Rays fans, he's your entire offense. (Image: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

AL East Notes & Analysis: The 5/6 Edition


Hello everybody, my name is Jimmy Kraft and I’ll be giving you a quick glance at the AL East, as well as some analysis, every Monday. You might remember me from my writing days over at Yanks Go Yard, and for those who haven’t visited YGY, get over there, after you read this posts, of course.

Now that introductions are out of the way, let’s get into the meat of this series.

Boston Red Sox (20-11 overall, 2-4 last week)

Buchholz is 6-0 to begin the season and he’s making his case as an early Cy Young Award frontrunner (Image: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)

After rattling off five wins — including a four-game sweep of the Houston Astros — the AL East-leading Red Sox took two of three from their division rival Toronto Blue Jays before being swept by the Texas Rangers to end their road trip.

The offense scored 20 runs against the Jays, while getting two fantastic starts from Clay Buchholz and Ryan Dempster, both of whom went at least six innings. The pitching resurrection is the key component so far for the Red Sox out of the gate and under manager John Farrell, it looks to continue going forward.

However, on the flip side, the club only scored four runs, including being shutout once against the Rangers, while giving up 16. Felix Doubront looked atrocious in his latest start, giving up 12 hits and six earned runs. Our boys over at BoSox Injection opined that this southpaw’s seat might be getting warm. Meanwhile, John Lackey turned in a decent performance (five innings, six hits and three runs), but the offense could only muster one run.

  • Analysis:

The Sox welcome the Minnesota Twins and the underwhelming Blue Jays to Fenway Park this week. Jacoby Ellsbury is turning it around recording a .308/.379/.308 slash line over the past week. Meanwhile, David Ortiz is still raking (.316/.381/.789). Dustin Pedroia had an awful week (.160/.222/.160), but with the upcoming homestand, he’ll likely get back on track. The bullpen lost Andrew Bailey for at least the next two weeks to a bicep injury, so Craig Breslow will take his place for the time being.

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Baltimore Orioles (19-13 overall, 4-3 last week)

The O’s came into last week down 3.5 games to the Red Sox, but now are only a game and a half behind. They played their last seven out on the west coast against the Seattle Mariners and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and ultimately took three of four against the latter. They scored 30 runs over that seven-game span while giving up 29. Chris Tillman tossed a gem against the Angels going eight strong while giving up no runs on three hits. Jason Hammel picked up two wins this week to push his record to 5-1.

On the hitting side, the O’s dodged a major bullet after getting good news on Chris Davis. The lefty masher pulled up lame when trying to beat out a groundball against the Angels, but he was back in the starting lineup the next day. The same cannot be said about starter Miguel Gonzalez, who ripped the blister off his thumb and is questionable for this next start.

  • Analysis:

Baltimore just seems like those pesky Tampa Bay Rays teams of the late 2000’s, they always seem to stick around. They are getting some great production from their starters, while boasting one of the better bullpens in the league. Their best hitters (Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Nate McLouth, and Davis) are tearing the cover off the ball. It’s really more of the same from a club that overachieved in 2012, and it’s a recipe that has followed Buck Showalter wherever he’s managed.

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New York Yankees (18-12 overall, 3-3 last week)

While the O’s gained a game on the Yankees, the Bombers gained a game on the Red Sox. The team continues to deal with injuries as Kevin Youkilis will be out for until at least mid-May, Francisco Cervelli was put on the 60-Day DL and will be out until late-June, while Eduardo Nunez and David Robertson are battling nagging ailments that have kept them day-today.

But alas, the team took two of three from the Astros and lost two of three to the Oakland A’s. In the former, the Yankees were embarrassed by the lowly Astros in the first game as Andy Pettitte was touched for seven runs on 10 hits in 4.1 innings. Pettitte didn’t fare better in his next start as he labored through five innings giving up three runs, but it was the bullpen who couldn’t hold on late. Meanwhile, Phil Hughes continues to shine as he turned in a beautiful performance against the A’s going eight innings, giving up four hits and no runs while striking out nine A’s on the way to a win.

  • Analysis:

The Yankees have struck gold in the early going with Vernon Wells and Travis Hafner providing much of the offense, power-wise. Ichiro Suzuki is beginning to turn it around at the dish after a very slow start. Reinforcements are on the way in the form of Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixiera, both of whom are due back some time later this month, along with the ever-fragile Youkilis, which will definitely make the lineup more dangerous.

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Tampa Bay Rays (14-16 overall, 2-3 last week)

The Rays faced an old friend in James Shields when they opposed the Royals at Kauffman Stadium this past week. It didn’t end well for the Rays, who only plated two runs in a 8-2 loss. The team has struggled to hit throughout the year so far with Evan Longoria doing most of the heavy lifting (.301/.370/.522, 146 wRC+). However, it’s the players around him like Yunel Escobar (.174/.237/.279) and Desmond Jennings (.237/.305/.412) who are just not getting it done.

Saying that though, the offense wasn’t the problem last week as the Rays posted at least seven runs in three of their five games, winning two of those matchups. On the flip side, it was the pitching that uncharacteristically gave up a ton of runs. In those same five matchups, the Rays gave up at least eight runs in three of them. It was a weird flip-flop for the team this week.

  • Analysis:

Many counted out the Rays, including myself, when they struggled early on last year. Remember, pitching is king and the Rays have a wealth of it. Manager Joe Maddon is known for rallying the troops at the 11th hour, and while being 5.5 games out of first in the AL East isn’t the end of the world the team needs to get back to its proven formula — great pitching with timely hitting — in order to keep up.

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Toronto Blue Jays (11-21 overall, 2-5 last week)

I’ll do my best not to pile on the Blue Jays as they get enough of it. However, it’s difficult not to be astounded by how poorly they’ve jelled, and there seems to be absolutely no answer for immediate short-term help. They lost starter Josh Johnson to a tricep injury and he’ll likely be out until mid-May, while Ricky Romero is questionable for his start on Wednesday against the Rays.

The team, as a whole this past week, looked lost. Before yesterday’s blowout of the Mariners (10-2), the Blue Jays scored a paltry three runs in four games (!!) with one being a shutout. To be fair, they had opportunities to win two of those games by just couldn’t muster any offense.

  • Analysis:

One has to wonder at this point, how much of a leash does John Gibbons have? He was given a roster stocked with good hitters and a good starting staff, replete with the the reigning NL Cy Young winner in RA Dickey. Many pundits thought the Blue Jays would run away with the division, but as history has shown us, putting the most superstars on the field doesn’t guarantee wins. The Jays are currently almost 10 games out of the division in early May, they will need to go on a tear over the next five months to climb back in it, but at this rate they might become sellers at the deadline.

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It’s a little late in the day to publish this as today’s games are rolling, but we’ll have this up and going in the morning on Monday’s going forward. In the meantime, let us know how you feel about the AL East so far.

Questions:

  • Can the Red Sox’ pitching hold up?
  • Can the cardiac kids in Baltimore continue their pesky ways?
  • Will the reinforcements in the Evil Empire put the Yankees over the top?
  • Can the Rays find a good offense-pitching balance?
  • Will the Blue Jays find “it” and turn their season around?

Let us know!

Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs

Tags: Boston Red Sox Clay Buchholz