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Weekly AL East Recap: Yankees Start Winning Despite Positive Tests

Gerrit Cole New York Yankees

The Yankees took a weekend series from the Red Sox, but the Rays are not tightening the AL East race. We also have a historic broadcast.

The shine of last week‘s MLB Draft is wearing off, as the five teams in the AL East prepared for the coming trade deadline.  With only a few games played in the second half, we have an extra day to talk about.

First Place: Boston Red Sox (57-38)

Following the AL’s 5-2 victory in the All-Star Game, the Red Sox went 2-2 with two postponements.  Xander Bogaerts got two hits and an RBI in Denver, Rafael Devers doubled, and Nathan Eovaldi and Matt Barnes both pitched scoreless innings.

The Red Sox opened their second half in the Bronx and dropped a frustrating series.  They shut out the Yankees in the first game but dropped the next two.  The umpires blew the second game by playing through pouring rain only to call it after the sixth inning when the Yankees took the lead.  Sunday night turned into a blowout, but the Sox made up for it Monday.

In the opener in Buffalo, the Red Sox scored eight in the first inning to defeat the Blue Jays.  Jarren Duran hit his first career home run, and it was the first time ever Boston hit three home runs in the top of the first.  Enrique Hernandez has been hot lately, and he homered twice in the four games.  Hunter Renfroe added a grand slam.  Eduardo Rodriguez, after shaving his thick beard, pitched 5.3 scoreless innings.

Second Place: Tampa Bay Rays (56-39, 1 game back)

Like the rest of the AL East, the Rays had their share of All-Star contributors.  Mike Zunino homered, Joey Wendle got a hit, and Andrew Kittredge pitched a scoreless inning.  They went 3-2 following a series win over the Atlanta Braves and then splitting the first two games with the Orioles.

The offensive contributions are spreading around evenly through five games, as five different players have homered.  Most surprising is backup catcher Francisco Mejia, who tripled and homered Tuesday.  Wander Franco did the same thing but in different games.  The other prospects are struggling right now, but they have plenty of time to get things going.

The pitching has struggled since Tyler Glasnow got hurt, and that has mostly continued lately.   Shane McClanahan gave them five good innings, but the other four starters all got hit around.  The AL-best bullpen, though, has been lights out recently, including six relievers with scoreless weeks.  That includes Mejia, who pitched one scoreless inning.

Third Place: Toronto Blue Jays (48-43, 7 games back)

The Blue Jays swept the faltering Texas Rangers before getting blown out by the Red Sox.  The franchise got some good news as they will be able to return to Toronto on July 30th.  That means Wednesday’s finale with the Red Sox is their final game in Buffalo.  The Canadian crowds could be the difference-maker down the stretch.  To top it off, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. won the All-Star Game MVP for hitting a no-doubter.

Vlad’s performance is extending to the second half, as he already has three home runs.  The fearsome lineup has been launching balls, as seven other players homered, including two from Randal GrichukSantiago Espinal is not a power threat, but he has been surprisingly good, hitting .328 for the season.

Much like their weekly record, their first three starts were great and then the last was terrible.  Steven Matz, Hyun Jin Ryu, and Robbie Ray all had scoreless outings and each earned a win.  But then Ross Stripling was torched for six earned runs in just a third of an inning.  That equates to a 162 ERA.  He can only go up from here.

Fourth Place: New York Yankees (49-44, 7 games back)

The Yankees are playing well, and they attained a 3-1 record behind scrappy play.  After six players tested positive for COVID-19, including Aaron Judge, the Bombers have been running out speedy replacement players.  Greg Allen and Ryan LaMarre are providing a much needed spark to keep them in the AL East race.  The team built solely on homers has been bunting and stealing, and it is pleasant to watch.  Judge did walk and score in the AL victory.

That is not to say the home runs have gone away,  Gleyber Torres homered in back-to-back games a great sign he is refinding his swing.  Gary Sanchez also homered twice, and Rougned Odor has been hot in July, with an OPS of .956 after being below-average for three months.  Estevan Florial, called up Tuesday, hit his first career home run.

Gerrit Cole was great dealing in the rain, and he got some help from the rest of the rotation.  Jameson Taillon pitched 5.1 shutout innings, and Domingo German and Jordan Montgomery were both passable.  Aroldis Chapman gave up another home run, but he got his first save of the month.  Zack Britton is back, but he does not look like himself yet, with four runs allowed in six innings.

Fifth Place: Baltimore Orioles (31-63, 25.5 games back)

The Orioles have come out better in the second half with a 3-2 record.  They took the series in Kansas City, and so far they are splitting in St. Petersburg.  Tuesday night’s game was historic, as the YouTube broadcast featured all women.  Melanie Newman, who does the Orioles radio play-by-play, called the game and will hopefully call many more.  John Means also returned from the IL, but it looks like he needs more time to sharpen his pitches.  Cedric Mullins scored a run in the All-Star Game.

Matt Harvey had his best start in months, pitching six shutout innings against his former team. Spenser Watkins continues to impress with one run in six innings.  The former 30th rounder was signed as a minor league free agent.  Jorge Lopez looked great for four innings and then fell apart in the fifth, which is becoming a concerning trend.  The bullpen, which is normally overtaxed, has pitched much better now that they are rested.

Pedro Severino has their only home run after five games, and the O’s continue to lack power.  The offense overall is producing a bit more by spraying the ball around, they are just not leaving the yard.  Trey Mancini has not carried over his strength from the Home Run Derby, but he hit his first triple of the season.  Position players are doing better off the field as first rounder Colton Cowser and second rounder Connor Norby signed with the team.

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