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AL contenders check-in: The wild wild AL West

The AL East remains tight and just one game separates the top three teams in the AL West.

Julio Rodriguez holds his bat and admires after hitting a home run
Julio Rodriguez is a big reason for the Mariners’ success
Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

The postseason race is tightening, and the AL West is probably the division with three playoff teams. It looked like that honor would go to the AL East for much of the season, but the Yankees are terrible while the Red Sox and Blue Jays have fallen behind. Combine that with the continued outstanding play of the Seattle Mariners and things look different than a month ago.

The final month of the season has begun with roughly 30 games left for all teams.

AL East

The East continues to be a tight two-team race with the Orioles holding onto a narrow lead. The Orioles lost a half-game in the standings this week by virtue of playing one extra game and losing it.

Baltimore Orioles

  • Currently: 83-50, +1.5 G in AL East
  • Last seven days: 4-2
  • Playoff odds: Postseason: >99.9%; Division: 76.8%
  • Up next: 3 @ Arizona, 3 @ Los Angeles

Twice last week the Orioles went to the third game of the series looking for a sweep and twice they lost the final game. Winning four out of every six is admirable but against the Colorado Rockies and White Sox it would have been nice to see at least one sweep. And in such a tight race, every game counts.

Unbelievably, the Orioles are headed back to the west coast for the first six games of a nine-game road trip. They were just there! Playing on the west coast is tough and they are starting with the Diamondbacks, a team just a half-game out of the NL wild card. Then it’s off to face the Angels who just gave away most of their team.

Tampa Bay Rays

  • Currently: 82-52, 1.5 GB in AL East, +6.5 in Wild Card
  • Last seven days: 4-1
  • Playoff odds: Postseason: 99%, Division: 23.1%
  • Up next: 3 @ Cleveland, 3 vs. Boston

The Rays have been playing very good baseball of late. They took two out of three from the last-place Yankees and swept a two-game series with the Marlins last week. They have busted out of the lull they had last month and frankly, are starting to scare me again.

The Cleveland Guardians, who are six games under .500 and five games back in the AL Central, claimed most of the players the Angels waived earlier this week. I don’t know what they’re doing, but I like it. Hopefully, this improved team can take a few from the Rays this week. And I hate to root for the Red Sox but I guess I’ll do it.

Injury Report: Infielder Taylor Walls (oblique strain) and relief pitcher Kevin Kelly (ankle sprain) could return tonight. Kelly is more likely; Walls may need additional rehab games.

AL West

How about those Mariners? Earlier this week they found themselves in sole possession of first place in their division after a very good July and an incredible August. They now share a spot in first with the Astros. The Rangers had been in first place for 129 days, since Opening Day, before falling a game behind on August 27th. They’re now in third.

Seattle Mariners

  • Currently: 76-57, Tied for first in AL West
  • Last seven days: 5-1
  • Playoff odds: 86.2% (+11.2%)
  • Up next: 3 @ New York Mets, 3 @ Cincinnati, 1 @ Tampa Bay

The Mariners are playing incredible baseball right now but they also had the good fortune to spend last week playing the two worst teams in the American League at home. They swept the Royals and took two out of three from the Athletics.

Things will get tougher this week as the team kicks off a long road trip that features two contending teams. And the Mets.

Injury Report: Julio Rodriguez (sore left foot) is day-to-day with a pinched nerve and George Kirby (illness) should be back this weekend against the Mets.

Houston Astros

  • Currently: 77-51, Tied in AL West, +1 in AL Wild Card
  • Last seven days: 5-1
  • Baseball Reference Playoff odds: 88.2% (+16.4%)
  • Up next: 3 vs. New York Yankees, 3 @ Texas

The Astros and Mariners are in a virtual tie for first place, but because the Astros’ winning % is .001 behind the Mariners, they are listed as the second wild card team behind the Rays. Their good week saw them take two out of three from the Tigers and sweep the Red Sox.

They get three home games against below .500 Yankees before a huge series on the road vs. the Rangers. A three-game sweep by either team could devastate the other.

Injury Report: Pitcher Kendall Graveman left the game early on Wednesday with lower back discomfort. Any word on his missing time is dependent on how he reacts to treatment. OF Michael Brantley (shoulder surgery) was activated earlier this week after being out since June 2022.

Texas Rangers

  • Currently: 75-58, 1 GB in AL West, 3rd WC spot
  • Last seven days: 3-3
  • Baseball Reference Playoff odds: 73.3% (-15.9%)
  • Up next: 3 vs Minnesota, 3 vs Houston

One game back in the division and holding a wild card spot isn’t a terrible position to be in, but it has to feel bad for the Rangers. They held the division most of the year, though it has been slowly slipping away for some time. They just lost a series to the Twins before bouncing back to take two out of three from the Mets. .500 ball just isn’t going to cut it.

Three more games against the Twins start tonight, then the big series with the Astros that could be a difference maker.

Injury Report: Nathan Eovaldi (forearm strain) could be back in early September but there is no date yet. Josh Jung (broken thumb) will be lucky to make it back by the end of the year.

AL Wild Card

Team W L PCT GB L10
Team W L PCT GB L10
Tampa Bay Rays 82 72 0.612 6.5 8-2
Houston Astros 77 58 0.570 1 7-3
Texas Rangers 75 58 0.564 - 3-7
Toronto Blue Jays 73 61 0.545 -2.5 5-5

Toronto Blue Jays

  • Currently: 73-61, 10.5 GB in AL East, 2.5 GB in Wild Card
  • Last seven days: 3-3
  • Baseball Reference Playoff odds: 51% (-9.5%)
  • Up next: 3 @ Colorado, 3 @ Oakland

The Blue Jays seem to be the only team that can disrupt the AL West trifecta of postseason teams, but they have an uphill battle. They went 3-3 against the Nationals and Guardians, their second straight .500 week. That won’t play.

They do have the benefit of playing two very bad teams this week. They’ll need to win every game if they want to have a chance.

Injury Report: Bo Bichette (quad strain) was barely off the IL before he was placed back on it. Matt Chapman (finger strain) is also on the IL. These are both huge blows to the Jays. One or both could return by mid-September.

AL Central

The Minnesota Twins (69-65) are still playing baseball and would still be in fourth place in either the East or West. They have a five-game lead on the Guardians.