Welcome to another edition of AL East Roundup, where we give you a look at the week that was as well as some storylines affecting teams in the AL East. With that, let’s jump right into it.
New York Yankees (27-16 overall, 4-3 last week)
The Yankees had eight scheduled games this week because of a doubleheader that was serving as make-up games against the Cleveland Indians. Luckily, only seven of those games were played as Sunday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays was rained out, ironically. The Yankees came into this week only a game up on the Baltimore Orioles, and it stayed that way to end the week. The club traded shutouts with the Indians to start the week, lost their series to the Seattle Mariners, 2-1, but did take both games against the Blue Jays in the weekend series.
The game I wanted to showcase was the beatdown the Mariners put on the Bronx Bombers, 12-2 back on Wednesday. Phil Hughes started the game and recorded only two outs while giving up six hits, seven runs (all earned), two walks, and surrendering one home run. Sadly, Brett Marshall was the sacrificial lamb in his Major League debut, going 5.2 innings giving up nine hits, five runs (all earned), five walks, and two home runs.
The team did see the return of Curtis Granderson to the lineup, and manager Joe Girardi isn’t just slotting him into his regular center field position. Instead, Granderson has seen time in both left and right field, while the team takes advantage of Brett Gardner‘s defense. General manager Brian Cashman made a few moves this week to help bolster the middle infield. Alberto Gonzalez was designated for assignment after the Yankees acquired Reid Brignac from the Rockies. Meanwhile, earlier in the week, infielder Chris Nelson was also designated for assignment when the club called up 3B/2B David Adams. The team is beginning to get some of their injured starters back, so it’ll be interesting to see how Girardi manages the lineup in the coming weeks.
Boston Red Sox (27-17 overall, 5-1 last week)
After a week in which the club went 2-5, the Red Sox turned it around on their most recent road trip. First the club made a stop down in Tampa to take on their division foes the Tampa Bay Rays and took two of three. They outscored the Rays 16-10 in the series, and Jon Lester won the battle of the southpaw aces when he defeated reigning Cy Young Award winner, David Price, 12-2. Lester went seven strong innings giving up eight hits and two runs (both earned). Meanwhile, the Sox continued their great week by sweeping the Minnesota Twins in the weekend series. The game to pick out of this three-game set is the final one, where John Lackey pitched six innings while only surrendering one hit and one run, while striking out five.
Our friends at BoSox Injection said it best by saying the key difference between last year’s Red Sox and the current team is resolve. It’s difficult to argue that point because injuries piled up for last year’s team and when they started to head south record-wise, they couldn’t seem to recover. However, this year’s team has seen two of their best bullpen arms (Andrew Bailey and Joel Hanrahan) go down with injuries, as well as David Ortiz and Shane Victorino on the DL for an extended period of time. They have fought through it each time and are now only a half game out of first place. Their starting pitching continues to pace this club.
Baltimore Orioles (23-20 overall, 0-5 last week)
It was a rough week to be an Orioles fan. If you had to pin it on something, it would be the pitching staff, most notably the bullpen. Closer Jim Johnson had his worst week in recent memory in which he blew a one-run lead against the San Diego Padres with two outs in the ninth. Then, against the Rays with a two-run cushion, he gave up five runs on three hits and blew another save opportunity. It was truly tough to watch, and O’s fans have to be holding their collective breaths knowing a big part of closing is confidence, after being shellacked twice in as many tries, one can make a case that Johnson might see more regression before he turns it around.
Not all is lost though, third baseman Manny Machado is still raking. He had another good week, hitting .304/.304/.565 including four doubles and one triple in 23 plate appearances.
Weeks like this happen to every team. It just goes to show how precious the back of the bullpen can be, they can either lose it or keep teams in games and this week they just couldn’t keep it together. Perhaps the most alarming story out of O’s camp is that this five-game losing streak all came at Camden Yards where they now hold a losing record (9-11) They’re even being outscored, 102-96, at home. All that said, the O’s are still a young team, and young clubs are prone to bouts of inconsistency. We could just as likely see them go on a 6-0 tear next week as we are another 0-fer.
Tampa Bay Rays (23-20 overall, 4-2 last week)
The Rays are still a full four games out of first, but they have gained three games on the division leaders since May 1st. This past week they took four games against division foes, which included a sweep of the Orioles. The Red Sox ended the Rays six-game win streak earlier in the week, and ended up losing back-to-back games. Young upstart, Matt Moore is pitching out of his gourd in the early going this season and he pitched another good one this week. He gave up five hits and one run against the Orioles, while striking out only three against one walk in seven innings. Those numbers have pushed his totals to 8-0 with a 2.29 ERA (4.19 FIP).
On the hitting side, Matt Joyce had a good week batting .300/.364/.700 including two home runs, two doubles, and eight runs batted in 22 plate appearances.
The old adage is, if the Rays are going anywhere, it’ll be because of their pitching. Ironically, the Rays bats are second in baseball in wRC+ (112) trailing only the Cleveland Indians. Meanwhile, their pitching is 22nd in FIP (4.19) and has generally disappointed in the early going. To make matters worse, their ace, David Price, is now on the disabled list with triceps issues. Luckily, the club is stocked with young fresh (and good) arms in the minors and have since called up Jake Odorizzi, whom they acquired from the Kansas City Royals in the James Shields trade.
Toronto Blue Jays (17-26 overall, 2-2 last week)
Because of how the schedule worked out, and how Mother Nature intervened, the Blue Jays only played four games this week. First they invited the reigning World Champions, the San Francisco Giants, to the Rogers Centre for a two-game series, winning both with their bats. The Jays pulverized Giant pitching to the tune of 21 runs, while only giving up nine. It seems as though Jose Bautista has gotten his groove back, he’s hit .306/.422/.583 over the past two weeks. Meanwhile, his partner-in-crime Edwin Encarnacion has one-upped him hitting .343/.444/.657 over that same span.
However, for as much firepower they displayed against the Giants they looked punchless in the rain-shortened weekend series against the Yankees. They scored only two runs while giving up 12, and looked like much of what we’ve seen so far from the Jays this season. Consistency has evaded the team to the north this year.
It seems for every step forward the club makes, they take a step back. The momentum the bats they gained in the series against the Giants were just as quickly washed away against the Yankees, which is why they are in last place in the East and a full 10 games out. It’s difficult to win when your run differential is -45 and your pitching ranks 29th in both ERA (4.81) and FIP (4.69). The Jays are also in the middle of the pack in hitting, placing 18th in wRC+ (94), which is tied with the Yankees. If the Jays want to shoot for the division, or even one of the Wild Card spots, they need to play like they did earlier in the week, rather than the latter half.