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AL contenders check-in: Mariners rise, Blue Jays and Rangers tumble

The Blue Jays lost their postseason spot and the Rangers are close to losing their division lead

MLB: Texas Rangers at Minnesota Twins
The Rangers need to watch their backs
Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

It was an exciting week in the American League. None of the division leads changed hands, but there was a shakeup in the Wild Card standings and two division races remain close.

The Mariners’ incredible run has continued. On August 1st they were 55-52 and in fourth place in the AL West. Since then they have gone 17-4 and have not only claimed a WC spot, they have nearly caught the Rangers in their division. Just wild.

AL East

Things are staying tight between the Orioles and Rays in the AL East. Baseball Reference believes that both teams are virtually assured a playoff spot, but heavily favors the Orioles (77.3%) to win the division over the Rays (22.1). The Blue Jays hoped to get back in the conversation with their series against the Orioles this week but lost two out of three to fall 9.5 games back.

Baltimore Orioles

  • Currently: 79-48, +2 G in AL East
  • Last seven days: 5-1
  • Remaining Strength of Schedule: .494
  • Up next: 3 vs. Colorado, 3 vs. Chicago White Sox

The Orioles closed out their west coast road trip with a sweep of the A’s, then came home for three against a tougher team, the Blue Jays. An extra-innings loss in game one was worrying but the Orioles stormed back to take the next two and finish their season series with Toronto at 10-3.

In the next seven days, the Orioles get to stay home and face below .500 teams. First up are the Rockies (48-79), who completely choked in their series with the Rays this week. Then it’s three vs. the underachieving Chicago White Sox (50-77), who just fired their front office.

Tampa Bay Rays

  • Currently: 78-51, 2 GB in AL East, +6 in Wild Card
  • Last seven days: 5-1
  • Remaining Strength of Schedule: .530
  • Up next: 3 vs. Yankees, 2 @ Marlins

You have to hand it to the Rays, they just keep chugging along. Between player injuries and player controversy, I certainly wouldn’t have blamed them if they lost the focus. But they just went out last week and took care of business. They matched the O’s record by winning two out of three from the Angels and sweeping the Rockies. All three Rockies wins were come-from-behind.

The Rays have the second-toughest remaining strength of schedule in the American League, but that won’t really affect them this week. They host the last-place Yankees and then go on the road for two against the Marlins. The Rays are getting lots of rest here at the end of the month. They had two days off in a row Sunday-Monday thanks to the hurricane in S. California. And they are off both Monday and Thursday of this week. The Orioles will have a chance to pick up a half-game on the Monday off day.

Injury Report: Taylor Walls (left oblique strain) began facing live batting practice and could return in early September.

AL Wild Card

Team W L PCT GB L10
Team W L PCT GB L10
Tampa Bay Rays 78 51 0.605 6 7-3
Seattle Mariners 71 56 0.559 - 8-2
Houston Astros 72 57 0.558 - 4-6
Toronto Blue Jays 70 58 0.547 -1.5 5-5
Boston Red Sox 68 60 0.531 -3.5 6-4

Finally, some movement in the Wild Card Race! The Mariners continued their red hot streak and overtook first the the Blue Jays in the race and then the Astros (by percentage points). Those two teams are also trying to make noise in the AL West. The Mariners have already won the season series against the Astros so any tiebreaker scenario will go to them.

If the Rangers can hold on to the West, the three WC teams will be the Rays and two of the Astros, Blue Jays, and Mariners. Of those, who do you want to see be the odd man out? That’s a tough one for me. I love what the Mariners are doing but their pitching is so darn good. Do we want to see the Orioles face them in the postseason?

And I love the idea of the Blue Jays missing out, but I also feel like they are easier to beat than the Astros. Plus I’m tired of the Astros making the playoffs.

As for the Red Sox, they are still technically hanging around but it’s the longest shot for them to play well enough to hop two teams. They’re worth noting but not worth discussing.

Seattle Mariners

  • Currently: 71-56, 1 GB in AL West, Tied for 2nd WC spot
  • Last seven days: 5-1
  • Baseball Reference Playoff odds: 44% (+31%)
  • Up next: 3 vs. Kansas City, 3 vs. Oakland

If not for a blown save in their final game, the Mariners would have had another perfect week. This team has continued to lay waste to any and all of its competition. They swept the Astros then took two out of three from the White Sox. And now they get to go home and play six games against the two worst teams in the American League. Could the Mariners actually win their division?

Injury Report: Julio Rodriguez missed two games with a stomach bug but the Mariners didn’t miss a beat. He’s back now. No word on the return of Jarred Kelenic (left foot fracture).

Houston Astros

  • Currently: 72-57, 1 GB in AL West, Tied for 2nd WC spot
  • Last seven days: 2-5
  • Baseball Reference Playoff odds: 71.8% (-13.8%)
  • Up next: 3 @ Detroit, 2 @ Boston

It was a terrible week for the Astros. They were swept by the Mariners, the team who had spent most of the season chasing them (spoiler: they’re caught). Then they split a four-game series with the Red Sox, punctuated by a 17-1 loss in the final game of the series. And that all happened at home! Now they hit the road for three against the last-place Tigers and a rematch in Boston.

Injury Report: Michael Brantley (right shoulder surgery) is rehabbing in the minors, but per Dusty Baker he is not ready to return. He could be back before the end of the season. RHP Phil Maton (right elbow contusion) should be activated this week if his rehab appearance today goes well.

Toronto Blue Jays

  • Currently: 70-58, 9.5 GB in AL East, 1.5 GB in Wild Card
  • Last seven days: 3-3
  • Baseball Reference Playoff odds: 60.5% (-8.3%)
  • Up next: 3 vs. Cleveland, 3 vs. Washington

Things are trending poorly for the Blue Jays, who have fallen out of the WC spot they held for most of the season. They just haven’t been able to keep up with the red hot Mariners.

The week they won two out of three against the Reds, then came into Baltimore and lost two out of three to the Orioles. Not ideal for the Blue Jays and their fans but I don’t mind. Things should get easier for them this week with six home games against two losing teams.

Injury Report: Poor RHP Hagen Danner got called up for his major league debut, recorded one out, and then injured his oblique. Chad Green (Tommy John surgery) could return by September 1st.

AL West and Central Leaders

Texas Rangers (72-55): Don’t look now, but the Rangers’ fortunes have changed quickly. Their seven-game losing streak has allowed both the Mariners and Astros to get to within one game of the AL West lead. They are no longer a threat to the Orioles’ position as top seed in the AL, having fallen seven games behind.

Minnesota Twins (66-62): The next closest team to the Twins in their division are the 60-68 Guardians at six-games back. Things are going pretty well for the American League’s worst playoff team.

*Note: Playoff odds from Baseball Reference do not include results from games on August 23rd.