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AL East Weekly Recap: The Rays Expand Their Division Lead

AL East Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay had a very good week, Toronto finished strong, and the rest of the AL East would rather forget about the past seven days.

The Rays are continuing their fun ride in first place in the AL East with great hitting and pitching, while the Red Sox suddenly left their run prevention in the past and the Yankees sounded the alarm last week.

First Place: Tampa Bay Rays (43-24)

This is not a sentence you hear often, but life is good in Tampa.  The Rays had a 5-1 week and have created a little room at the top of the AL East.  Yes, Tyler Glasnow left his start with elbow inflammation, but the injury did not seem so serious to me.  Besides that concern, the Rays are smooth sailing as they now have a four-game winning streak.  They are hitting home runs and limiting opponent runs as they have all season.  There are no signs of this team slowing down.  Good luck to the Chicago White Sox and the Seattle Mariners.

I said Randy Arozarena would feast on weaker pitching, and he did.  He homered on back-to-back days, and the first was a grand slam to break open Sunday’s game against the Orioles.  Brandon Lowe is returning to form with two home runs, including a no-doubter off of Lance Lynn.  Better yet, Taylor Walls is proving the front office right by making web gems, and he hit his first career home run this week.  Walls has only played 21 games and he already has one WAR.

The Rays probably could have gotten a better return for Willy Adames if they waited a few weeks, but J.P. Feyereisen is proving me wrong.  He pitched three scoreless innings this week and got the win yesterday, lowering his ERA with the Rays to 0.77.  Josh Fleming pitched four scoreless bulk innings to beat the Orioles over the weekend, and Ryan Yarbrough continues his hot streak with six scoreless on Friday.  And Collin McHugh, now in a bullpen role, pitched five scoreless innings.  Everyone healthy is playing well.

Second Place: Boston Red Sox (40-27, 3 games back)

The Red Sox experienced a wide range of games in the past week: blowouts, walk-offs, and a back and forth contest.  The Sox went 3-4 against the Houston Astros and Toronto Blue Jays, but they are feeling a whole lot better than yesterday.  Their pitching performed historically poorly until the Monday finale when Nathan Eovaldi shoved with 6.2 scoreless innings.  Matt Barnes blew the lead with two outs in the ninth, but Rafael Devers walked off in the next half inning.  The dramatic win earned the BoSox a split and makes up for an embarrassing weekend.  On Sunday, Red Sox pitching, “led” by Martin Perez, gave up 18 runs and a whopping eight home runs, an opponent record at Fenway Park.

He cooled off the last few days, but Christian Arroyo added some emphatic moments to his breakout season.  He hit no-doubters on back-to-back nights, something I did not think he was capable of.  The first was a three-run shot to tie the Astros and lead a big comeback.  Xander Bogaerts and Bobby Dalbec also hit two home runs each, breaking out of their slumps.

So much for the reliable rotation we had been witnessing.  Perez, Eduardo Rodriguez, Nick Pivetta, and Ryan Weber all got shelled in their respective outings.  E-Rod has been consistently good in the past, but his ERA is now over six for the season.  Weber will be spending more time in AAA if his second start is also a clunker.  They can turn it around, but GM Chaim Bloom might be looking for a fifth starter on the trade market if they want to win the AL East.  He can also call up Tanner Houck, who pitcher very well in his 2020 debut with a 1.98 ERA in six games.

Third Place: Toronto Blue Jays (33-31, 8.5 games back)

Do you hear MVP chants? Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is now up to a league-leading 22 home runs after hitting three in the last seven days.  The team was only 3-4 for the week, but it is in no way his fault.  Vlad and the two other sons, Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio, all homered in back-to-back games, creating quite the generational moments.  Marcus Semien continues to prove his worth, while Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Joe Panik have started playing better.

The finale loss in Boston was a rare night when the bats fell asleep, and they wasted a great start by Alek Manoah.  He gave up one run in six innings, following up a two-run, five-inning start.  He wasn’t the only Blue Jay to pitch well despite the poor record, as Steven Matz, Robbie Ray, and Hyun Jin Ryu all pitched respectably. Ray is rebounding nicely with a 3.45 ERA after an awful 2020 season.  The Toronto struggles this week came from the bullpen, as Trent Thornton, Carl Edwards Jr., and Rafael Dolis each giving up runs in multiple appearances, including Dolis taking two losses.  Every team wants more bullpen help, but Toronto really needs someone to lock down lineups late in games.

Fourth Place: New York Yankees (33-32, 9 games back)

I said last time that the Yankees had to hit the panic button, and their situation has only gotten worse since then.  After beating up on the weak Minnesota Twins pitching for two wins, they have lost three straight games.  They finished with two losses to the mediocre Philadelphia Phillies, including a Sunday shutout.  It might be hard to believe that this team is only one game over .500, but all season they have played like a team that does not deserve to make the playoffs.

The guilty party this week was the pitching.  Gerrit Cole threw another quality start, but he was the only one.  Domingo German was hit hard to the tune of ten hits and seven earned runs in four and a third innings, and Jameson Taillon was pulled in the first after giving up four runs. Aroldis Chapman had by far his worst appearance of the year.  In the finale against the Twins, he gave up two two-run homers to blow the lead and then lose the game.  The team should not be concerned about him, but they should be very concerned about Luis Severino, who was hurt in a rehab start.

Besides the shutout, the offense actually played well.  Miguel Andujar and Brett Gardner both picked up the slack at the bottom of the lineup, with OPS’s of 1.151 and 1.396.  Giancarlo Stanton hit his mandated three home runs, and Rougned Odor and Gary Sanchez found their optimal swings with six combined extra-base hits out of ten total hits.  The losses matter more, but at least there is hope to move up in the AL East.

Fifth Place: Baltimore Orioles (22-43, 20 games back)

So much for all those nice June feelings.  The Orioles have lost five straight and a team record 16-straight games on the road.  Remember April when the Birds played dramatically better on the road than in Camden Yards?  Their road record is now worse than their home record, which is saying something.  The pitching has not been good, per se, but the offense has completely fallen flat lately.  In the last week, the O’s have an unsightly team OPS of .421, well over 100 points behind the second-worst team in that stretch.

The Orioles only hit two home runs as a team in the last seven days, and Trey Mancini is the only hitter to post an OPS over 700 in that time.  Last night’s loss was a close one, but two embarrassing defensive plays were at fault.  At least young starter Dean Kremer pitcher pretty well, and Rule 5 pick Tyler Wells is earning his spot.  It does not get any easier, as the Orioles have the rest of the Cleveland series and then a brutal two weeks with two series each against the Blue Jays and the Astros.

 

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