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Weekly AL East Recap: Rays Increase Lead as Wild Card Race Tightens

Tampa Bay Rays AL East

Another awful week from the Red Sox leaves them in danger of dropping from the first Wild Card slot while their AL East rivals keep winning.

The order of the AL East standings has not changed since last week, but the Rays now have a sizable lead.

First Place: Tampa Bay Rays (68-44)

The Rays are easily in first in the AL East, riding a four-game winning streak.  They split the rest of their series with the Seattle Mariners and then swept the Orioles on the road.  Their offense is carrying the team right now, scoring 31 runs in the weekend series.  One of the biggest series of the year looms, as they go to Boston Tuesday.

Not only is the offense scoring, they are coming back from behind.  The Orioles led each game of the series, but eighth inning grand slams from Brandon Lowe and Brett Phillips lifted the Rays on Saturday and Sunday.  Their six RBI’s for the week only trailed Nelson Cruz‘s seven, and five other players homered.  Randy Aronzarena only played two games this week, but he went 5-8 with a cycle spread over those two games.  Manuel Margot, known more for his defense, led the team with seven hits for the week.

A series of comebacks means a mixed bag from the starting rotation.  Shane McClanahan pitched well in his Baltimore homecoming, and Luis Patino and Josh Fleming were both decent.  But the veteran duo of Michael Wacha and Ryan Yarbrough both gave up five in five innings.  New addition J.T. Chargois pitched a scoreless week and earned his first win as a Ray.  Reliever Dietrich Enns made his team debut and pitched a scoreless inning, four years after his only two other MLB appearances.

Second Place: Boston Red Sox (65-49, 4 games back)

The Red Sox have a much-needed off day after a dreadful 2-5 week.  They lost two of three to the surprisingly competitive Detroit Tigers, then dropped three of four in Toronto.  The offense slumped until a Sunday outburst, while the pitching has been all over the place.  A split double-header duel Saturday made way for blowing a six run lead on Sunday.  They led 8-2 early and ended up losing 9-8.  Chris Sale will make his season debut this Saturday, but Kyle Schwarber hit a snag in his rehab.

Jarren Duran and J.D. Martinez were on the COVID-19 IL, but they came back to both hit home runs.  Hunter Renfroe hit two but only got two other hits the rest of the week.  Alex Verdugo hit a pretty one to tie game 2, which they won in extras.  The other strong week came from backup catcher Kevin Plawecki, who went 6-11.  They will need the stars to pick it up in order to win the AL East.

Matt Barnes ran the gamut this week, getting a win, a save, and taking two losses.  Overall, the closer gave up three runs in two and a third innings, including a first pitch walk-off homer.  The starters varied widely, as Martin Perez and Tanner Houck only pitched a few innings each, and Garrett Richards and Nathan Eovaldi struggled.  On the flip side, Nick Pivetta threw six shutout innings, and Eduardo Rodriguez threw five.  Even with Sale coming back, the Sox might regret not getting another starter at the deadline.

Third Place: New York Yankees (62-50, 6 games back)

How good is the Yankees fortune right now? They blew four saves Monday in Kansas City and still won the game to finish the week 6-1.  It was the first game ever where both teams scored in the seventh, eighth, nineth, tenth, and eleventh innings.  They are now just two games back of the Red Sox in the AL East.  They dropped the Sunday finale, but the Yankees came back to win the previous three over the Seattle Mariners.  Oh, and they put up scores of 13 and ten against the Orioles.  This team has a ton of momentum right now.

The hero Monday night was Luke Voit, who homered and drove in two in the absence of Anthony RizzoGleyber Torres had an OPS of .924 for the week, but he will be out for at least ten days.  D.J. LeMahieu is looking more like himself, slapping doubles the to right-center field.  And Brett Gardner seems to have found some news legs, as he looks fresher and is hitting better right now.

Jameson Taillon continued his great run of pitching with six shutout innings.  Luis Gil pitched five shutout innings, so he has not given up a run after two starts.  Andrew Heaney improved on his team debut, as he gave up four in two innings but settled in to get through six.  The Yankees are also turning to relievers for starts, as Wandy Peralta and Nestor Cortes got turns.  Plus, Luis Severino will be back soon, as he through six no-hit innings in AA.

Fourth Place: Toronto Blue Jays (60-50, 7 games back)

Like the Yankees, the Blue Jays are now in the thick of the Wild Card race after a 6-1 week.  They won the last three against Cleveland then took three of four from the Sox.  George Springer is leading the offense again and won Player of the Week as a result.  He hit three home runs and drove in 11 runs and hit the winning home run Sunday.  Being back in the Rogers Centre has made a huge difference, as the Jays are 9-2 since going back home.

Springer is getting help from the powerful offense.  Vlad Guerrero Jr. had a rare down week, so Teoscar Hernandez stepped up with ten hits.  Breyvic Valera, the last man off the bench, had a respectable .757 OPS for the week.  Lourdes Gurriel is having a tough season, but his OPS was .807.  Marcus Semien hit a walk-off home run to win the first game of the double-header.

As well as the Jays played, their ace really suffered.  Hyun Jin Ryu had been pitching well the last couple weeks, but the Red Sox squared up everything he threw.  Every other starter pitched well, though.  Robbie Ray and Steven Matz both pitched six shutout innings.  Ray was a buy-low signing, and now he has over four WAR.  Rafael Dolis has been one of their volatile relievers, but he pitched a scoreless week and earned a win.

Fifth Place: Baltimore Orioles (38-72, 29 games back)

The Oriole had one of their worst weeks of the season, which is saying something.  They went 0-5, all to AL East opponents, and led in four of the games.  There was some good news beyond the scores, though.  Cedric Mullins became just the seventh Oriole to reach 20/20, and he has a shot at 30/30.  Adley Rutschman, now the top prospect in baseball, is moving up to AAA where he will be challenged more often.

It wasn’t really the offense’s fault this week.  They didn’t score a lot, but they weren’t shut down for the most part.  New waiver claim Jorge Mateo is showing off his speed with a triple and two steals, making for a nice change of pace.  Richie Martin is back from the IL, but he is still getting going.  Ryan Mountcastle is on a hot streak, but he is currently on the concussion IL.  Hopefully he returns in a few days to make a late push for Rookie of the Year.  Anthony Santander had an OPS of 1.037, so maybe he can build some confidence the rest of the way.

The bullpen is the guilty party this week.  They gave up an inexcusable 37 runs during the five straight losses.  Paul Fry and Dillon Tate, normally the more reliable guys, have been unplayable lately.  They gave up a combined 15 runs in 2.1 innings.  Fry’s ERA for the week is 121.50, so it can only go down from here.  The implosions are even more frustrating considering the rotation was decent this week.  John Means left his start with a 5-2 lead, and Jorge Lopez pitched a quality start for the the first time in months.  At least Futures Game rep Marcos Diplan pitched a scoreless MLB debut, so congrats to him.



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