The Red Sox had a great week to extend their lead in the AL East, while the other four teams played closer to average.
Boston is pulling away with the AL East after solidifying their lead last week, and each team finished with some good news as the All-Star rosters were announced.
First Place: Boston Red Sox (54-32)
The Red Sox are the clear best team in the AL East following a 6-1 week where they swept the Kansas City Royals in four games then took two out of three in Oakland. Now they are starting their time in Anaheim off right with a Monday night win. The pitching and hitting have both been good lately and all season.
Rafael Devers, J.D. Martinez, and Enrique Hernandez each hit two home runs this week. Hernandez has struggled for much of the year, but he is hitting better the last few weeks, and he robbed a home run last night. Christian Arroyo came back from a rehab assignment Monday and homered in his first game, so his breakout season is continuing. Danny Santana will likely soon be let go, but he is playing marginally better and crucially threw out a runner at home in the same game. In a similar vein, Marwin Gonzalez might get bumped soon but he also hit better this week.
After poor performances for much of June, the starting pitching was really good this week. Martin Perez won both his starts, and Nathan Eovaldi and Nick Pivetta both pitched seven shutout innings. Garrett Richards is adjusting to life post-substance enforcement with two runs in five innings, and Eduardo Rodriguez threw six shutout innings. The bullpen was not as good, but Josh Taylor pitched 3.1 scoreless innings, and Brandon Workman is earning some trust with 2.2 scoreless, as well.
Second Place: Tampa Bay Rays (49-36, 4.5 games back)
The Rays had a subpar 2-4 week that included a short sweep at the hands of the Washington Nationals and then a losing series in Buffalo. But Yandy Diaz homered and hit a walk-off grounder to beat Cleveland on Monday night and keep pace with the Sox in the AL East standings. They are rained out today but have a double header tomorrow.
Wander Franco ended his slump with his second career homer, along with Brandon Lowe and Manuel Margot finding their power strokes. Lowe’s was his first career grand slam. New All–Star Mike Zunino only had one hit the whole week, but at least it was a home run. Diaz had the best week, but a close second is Austin Meadows, with an OPS of 1.012. An offense like the Rays built on power is predictably inconsistent, so look for them to add someone with a high batting average (Nelson Cruz, anyone?).
The pitching is also suddenly inconsistent. They are now feeling the loss of Tyler Glasnow, as the pitching staff designed to be patchwork now has to cover even more innings. Normal starters Michael Wacha and Luis Patino got hit hard, in addition to six guys in the bullpen carousel. The front office will keep tinkering, and they will find their best roster as they always do.
Third Place: Toronto Blue Jays (43-39, 9 games back)
The Blue Jays find themselves in the same position following a 3-3 week, but they are not in panic mode three and a half weeks before the trade deadline. George Springer coming back is their biggest addition, and getting bullpen help is not as expensive as other positions. The Jays are playing about as well as many expected, so just staying in the race is the goal for the rest of the month, at least.
Adam Cimber is paying early dividends with 3.1 scoreless innings and a win in his first week with the team. The rest of the bullpen was all or nothing, as five relievers had scoreless weeks, and five of the six others gave up multiple runs. In a bulk role, Anthony Kay pitched four scoreless innings and allowed just one hit. Rookie starter Alek Manoah pitched seven scoreless and Ross Stripling gave up one in 5.2 innings, but Hyun Jin Ryu and Steven Matz labored heavily. Maybe they will call up Nate Pearson soon.
Marcus Semien continues to tear apart opposing pitching and earn himself a bigger pay day, as he hit three home runs this week. Santiago Espinal, theoretically the 26th man on the roster, hit his first career home run after more than 60 career games. Bo Bichette celebrated his All-Star bid with an OPS of .964 for the week, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. had an OPS of “only” .892 for the week. This lineup is buzzing, and they will be competitive for years even if this is not Toronto’s year.
Fourth Place: New York Yankees (42-41, 10.5 games back)
The Yankees have not improved their position lately, and by default they are now in a worse position because they now have less games to make up ground. In a rain-filled week around the AL East, the Yankees went 2-3 after splitting with the Los Angeles Angels and dropping the Subway Series with the New York Mets. Chad Green pitched an immaculate inning to close out the Sunday night finale, but the win stopped the current rather than shifting the tide. Wednesday night summed up the Yankee season, as they knocked out Shohei Ohtani in the first inning but still lost the game.
Aaron Judge continues to be the lone hitter meeting his expectations, as the All-Star starter hit two home runs this week while the team only hit six. Brett Gardner, Gio Urshela, and Miguel Andujar each homered in solid weeks that could ring in more, but all the other regulars mostly struggled. GM Brian Cashman finally made a trade, but poor-hitting speedster Tim Locastro will not be a difference maker.
The Yankee’s best pitchers this season have not looked like it lately. Aroldis Chapman blew a four-run lead, and all of a sudden his ERA has ballooned to 4.71, despite his All-Star nod. Gerrit Cole might start the All-Star game, but he just gave up four runs in 3.1 innings. His ERA over the last four weeks is 4.60. Jameson Taillon makes his trade look worse and worse the more he pitches, as gave up five earned in 5.1 innings but was bailed out by the offense. As great as Green was, Lucas Luetge and Justin Wilson imploded for five earned runs each. If the bullpen continues to struggle, the Bombers have no path to contention.
Fifth Place: Baltimore Orioles (27-57, 26 games back)
The Orioles had a tale of two road series. They were swept by the Los Angeles Angels, but before that, they swept the Houston Astros. I repeat, the AL-worst Orioles swept the Astros. No one in Birdland or Texas could tell you how that happened. Cedric Mullins officially made the All-Star team, a deserving honor for someone who really should be starting. He hit a home run off the bench to celebrate.
Mullins was the only player to hit multiple home runs this week, but six other players homered. Bench players Austin Wynns hit his second of the year and Ramon Urias hit his third, while Domingo Leyba hit his first career home run. On the unfortunate side, Maikel Franco was six-for-nine in Houston, but then he got hurt catching the final out. The Orioles will have very little to trade with all their chips on the Injured List.
Big surprise, all the starting pitchers struggled this week. And Cole Sulser, one of the few relievers pitching well this year, could not record an out in blowing Sunday’s game. More encouraging is Tanner Scott, who has serious command issues but pitched four scoreless this week and got a win. Adam Plutko refound his April form with four scoreless, and Spenser Watkins pitched a scoreless inning in his Major League debut. The Birds will be back at home before the break, so maybe fans will catch his second appearance.
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