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AL contenders check-in: Orioles and Rays clinch, Wild Card and West stay close

The Orioles and Rays are going to the playoffs. The only question is: who gets the division?

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles walked off on the Rays last Sunday
Reggie Hildred-USA TODAY Sports

The big news out of the American League last week was that the first two teams in the league have clinched playoff spots. Both the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays are going to the postseason. One will be the division winner and one will be the first Wild Card team. The Orioles are in the driver’s seat with a 1.5-game lead and the head-to-head tiebreaker, but anything can happen.

The dogfights for the AL West and the second and third WC slots are ongoing. The three AL West teams have the same number of losses while the Astros have one more win. The second and third WC race looks similar although it’s the Blue Jays with the half-game lead over the Mariners and Rangers. It could all look very different in a week.

AL East

Baltimore Orioles

  • Currently: 95-58, +1.5 G in AL East
  • Last seven days: 4-3
  • Up next: 3 @ Cleveland, 2 vs. Washington, 1 vs. Boston

The Orioles played one more game than the Rays last week which means they have now played just one fewer game than the team below them in the standings. When the Orioles play the Red Sox on Thursday they’ll finally catch the Rays in number of games played with just three to go.

A series split with the Rays and a series win against Houston got the week off right for the Orioles. They, unfortunately, fell in their Thursday night game against the Guardians to drop the AL East lead to just 1.5 games. They’ll hopefully get their acts together over the rest of the weekend as they play the sub .500 Guardians.

Tampa Bay Rays

  • Currently: 94-60, 2 GB in AL East, +9 in Wild Card
  • Last seven days: 3-3
  • Up next: 3 vs. Toronto, 2 @ Boston

The Rays started off their four-game series with the Orioles last week just as they wanted to, but then lost the last two games to erase their progress in the division. It also meant they lost the head-to-head tiebreaker to the Orioles. They went on to take two out of three from the Angels to even out their week.

They’ll face the Blue Jays, who are playing for a WC spot, this weekend before a quick series against the last-place Red Sox. The first series should be a challenge, let’s hope they fail. Reports broke last night that they are calling up their top prospect and the #6 prospect in baseball, infielder Junior Caminero.

Injury Report: Luke Raley (sore neck) is still out after colliding with a member of staff in the outfield pre-game in Baltimore. He’s also experiencing right arm numbness and got an MRI to rule out additional damage. RHP Jason Adam (oblique) has been activated from the IL.

AL West

Team W L GB L10
Team W L GB L10
Houston Astros 85 68 - 4-6
Texas Rangers 84 68 0.5 6-4
Seattle Mariners 84 68 0.5 5-5

Houston Astros

  • Currently: 85-68, 0.5 game lead in AL West
  • Last seven days: 2-4
  • Up next: 3 vs. Kansas City, 3 @ Seattle

The Astros are clinging to their AL West lead after a brutal week in which they lost one series to the Royals and then another to the Orioles. Luckily for them, neither of the teams chasing them went on a big run this week either.

They get to play Kansas City again before heading to Seattle for a huge series against the Mariners. That’ll be a make-or-break series right there.

Injury report: RHP Ryne Stanek (sprained ankle) is rehabbing and expects to return this weekend. Michael Brantley (sore right shoulder) is day-to-day. He just returned from shoulder surgery recently.

Texas Rangers

  • Currently: 81-64, 0.5 game in AL West, tied w/ SEA for final Wild Card
  • Last seven days: 2-4
  • Up next: 3 vs. Seattle, 3 @ LA Angels, 1 @ Seattle

The Rangers and Mariners play seven of their final 10 games against each other, which is good news if you’re the Houston Astros or Toronto Blue Jays. They had the chance to overtake the Astros for first but were swept by the Guardians before taking two out of three from the Red Sox.

Their biggest series of the year starts tonight with a weekend home series against the Mariners, but then they’ll get a short breather with the Angels.

Injury Report: Josh Jung (broken thumb) and Adolis Garcia (patellar tendon strain) were both activated last week. Max Scherzer (teres major strain) remains a distant possibility for the postseason (if they make it).

Seattle Mariners

  • Currently: 84-68, 0.5 game back in AL West, tied w/ TEX for final WC
  • Last seven days: 3-3
  • Up next: 3 @ Texas, 3 vs. Houston, 1 vs. Texas

Does anyone want to win the AL West? The Mariners were surely disappointed in their 3-3 record (swept by the Dodgers, swept the A’s) but it did gain them a game in the division race.

They are tied with the Rangers for the final WC, a fact that will change tonight one way or another as they play each other in the first three games. They then face off with the team just a half-game ahead of them in the division. What a huge week for the Mariners.

Injury Report: Catcher Tom Murphy (left thumb strain) will get an MRI today to see if he’s progressing. It’s TBD if he’ll return this season.

AL Wild Card

Team W L GB L10
Team W L GB L10
Tampa Bay Rays 94 60 9 6-4
Toronto Blue Jays 85 68 0.5 5-5
Texas Rangers 84 68 - 6-4
Seattle Mariners 84 68 - 5-5

Toronto Blue Jays

  • Currently: 85-68, 0.5 ahead of 3rd WC
  • Last seven days: 5-1
  • Up next: 3 @ Tampa Bay, 3 vs. NY Yankees

The Blue Jays had themselves a very good week and with the Mariners and Rangers set to knock each other around for the rest of the season are in a pretty good position to head back to the postseason. They walloped the basement dwellers of the AL East last week with a Red Sox sweep and a Yankees series win.

Things get tougher for the Jays as they play six games against the Rays through the end of the regular season. I believe that’s good news for the Orioles, who are trying to fend off the Rays. Generally speaking, I hate the Blue Jays, but they can’t hurt the Orioles now, so I’ll be root root rooting for the Canadians.

Injury Report: Vladimir Guerrero (knee inflammation) is day-to-day, but shouldn’t be out too long as an MRI show no structural damage to his knee. Still no word on when Brandon Belt (back spasms) will return.

AL Central

The Twins (81-72) still haven’t clinched a winning season, and yet their magic number is one. They will clinch their division tonight if they beat the Angels or if the Orioles beat the Guardians.