A lackluster week in the AL East leaves most of the teams trending down, especially the Rays who have lost six straight games.
The team who looked like the best in baseball last week, the Rays have made one huge move to change the direction of the team after losing their grip on the AL East.
First Place: Boston Red Sox (43-29)
The Red Sox did not play especially well this week, but their 3-2 record was good enough to move into first in the AL East. They took both games from the Atlanta Braves but then dropped the series against the Kansas City Royals. That did not look good, but all good teams lose to weaker opponents on occasion.
Except for a one-run performance on Saturday, the BoSox have not been pitching well. No one pitched more than five innings, and Nathan Eovaldi, Garrett Richards, and Eduardo Rodriguez each pitched poorly in four-inning outings. I do not know what’s wrong with E-Rod, but he now has negative WAR on the year. It is a good thing Martin Perez bounced back from two bad starts by giving up just one run five innings against KC.
Unlike the pitching, the Boston bats showed up on the road. Rafael Devers hit three home runs to bolster his All-Star bid. J.D. Martinez hit an unusual two triples, and Christian Arroyo kept his hot streak going. Bobby Dalbec and Enrique Hernandez finally got hot, both posting an OPS over 1.300. The Red Sox will need to keep the offense going, as they face the Yankees and the Rays this week.
Second Place: Tampa Bay Rays (43-30, 0.5 games back)
Speaking of the Rays, they have lost their hold on the AL East lead. Losers of six straight, the team called up #1 overall prospect Wander Franco to boost the major league roster for the playoff race. Just 20 years old, Franco will be the first person born in 2001 to debut in MLB. He will fit right into Tampa’s constantly-changing infield mix.
That news is much better than anything else I have to report on this franchise. I was wrong about Tyler Glasnow, because he suffered a partial UCL tear and will miss significant time. The last four losses was a sweep in Seattle against the uninspiring Mariners, and it is easy to see why. In their last six games, the Rays’ team OPS is just .590 and their ERA is a mediocre 4.82. Manuel Margot and Mike Zunino were the only batters with an OPS over .900, and Joey Wendle was the only other with an OPS over .800. Almost all of the regulars (if you can call them that) are struggling right now.
Rookie Shane McClanahan gave the Rays two encouraging starts, but no other starter did. Rich Hill was okay (four runs in five innings), but Michael Wacha, Josh Fleming, and Ryan Yarbrough each gave up five earned runs. The real backbreakers were normally-reliable relievers who gave up multiple runs this week. Pete Fairbanks gave up three runs (two earned) in 1.2 innings, and Diego Castillo gave up a walk-off grand slam. Ouch.
Third Place: New York Yankees (38-33, 4.5 games back)
The Yankees played better than the rest of the AL East this week, going 5-1 against the Toronto Blur Jays and the Oakland Athletics. Unlike the Rays, they had some nice stories this week. They turned two triple plays to tie an MLB record with three on the year, and they have more than half a season to break the record. Chris Gittens homered for his first career hits, but he was just sent back down to AAA.
Aaron Judge could afford to hit poorly for a week because the rest of the lineup picked him up for once. Gary Sanchez hit three home runs and three doubles, good enough for an OPS of 1.506. Gio Urshela and Giancarlo Stanton both posted an OPS over .900, as we have come to expect from them. But, Gleyber Torres is faltering again and would be better off in a bench role at this point. If only they had a true shortstop.
Except for Gerrit Cole, the rotation is still laboring to get through five innings. Domingo German and Michael King were both poor, while Jordan Montgomery and Jameson Taillon were serviceable. The bullpen besides Wandy Peralta made up for it. Shutdown arms Chad Green, Zack Britton, Jonathan Loaisiga, and Luis Cessa each had scoreless weeks. The Yankees are righting the ship behind their offense and relievers, the roster parts they have relied on the past few years.
Fourth Place: Toronto Blue Jays (35-35, 7 games back)
The Blue Jays are heading in the wrong direction. They went 2-4 last week, but they finished with two wins over the Orioles. Buffalo so far has not been a kind home unlike last season. They were swept by the Yankees in front a Yankee-heavy crowd given the state’s preferred team. The Jays have an easier stretch now, as they face the Miami Marlins and the Orioles again.
The bullpen is main reason the team is falling right now. The up/down relievers are not earning their spots, and some of them are not on the active roster any more. GM Ross Atkins made a band-aid trade by acquiring Jacob Barnes from the Mets. The starters have been mixed, as Hyun Jin Ryu is great, and Robbie Ray and Ross Stripling have been fine. Stripling yelled at teammate Joe Panik for committing an error, but that was not the ugliest thing a Blue Jay starter did this week. Alek Manoah gave up back-to-back home runs and then beaned Maikel Franco. It might not have been intentional, but it sure looked that way.
The lineup still looks good, but they embarrassed themselves by running into a triple play. It was Marcus Semien‘s one bonehead play in an otherwise great week (three home runs) and season. The bench players got their 15 minutes of fame, as Reese McGuire hit .538 and Santiago Espinal hit .412. The sons each had fine weeks, as Vlad Guerrero Jr. is trading home run punches with Shohei Ohtani.
Fifth Place: Baltimore Orioles (23-48, 19.5 games back)
The Orioles had a bad week with only one win, and then it got worse on Monday. The only thing stopping the Houston Astros from throwing combined no-hitter is a rain delay. The umpires waited way too long to call it in the eighth inning, and the infield was drenched. They did finish the game, and Franco broke up the no-hitter with a home run. Beyond one game, the team is still pitching, hitting, and defending poorly. Maybe we will see a notable call-up in the coming weeks.
Unlike last week, the Orioles actually hit a lot of home runs. They hit 14 this week, tied for second behind San Fran’s 15. Ryan Mountcastle continued his hot June with four home runs, and Cedric Mullins hit four over two games. Trey Mancini also continued his strong season with a two-homer game and the 100th of his career. You might not want to look at the rest of the lineup.
The pitching continues to be an eyesore, as their ERA in the last seven days is only better than the historically bad Diamondbacks. It is past time to get rid of Matt Harvey, as he is just not good enough to pitch in the Majors. His ERA is over 7 and has gotten worse lately. The young guys are not showing results for the most part, but potential is apparent. Dean Kremer gave up two first inning homers Saturday and then finished with a quality start. Keegan Akin‘s lines look worse than they are, as his defense is providing no help, and some inherited runners have scored. This team, especially the rotation, will be better next year.
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