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Weekly AL East Recap: Baltimore’s Time to Shine After Big Weekend

Baltimore Orioles AL East

The four-team AL East division race is holding steady at the top while the Orioles had their best week of the season.

The AL East is just as competitive this week as it was last week, but each team is struggling against top competition.  Meanwhile, the last-place Orioles grabbed some positive headlines.

First Place: Tampa Bay Rays (38-23)

With the best record in the American League, the Rays could afford to play .500 ball for a week.  After splitting a four-game series at Yankee Stadium going back to last Monday, the Rays took two out of three in Texas.  With a run differential of +12 for the week, they appeared to play much better than their 3-3 record would indicate: two out of the three wins were blowouts while all three losses were close.  Plus, one of the losses was on Lou Gehrig Day, when the Yankees admittedly deserve to win.

Tampa has a relaxing week ahead with two off days and home series against the Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles.  Their lineup cooled off somewhat after the long winning streak, but they have a good chance to pick it back up against weaker pitching staffs.  Randy Arozarena has struggled lately but he could put up a batting line resembling last year’s postseason in the coming week.  Credit to Austin Meadows for carrying the lineup and Yandy Diaz hitting his first home run of the season.

The big pitching performance came from Ryan Yarbrough, who threw the team’s first complete game since 2016.  That is a record of 731 days, over 250 days more than the second-longest streak.  Yarbrough is having an up-and-down season, but he came through to give a taxed bullpen the day off.  Following up his Pitcher of the Month award, Rich Hill through another five scoreless to beat the Texas Rangers, and the 41-year-old continues to defy time.

Second Place: Boston Red Sox (37-23, .5 games back)

The Red Sox had a so-so week record-wise but are now riding a five-game winning streak following a Monday win over the Miami Marlins in a makeup game.  They lost the first three games in Houston when the middle of the order disappeared, but they won on getaway day and then swept the Yankees.  It was their first sweep in the Bronx since 2011.  Sweeps are always satisfying, but they are even more so in the biggest rivalry in sports.  The Red Sox pitched and hit well the whole series, and that continued against the Marlins.  Now they host the Astros and Blue Jays in a measuring stick week.

The 3-4-5 hitters of Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez, and Rafael Devers did not have it Houston, but they turned it around over the weekend.  Devers especially could not hit an Astro fastball, but then he crushed a Michael King fastball to open the Yankee series.  Martinez has been sitting out the last few days, but I would not be concerned about him.  The breakout of the season and for the week belongs to Christian Arroyo, who has an OPS of 1.221 over the past seven days.  He only has 0.6 career WAR, but he has accrued 0.5 of that this season alone.

Not much to say about the pitching staff this week, as many Red Sox arms had one good outing and one bad one, such as Garrett RichardsMartin Perez had his best start of the season, throwing 7.2 shutout innings.  Plus, Phillips Valdez recorded his first career save on Sunday night.  It is worth noting they have the best bullpen ERA in the last week at 2.47.  The Rays better watch out or they will lose their lead in the AL East.

Third Place: Toronto Blue Jays (30-27, 6 games back)

The Blue Jays continue to tread water in the AL East after moving from Dunedin to Buffalo.  They took both games against the Marlins but lost two of three to the Astros, including a 13-1 blowout.  Their offense is strong but the pitching continues to be a problem.  Steven Matz got knocked around and Alek Manoah came back to Earth but the real eyesore was Tyler Chatwood, who gave up five earned runs in just a third of an inning.  That is the equivalent of a 135 ERA, yikes.  It does not get any easier this week, as the Blue Jays face dangerous lineups on the road in the Chicago White Sox and Red Sox.

The offense is keeping them in a lot of games, and it is good Vlad Guerrero Jr. plays for the Jays instead of against them.  The home run leader has been on fire all season, but last week he got five extra base hits and an OPS of 1.444.  He is not alone in the lineup, as Randal Grichuk hit three home runs, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. is making up for lost time after slumping for two months.  It would be nice if Bo Bichette got hot, though.

Fourth Place: New York Yankees (31-29, 6.5 games back)

It is time for the Yankees to hit the panic button.  The men in pinstripes went 2-4 last week but they are on a four game losing streak after being swept at home by the hated Red Sox.  The lineup is nowhere near as good as people thought entering the season, and they are more than a single fix away from jumping up to first.

Beyond great seasons from Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, no other hitter is scary for a pitcher to face.  And of course, the two of them have been injured at times.  The Yankees need to make a blockbuster trade, and it has to be sooner rather than later. Rougned Odor is not cutting it.  Ketel Marte and Trevor Story are available, and the Yankees have to be willing to part with their top prospects to acquire them.  Otherwise, they may as well throw in the towel in the AL East race.

Whether the Yankees turn it around or not, Manager Aaron Boone is on the hottest of hot seats.  He has no answers for how to turn around his team, and he has lost some of his fire from the last few seasons.  Gleyber Torres and Gio Urshela had great weeks, but they will need to be their selves far more often to save their skipper’s job.

Fifth Place: Baltimore Orioles (21-38, 16 games back)

The Orioles had their best week of the season.  After going on a dreadful 14-game losing streak to end the month of May, the Birds flipped over the calendar page and flipped a switch.  They are 4-1 in June, and they poured on 18 runs Sunday against Cleveland, their most in a game since 2015.  Just like the losing streak, the current good feelings won’t last forever, but they sure are fun in the moment.  Baltimore next faces the Mets and the Rays.

The Orioles discovered that the key to winning is pitching well and hitting well.  Ryan Mountcastle won the AL Player of the Week award after hitting .458 with an OPS of 1.563, a welcome sign given his struggles so far this season.  Breakout star Cedric Mullins advanced his All-Star bid after destroying Cleveland pitching.  He got hits in nine straight at-bats, including three home runs.  Mullins’ newfound power is remarkable, as his nine home runs are this season already passed his career totals.

On the mound, rookie Keegan Akin had the best start of his young career, throwing five scoreless innings.  Jorge Lopez and Bruce Zimmermann have also been better lately, and the bullpen is back on track.  Over the last seven days, they have the eighth-best bullpen ERA at 3.60.  But, last week wasn’t all good news as Cy Young candidate John Means landed on the IL.  Hopefully his shoulder fatigue is not so serious.

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