AL East Roundup (5/13 Edition)

Welcome back to another edition of the AL East Roundup, where we’ll provide some storylines and analysis from the week that was. I hope everybody had a great Mother’s Day weekend, let’s get started.

New York Yankees (23-13 overall, 5-1 last week)

Wells continues to exceed expectations (Image: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports)

The Yankees continue to fight through injuries on their way to the top spot in the AL East. They faced the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field earlier in the week and scored only six runs in the three-game set, while being shutout in one of them. The Yanks haven’t had much luck at Coors, but they scratched out two of three behind some great pitching from Hiroki Kuroda (tough-luck loser in the first game), David Phelps, and CC Sabathia/Adam Warren.

In the second series of the week, the Yankees swept the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Phil Hughes and Andy Pettitte got back on track after a few poor starts each, and Kuroda pitched another gem and was rewarded with a win. Meanwhile, Vernon Wells, who had previously been lost at the plate for the better half of two weeks, collected six hits (two home runs) in 21 plate appearances (.286 batting average).

  • Analysis:

Coming into the season the Yankees needed to rely on their veteran-laden pitching staff to carry them until their power came back. With Curtis Granderson currently on a rehab assignment in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, the club will be glad to have him back. The question becomes, which one of Ichiro Suzuki or Wells takes a seat? The pitching staff has done their job for the most part, and the scrap heap free agent pick ups have exceeded expectations in order to help navigate through the early season injury disaster.

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Baltimore Orioles (23-15 overall, 4-2 last week)

The O’s were second the AL East last week, and they haven’t moved this week. Their consistency is indicative of how the culture has changed in Baltimore under manager Buck Showalter. They took both series’ this week facing both the the Royals and Minnesota Twins. Against the former, they were outscored 12-11, but won two of three. Meanwhile, Tommy Hunter pitched very well out of the ‘pen for the O’s this week by collecting two wins and striking out four hitters in 3.2 innings of work.

The bats came to life in the Twins series as the O’s plated 20 runs en route to another series win. Third baseman, Manny Machado, continues to rake in his first full season by collecting nine hits in 16 at-bats (.563 batting average), which included two RBI and three runs scored. The kid has a solid .331/.370/.521 slash line this season. The bats exploded in the first game against the Twins when the O’s spotted them six runs before they clawed their way back into the game and eventually won it in extras, 8-6.

  • Analysis:

While hitters carried the team in the second series of the week, it was the pitchers who kept the team in their first series. Speaking of pitchers, FanSided’s own Randy Buchman of Birds Watcher opined that the O’s have stockpiled a ton of pitchers lately under GM Dan Duquette, which has helped after injuries to some of their starters. Again, the O’s are following the same formula they did last year, pitching keeps them in the game, and the batters get timely hits. They are a pesky bunch of youngsters, and as long as Showalter and Duquette are running the show, the club will always contend.

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Boston Red Sox (22-16 overall, 2-5 last week)

It was a rough week for the Red Sox as they lost a four-game series to the Twins and a three-game series to division rivals Toronto Blue Jays. Perhaps the worst part was both series’ were at Fenway. Twice last week their pitching staff gave up more than 10 runs, which is the exact opposite of how Boston won their games earlier in the year. Overall, in their last ten games they’ve gone 2-8 and have lost their slim lead in the AL East.

After an excellent April in which Ryan Dempster held opponents to a paltry .187/.279/.364 slash line against him in 122 plate appearances, he has regressed toward the mean. Last month he allowed four homers, but in May, he’s already given up five, including three in yesterday’s game against the Blue Jays.

  • Analysis

The Red Sox were hit with an injury bug this month. First, Andrew Bailey goes down with a bicep injury that’ll likely keep him out until sometime this week, maybe a little longer. Meanwhile, closer Joel Hanrahan is out for the season after it was found he needs his flexor tendon repaired, which he might opt to have Tommy John surgery if there’s damage to the UCL as well. Finally, outfielder Shane Victorino (.308/.370/.393, 108 wRC+) crashed awkwardly into the right field fence at Fenway and injured his ribs; his status going forward is unknown. Good teams find a way around injuries, and last year the Red Sox buckled when player after player went down. However, this is a different team under manager John Farrell, one where pitching is paramount to their success, not hitting. Losing two of your best bullpen arms in successive weeks is very tough to overcome.

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Longoria continues his hot hitting this season (Image: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

Tampa Bay Rays (19-18 overall, 5-2 last week)

Don’t look now, but the Rays just might be making their yearly push to the top. After a disappointing April in which they went 12-14, they’ve started May with a 7-4 record. Saying that, they rattled off five wins against below-average teams in the Blue Jays and the San Diego Padres this week. Only one starter earned a win (Matt Moore), as many of their wins came from runs scoring in the 7th inning or later. Against the Padres on Saturday they were down 6-5 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth before Evan Longoria launched a two-run home run into the left center field seats at the Trop. All in all last week, they scored 44 runs and surrendered 34 in seven games, which is a shade below giving up five runs per contest.

  • Analysis

This is how the Rays got to the playoffs in years past, timely hitting in the later innings coupled with great starting pitching. They have a tough road for the rest of the month as they face all AL East competition. They’ll play the Red Sox and Yankees at home, while the series against the Orioles and Blue Jays will be on the road. Longoria continues his dominance at the plate, hitting .333/.403/.610 with nine home runs and 26 RBI. However, outside James Loney‘s .376/.429/.560 slash line, the Rays offense ranks in the middle of the pack in the AL.

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Toronto Blue Jays (15-24 overall, 4-3 last week)

It’s been a rough year for the Jays, but they recorded a winning record against AL East opponents this week against the Rays and Red Sox. Ricky Romero made his second start of the season and he continues his descent by giving up three runs on four hits while recording only one out in his start against the Rays. Not much else to say other than this team has the pieces to make some noise, but they just haven’t put it all together yet, but this week was a positive step in the right direction.

  • Analysis

While they still remain 9.5 games back in the division, their bats are beginning to make some headway, especially Jose Bautista‘s. He lifted his average nearly 20 points (from .228 to .246) after going on a tear this week (.318/.407/.727) including two home runs and three doubles. Likewise, Edwin Encarnacion had a good week, hitting .286/.407/.571 with two home runs and six RBI. On the hitting side, these two need to come to life a bit more if the Jays want to make a run at the playoffs. This lineup has the potential to put up some gaudy numbers, it’s the pitching that needs to limit the runs a tad more.

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Food for Thought

  • With Grandersoncoming back for the Yankees, who takes seat in the outfield: Wells, Brett Gardner, or Ichiro?
  • Are the O’s the same team as the Rays were circa 2008-2011?
  • Bad pitching hurt the Red Sox last season, with the new injuries to the back end of the pitching staff, is the club doomed again?
  • If a long-term injury to Longoria were to occur, would the Rays season be done for?
  • Outside Bautista, who is one player that really needs to get it going for the Jays?

Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs. Injury notes courtesy of Baseball Prospectus

Topics: Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays

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