Mariners continue to push

Will the Mariners be able to grab a playoff spot?

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Kansas City Royals Peter Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

There has been no change in any of the American League standings in the past week, but there is a team that has played so poorly that they have played themselves right out of contention and off of our weekly check-in list. That team, friends, is the New York Yankees.

Losers of five in a row and eight of their last 10, the Yankees have fallen under .500 for the season. After so many years of seeing the Orioles at the bottom of the standings, looking up at the Yankees, it feels great to see the roles reversed.

The AL East was seen as the most mighty division in baseball this year, and maybe it still is. But not far behind is the AL West. The Rangers, Astros, and Mariners are a formidable trio, with the Mariners just a half-game behind the Blue Jays for that final wild card spot.

The AL Central remains a non-factor.

AL East

It’s been shaping up this way for a while, but I am ready to call it a two-team race for the AL East Crown. Baseball Reference believes the postseason race is all but guaranteed in some form for both the Orioles (99.2%) and Rays (94.6%)

Baltimore Orioles

  • Currently: 74-47, +2 G in AL East
  • Last seven days: 3-3
  • Remaining Strength of Schedule: .481
  • Up next: 3 @ Oakland, 3 vs. Toronto

The Orioles lost a game in the standings to the Rays in the last week but are still hanging on to the division lead, where they have been since July 19th. They took two out of three in Seattle with both wins being nailbiters, then lost two out of three to the Padres. The Padres are a disappointing team but have the firepower to beat you on any given night.

Looking ahead, the Orioles finish up their west coast swing with three games against the worst team in baseball, the Oakland A’s. Then they come home to face a tougher opponent, the Blue Jays. In a cruel twist of the baseball schedule, after their nine-game homestand that begins on Tuesday, the Orioles go BACK to the west coast! What is that about?

Tampa Bay Rays

  • Currently: 73-50, 2 GB in AL East, +5.5 in Wild Card
  • Last seven days: 4-2
  • Remaining Strength of Schedule: .516
  • Up next: 3 @ Angels, 3 vs Rockies

Bad news abounded for the Rays last week as they sent ace Shane McClanahan off to have Tommy John surgery and placed young star Wander Franco on the restricted list due to his off-field issues. But even with that they won both series they played and gained a game in the AL East and added 1.5 games to their wild-card lead.

The Rays play two sub-.500 teams this week. First up are the 60-62 Angels followed by the Rockies, who have the worst record in the National League. I’d expect at least another 4-2.

Injury Report: The Rays activated Andrew Kittredge (Tommy John), who could functionally replace McClanahan in the rotation. Kittredge had been out since June 2022. Jose Siri is day-to-day with a left pinky strain.

AL Wild Card

Team W L PCT GB L10
Team W L PCT GB L10
Tampa Bay Rays 73 50 0.593 5.5 6-4
Houston Astros 70 52 0.574 3 7-3
Toronto Blue Jays 67 55 0.549 - 5-5
Seattle Mariners 66 55 0.545 -0.5 7-3
Boston Red Sox 63 58 0.521 -3.5 6-4

Houston Astros

  • Currently: 70-52, 2.5 GB in AL West, +3 G in Wild Card
  • Last seven days: 4-2
  • Baseball Reference Playoff odds: 85.6% (+1.8%)
  • Up next: 3 vs Seattle, 4 vs Boston

The Astros are hanging in the AL West race but just can’t seem to gain ground on the Rangers, who have been playing well all season. They won both series they played last week against the Angels and Marlins, but face a tougher task coming up. Their next seven games are against the Wild Card hopeful Mariners and Red Sox.

Injury Report: Relief pitcher Phil Maton (elbow contusion) is expected to return before the end of August. José Abreu (back inflammation) hopes to return to the team on August 20th.

Toronto Blue Jays

  • Currently: 67-55, 7.5 GB in AL East, +0 G in Wild Card
  • Last seven days: 2-3
  • Baseball Reference Playoff odds: 68.8% (-6.1%)
  • Up next: 3 @ Cincinnati, 3 @ Baltimore

The Blue Jays hold on to the final Wild Card spot, for now, but have lost ground. They fell 1.5 games further behind the Rays and Astros, who are ahead of them in the standings. And they lost a game in the standings to the Mariners, who are breathing down their necks just a half-game behind.

After losing a series with the Cubs and splitting a two-game set with the Phillies, the Jays tough stretch continues. First it’s three games on the road against the Reds, who are also clinging to a WC position. Then on to Baltimore.

Injury Report: Bo Bichette (patellar tendinitis) could return tonight, which would be huge for the Jays. RHP Trevor Richards (neck inflammation) and CF Kevin Kiermaier (elbow laceration) could also return this weekend or soon after.

Seattle Mariners

  • Currently: 66-55, 6 GB in AL West, 0.5 GB in Wild Card
  • Last seven days: 4-3
  • Baseball Reference Playoff odds: 44% (+2.5%)
  • Up next: 3 @ Houston, 3 @ Chicago White Sox

The Mariners ended their eight-game winning streak with two losses against the Orioles, but bounced back to take three out of four from the Royals. If they can manage to sweep the Astros coming up, that would be huge for both the AL West and the WC races. I predict that the Mariners will overtake the Blue Jays this week and grab that last WC spot for themselves.

Injury Report: Still no return date on JP Crawford, who was placed on the IL after colliding with Eugenio Suárez on August 9th. RHP Bryan Woo (forearm inflammation) could return as early as 8/20.

Boston Red Sox

  • Currently: 63-58, 22 GB in AL East, 3.5 GB in Wild Card
  • Last seven days: 3-3
  • Baseball Reference Playoff odds: 8.4% (+2.9%)
  • Up next: 3 @ New York Yankees, 4 @ Houston

Losing a series to the Detroit Tigers is pretty low, but that’s what the Red Sox did last weekend. They followed it up with a series loss to the Nationals, which is pretty embarrassing.

It seems only a matter of time before we stop paying any attention them. They play the last-place Yankees first for three, and I imagine multiple of those games will be televised as they always are for “the rivalry.” A rough showing against the Astros next week could bury the Sox.

Injury Report: Tanner Houck (facial fracture) made his final rehab appearance and should be activated on August 21st. He hasn’t pitched since June 16th.

AL Central and West Leaders

Minnesota Twins (63-59). The Twins are pulling away from their division, which is good news for them because they have no chance to get WC. They are currently 4.5 games ahead of the second-place Guardians in the AL Central.

Texas Rangers (72-49). As they continue to try to fend off the Astros for the division title, the Rangers just keep playing good ball. They won both series they played this weekend. They currently hold a 2.5 game lead in the West over the Astros and are two games behind the Orioles for top seed in the AL playoffs.

*Note: Playoff odds from Baseball Reference do not include results from games on August 17th.