This is a weekly Monday feature where I’ll look at things that are happening around the AL East, and baseball in general.
Slowly but surely, the Blue Jays are climbing up the American League East ladder. It’s going to be an uphill battle, sure, but the Jays are now tied with Tampa Bay and are two games behind the Orioles. And based on the way the league is shaping up, if you can be in third place in the East, there’s a very good chance you’re going to be one of the Wild Card teams.
American League East
New York Yankees 32-22 (0 GB) +70 run differential
The Yankees haven’t been spectacular as of late, somewhat cooling off since their torrid start, but they’ve managed to stay in the AL East division lead. Last week, they went 3-4, dropping a series to the Orioles and splitting a four-gamer with the Blue Jays, ultimately matching the .500 record they’ve put up over the past three weeks.
It seems the issue for the Yankees is still starting pitching. They haven’t been able to go on a prolonged run because their rotation isn’t really capable of putting up five good starts in a row. You’d think with their offensive firepower this wouldn’t really matter, and the bats would be able to compensate for average pitching, but that’s been all over the grid as of late too. Last week, they lit up Marco Estrada and Chris Tillman, then got shut down by Francisco Liriano and Kevin Gausman.
Masahiro Tanaka has obviously been, and continues to be the big worry in the rotation. Tanaka is supposed to be the staff’s ace, but he’s been walking the tightrope with his forearm injury. His ERA is up to 6.34 on the season now after a seven earned run outing against Baltimore.
Heading into the Red Sox series, it's fair to question who Masahiro Tanaka is at this point in the season. pic.twitter.com/hOgdNjlnCU— YES Network (@YESNetwork) June 5, 2017
Boston Red Sox 31-25 (2 GB) +38 run differential
It just seems like a matter of time until the Red Sox are in first place in the division. I mean, no disrespect to the Yankees or anything, because as we saw last weekend, they’re a fine team, but the Sox are better, and they’re finally getting their wheels rolling. Boston’s offence is slowly starting to click, and their starting rotation is getting back to full health.
Most notably, David Price returned to action last week. He made two starts, one in Chicago against the White Sox and one in Baltimore against the Orioles. Price was a little shaky against Chicago, allowing three runs over five innings, but he was dominant in Baltimore, holding the O’s to three hits and one run over seven. With Price back, the Sox have the closest thing possible to their ideal rotation. Stephen Wright will miss the rest of the season, but the Sox now have Chris Sale, Price, Rick Porcello, Drew Pomeranz, and Eduardo Rodriguez for the first time this season.
Baltimore Orioles 29-26 (3.5 GB) -9 run differential
The last time we checked up on the Orioles they were in a free fall. Last week, the O’s went on a seven-game losing streak and ultimately saw their run differential fall into the negatives. This week, they pulled themselves together going 4-3 over a couple difficult series against the Yankees and Red Sox.
This week’s moderate success came on the back of good pitching from the likes of Wade Miley and Alec Asher. That simply isn’t going to last. The O’s still aren’t getting the offence they need to be successful. Mark Trumbo and Chris Davis have worked out of their terrible slumps, but Manny Machado, who’s really the catalyst in this team’s offence, has struggled all season. Last week, Machado went 6-for-29, and his slash line for the season is a deeply forgettable .219/.296/.442.
Another worry for Baltimore is the play of Chris Tillman, who has a 5.56 ERA over six starts since coming off the DL last month. Tillman made two starts last week. Against New York, he was clowned for five runs in two-and-two-thirds, and against Boston, he allowed three runs in six innings, which seems solid, but he also gave up six hits and four walks.
Tampa Bay Rays 29-30 (5.5 GB) +5 run differential
I keep waiting for the Rays to break out, but it hasn’t happened. In fact, they’re going in the opposite direction. Last week, they were 27-26 with a +26 run differential. Now? The Rays’ run differential has dropped all the way down to +5 after getting the shit kicked out of them by Seattle.
Pitching was the question mark for Tampa Bay coming into the season. Their rotation is decent but far from good, and their bullpen features many question marks. They’ve struggled a bit with injury, but last week, their pitching really got killed. They allowed eight, nine, five, 12, nine, and seven runs. Their offence was able to compensate for it twice, but that isn’t going to happen much. It the Rays are actually going to surprise and compete in this division, they need to do something about their pitching.
Or, maybe their pitching isn’t that bad and Danny Valencia is just that good?
Toronto Blue Jays 28-29 (5.5 GB) -6 run differential
The Jays had a very good week. They swept the Cincinnati Reds, which was paramount because a four-game test against New York came immediately after. It wasn’t pretty, but Toronto managed to squeeze out a split with the Yankees despite getting lit up in two of the games.
The key for the Blue Jays is health. With Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki back from injury the team has a much deeper lineup, obviously. That means guys like Jose Bautista and Kevin Pillar can slump a little bit, as they did this week, and somebody else can compensate for it. The Jays are still five-and-a-half games back of the division, but they kept their heads above water and made up some more ground in the Wild Card race.
. @BlueJays now 7-3 since Donaldson and Tulowitzki returned from DL. If they win next game, they'll be .500 for 1st time since year began.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) June 4, 2017
Boston Red Sox 31-25 (+1.5 GU)
Baltimore Orioles 29-26 (0 GB)
Clevelanders 29-26 (0 GB)
Detroit Tigers 28-28 (-1.5 GB)
Tampa Bay Rays 29-30 (2 GB)
Toronto Blue Jays 28-29 (2 GB)
Los Angeles Angels 29-31 (2.5 GB)
Seattle Mariners 28-30 (2.5 GB)
Texas Rangers 26-31 (4.0 GB)
Chicago White Sox 24-31 (5.0 GB)
Kansas City Royals 24-31 (5.0 GB)
Oakland Athletics 24-32 (5.5 GB)
Would you look at that! Not too long ago, the Jays were in a distant last place in the American league with literally everyone to jump over. Now they’re only two games back of the second Wild Card with six teams behind them. Things can change quickly if you play well, and that’s exactly what the Jays have done.
Things are going well! So what the fuck is this guy doing?!?
Watch a Jays fan repeatedly smack himself in the dick pic.twitter.com/wDOUgxN3RU— NLCS Insider Dinger (@atf13atf) June 3, 2017
Things in New York (on the Mets’ side) uh, aren’t going so well.
Mr. Met has no chill. pic.twitter.com/VDGcnzF1Fl— The Fake ESPN (@TheFakeESPN) June 1, 2017
But we have to talk about the Houston Astros. They’re currently on a 10-game winning streak and have a 41-16 record (!!!) and a 13.5 game lead (!!!) in the AL West. They’re currently on pace for 116 wins, which would tie them with the 1906 Cubs and 2001 Mariners for best regular season record in MLB history.