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AL contenders check-in: Astros eye the division, Rays could lose another pitcher

We’re into August and the Orioles are still the best team in the league. But the Rays are right on their heels and the wild card race is in flux.

Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

It was a good week for the Orioles, who gained a half-game on the Rays in the division and continued to make space between themselves and the rest of the division. They took two out of three at home last weekend against the Yankees and then took a big road trip up to Toronto. Four games later they had another series win and had pushed the Blue Jays down to 7.5 games out of the division lead.

Playoff Odds

Team Postseason Wild Card Division
Team Postseason Wild Card Division
Baltimore Orioles 96.80% 39.80% 57.00%
Tampa Bay Rays 96.80% 58.90% 37.90%

In the past week, something fun has happened. The Orioles have finally climbed above the Rays in Baseball Reference’s playoff odds to win the division. And rightly so! The Orioles have been outplaying them for a while. They are also now the favorites to be the highest-seeded team in the American League for the playoffs. It’s truly nuts.

Baltimore Orioles

  • Currently: 67-42, +2 G in AL East
  • Last seven days: 5-2
  • Remaining Strength of Schedule: .489
  • Up next: Three games vs Mets, three games vs Astros

It seemed like the Orioles couldn’t gain any ground. Every time the Rays won, so did the Orioles. Same for losses. But they finally gained a half-game yesterday when the Orioles won on a Rays’ off day. The Rays have now played just two more games than the Orioles.

Tampa Bay Rays

  • Currently: 66-45, 2 GB in AL East, + 5.5 in Wild Card
  • Last seven days: 4-2
  • Remaining Strength of Schedule: .511

The Rays won both of their series in the past week, taking two out of three from both the Houston Astros and the New York Yankees. They dominated the Yankees for the first two games and looked like a shoo-in for a sweep. Luckily the Yankees came to life in the final game of the series to help the Orioles out.

This coming week the Rays again play six games. They are on the road this weekend against the Tigers, then come home for three games against the Cardinals. It’ll be tough for the Orioles to gain any ground on them this week as the Rays’ opponents have a combined record of 96-121.

Injury Report: After giving up five runs in four innings on Wednesday, Shane McClanahan reported left forearm tightness and will be undergoing testing to get further information. Depending on the outcome, it could be a huge blow to the Rays down the stretch.

AL Wild Card

Team W L PCT GB L10
Team W L PCT GB L10
Tampa Bay Rays 66 45 0.595 5.5 5-5
Houston Astros 62 47 0.569 2.5 7-3
Toronto Blue Jays 60 50 0.545 - 5-5
Boston Red Sox 57 51 0.528 -2 6-4
New York Yankees 56 52 0.519 -3 5-5
Seattle Mariners 56 52 0.519 -3 6-4
LA Angels 56 53 0.514 -3.5 6-4

Houston Astros

  • Currently: 62-48, 1.5 GB in AL West, +2 G in Wild Card
  • Last seven days: 4-3
  • Baseball Reference Playoff odds: 82.7% (+15%)

The Astros lost a series against the Rays last weekend but bounced back to sweep the Guardians. Without an off-day they kicked off a four-game series with the Yankees last night, losing 4-3. After their weekend series in New York they come into Baltimore for three games starting Tuesday.

Injury report: José Urquidy (right shoulder inflammation) is slated to return to the Astros on Sunday after three months on the injured list.

Toronto Blue Jays

  • Currently: 60-50, 7.5 GB in AL East, +0 G in Wild Card
  • Last seven days: 3-4
  • Baseball Reference Playoff odds: 67.5% (+2.5%)

Before running into the buzzsaw that is the Baltimore Orioles, the Jays started last week with a series win against the Angels. After that, we know the rest. The Jays welcomed the Orioles for an important four-game series that did not go their way. They lost three out of four and are now 7.5 games out of first place. They still have a two-game cushion for the final WC spot.

The Blue Jays hit the road for a weekend series in Boston followed by four-games against the Guardians in Cleveland. They are winless against the Red Sox this year.

Injury report: Bo Bichette, the team’s best player, is on the IL with patellar tendinitis. He will miss at least a few weeks. The Jays traded for Paul DeJong to fill in. Closer Jordan Romano (back inflammation) could also return by mid-August.

Boston Red Sox

  • Currently: 57-51, 9.5 GB in AL East, 2 GB in Wild Card
  • Last seven days: 2-4
  • Baseball Reference Playoff odds: 21.7% (-17.6%)

It was a bad week for the Red Sox playoff hopes. They took a west coast road trip to play the Giants and Mariners and lost two out of three to both. They only lost a half-game in the wild card race but now sit a very far 9.5 games out of first in the division.

Things should get easier for them this week as they return home to play three against the Blue Jays, who they have dominated this season. Then they get four games against the abysmal Royals.

Injury report: Justin Turner (heel contusion) could be activated today, while Tanner Houck (facial fracture) will make his first rehab start on Saturday. He could return to the Red Sox mid-month. Corey Kluber (shoulder inflammation) had a setback in his recovery, there is no timetable for his return.

Other Teams

Texas Rangers (63-46) - After a 3-3 week the Rangers are holding on to a 1.5-game lead in the AL West. They’re now four games behind the Orioles in the race for the top seed in the American League.

Minnesota Twins (52-54) - Just two games over .500 and with a 2.5-game lead in the AL Central. Must be nice!

New York Yankees (57-52) - The last place Yankees have been something of a disaster. They neither bought nor sold at the trade deadline but are still hanging around the periphery of the wild card race.

Seattle Mariners (57-52) and Los Angeles Angels (56-54) - It’ll take a miracle for the Angels to make the postseason but they were buyers at the deadline anyway. But a 2-5 week from the Angels and a 5-2 week from the Mariners put the Angels in fourth place by 1.5 games. The teams began a four-game series against each other last night, with the Mariners winning the opener.

*Note: Playoff odds from Baseball Reference do not include results from games on August 3rd.