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AL contenders check-in: Orioles increase lead on Rays, Rangers fall apart

The AL West and Wild Card races are tight and the Orioles try to stay ahead of the Rays

Houston Astros v. Texas Rangers
Things are not going well for the Rangers
Photo by Tim Heitman/MLB Photos via Getty Images

As Orioles fans, our eyes are focused on the AL East as our team tries to stay ahead of the Rays as the season enters its final three weeks. It’s exciting and scary and feels like one bad stretch of baseball could knock the Orioles out of the division lead.

But for an outsider, the biggest excitement in the American League is in the AL West and the wild card race. In the last week, the Astros have moved alone to the top of the west and the Blue Jays hopped over the Rangers for the final Wild Card spot. Both races are still very close, so seeing what the week brings will be fun.

AL East

Baltimore Orioles

  • Currently: 88-51, +4 G in AL East
  • Last seven days: 5-1
  • Playoff odds: Postseason: >99.9%; Division: 90.8%
  • Up next: 3 @ Boston, 3 vs. St. Louis, 1 vs. Tampa Bay

The Orioles got their nine-game road trip off to a great start, taking two out of three from the Diamondbacks and sweeping the Angels. As a result, they gained 2.5 games in the division race, which is huge. They finish their road trip with a weekend series in Boston, then home to hopefully dominate the last-place Cardinals.

After that? It’s just the biggest series of the season with four games against the Rays at home.

Tampa Bay Rays

  • Currently: 85-56, 4 GB in AL East, +7.5 in Wild Card
  • Last seven days: 3-4
  • Playoff odds: Postseason: >99.9%, Division: 9.2%
  • Up next: 3 vs Seattle, 3 @ Minnesota, 1 @ Baltimore

The Rays are running out of time to win the division, which of course is a very good thing. They fell behind the Orioles by 3.5 games going into yesterday and had the chance to gain a half-game with the Orioles having an off day. But they lost to the Mariners to make it an even four games back.

The Rays have played two more games than the Orioles and have three off days between now and the end of the season. The Orioles, with an unlucky schedule, have just one off day remaining this year.

Injury Report: OF Manuel Margot (right elbow) and RHP Jason Adam (oblique strain) could both return between mid and late September.

AL West

AL West W L GB L10
AL West W L GB L10
Houston Astros 80 61 - 7-3
Seattle Mariners 79 61 0.5 5-5
Texas Rangers 76 63 3 3-7

Houston Astros

  • Currently: 60-61, 0.5 game lead in AL West
  • Last seven days: 3-3
  • Baseball Reference Playoff odds: 96.3% (+8.1%)
  • Up next: 3 vs. San Diego, 3 @ Oakland

It was a mixed bag for the Astros last week. They kicked it off by being swept by the last-place Yankees, then bounced back with a dominant sweep of their division-rival Rangers. They outscored the Rangers 39-10. And thanks to a subpar week from the Mariners, they moved into sole possession of the AL West. Oh, the Astros are in first place again? How exciting.

It should be an easier week for the Astros as they play the underachieving Padres and already-eliminated Athletics.

Injury Report: RHP Ryne Stanek went on the IL with a sprained ankle and hopes to return before the end of the year.

Seattle Mariners

  • Currently: 79-61, 0.5 game back in AL West, +2 in AL WC
  • Last seven days: 3-4
  • Playoff odds: 83.7% (-2.7%)
  • Up next: 3 @ Tampa Bay, 3 vs. Los Angeles Angels

The Mariners cooled off this week as they lost back-to-back series last week to the Mets and the Reds. But they got the weekend off to a good start last night, grabbing a win against the Rays in the first of a four-game series.

For the sake of the Orioles and for the sake of wanting to live in a world where the Astros aren’t in first place yet again, I hope they can keep up the winning this weekend.

Injury Report: Jarred Kelenic (broken foot) is rehabbing in the minors and the Mariners hope he can return by mid-September.

AL Wild Card

Team W L PCT GB L10
Team W L PCT GB L10
Tampa Bay Rays 85 56 0.603 7.5 6-4
Seattle Mariners 79 61 0.564 2 5-5
Toronto Blue Jays 77 63 0.550 - 6-4
Texas Rangers 76 63 0.547 -0.5 3-7

Toronto Blue Jays

  • Currently: 77-63, 3rd WC spot
  • Last seven days: 4-2
  • Baseball Reference Playoff odds: 69.5% (+18.5%)
  • Up next: 3 vs. Kansas City, 4 vs. Texas

The Blue Jays have just been plugging along and, with the downfall of the Rangers, find themselves back in Wild Card position. They won two series last week against the Rockies and A’s. Their easy run continues with three against the Royals but then a make-or-break match-up with Rangers.

Injury Report: Brandon Belt (illness) has been out of the lineup but should be ready to go for the weekend series. Danny Jansen (broken finger) is out without a return date, while Bo Bichette (quad strain) could possibly return in a week or two.

Texas Rangers

  • Currently: 76-63, 3 GB in AL West, 0.5 games back of 3rd WC
  • Last seven days: 1-5
  • Baseball Reference Playoff odds: 49.1% (-24.2%)
  • Up next: 3 vs Oakland, 4 @ Toronto

Wow. What has happened to the Texas Rangers? They have lost seven of their last 10 games and only have four wins since August 15th. They’ve allowed both the Astros and Mariners to pass them in the standings, and as of right now they are on the outside looking in at the AL Wild Card race.

They lost two out of three against the Twins last weekend and then completely fell apart in a huge three-game series against the Astros. Not only did the Rangers get swept, they did so while surrendering a mind-blowing 39 runs in three games. They get a reprieve this weekend with three games vs the A’s, but then have a huge four-game series with the team just above them in the WC race, the Blue Jays.

Injury Report: Adolis Garcia hit the IL this week with a patellar tendon strain. They could get Brad Miller (hamstring) back by mid-September and Josh Jung (broken thumb) by the end of the month. If they have a reason to keep playing.

AL Central

The Minnesota Twins (73-67) are still going, 6-4 in their last 10 and holding a six-game lead over the Guardians in their mediocre division.