Teamwork is often the most underrated aspect of baseball in a league full of individual performances. The MLB is often overshadowed by one or two players on a team making key plays night after night, but the AL East has been changed this year. In a division damaged by injuries since spring training, the teams have overcome them and become a treat to watch nightly.
It appears that the Boston Red Sox are back from their 2012 slump and are ready to make a deep run into the playoffs. It might be early, but there is again reason to celebrate at Fenway Park thanks to John Farrell’s ball-club. Led by ace Clay Buchholz who still is posting an ERA of under 1.80, the pitching staff has been getting the job done against powerful offenses.
They have a pretty nice offense of their own as well, starting with David Ortiz who is having a typical “Big Papi” year. He’s hitting .319 with 16 big flies and is terrorizing AL East pitching. You might not want to get behind in the count against Ortiz as he owns a .378 average when ahead in the count. The whole roster is playing great baseball and Ortiz is no exception.
Most seasons you’d expect the New York Yankees to be right around the top of the East, but this year you might be able to label them one of the league’s biggest surprises. Sure, they’re still those Bronx Bombers, but riddled by injuries, you would expect them to be rounding out the division simply because of the players that have been forced just to watch from the dugout. Looking at the lineup most nights you’ll see non-marquee names. Looking at the final box-score however, you will start to notice shocking statistics night-after night. This team has fought hard and battled with make-shift lineups and spot starts from many different players. Currently tied for 2nd in the division with the Baltimore Orioles, New York is making the best of a wild season.
For the Orioles, they are putting together their 2nd straight winning season after going years struggling to put up just one. Buck Showalter has coached this team from top to bottom and is making them a squad that is no longer taken lightly. The pitching hasn’t been perfect, but with offensive performances from red-hot bats like Chris Davis and Adam Jones, the O’s have done enough to be in the thick of the playoff hunt. The upcoming series against the Yankees will be critical to leapfrog them in the division and inch closer to the top. They’ll have to rely on their young pitching at home to excel against the pinstripes.
The Tampa Bay Rays are currently sitting at fourth in the division and two games back in the wild card race. Some expected them to cruise through the schedule and sit atop the East in June, but the loss of David Price has been brutal. Price, who made his last start against Boston back on May 15th, is currently working his way back and trying to add another boost to the staff. While they are only 5.5 games back, the Rays could use some regular pitching performances from Price.
On offense, James Loney is adding a great deal of firepower to the lineup. He’s hitting .308 with a current 8-game hitting streak and will look to do more damage in the upcoming series against Detroit. Loney played in his 1000th career game this week, and is inching closer to grabbing his 1000th MLB hit. He’s not known for his power, so keeping his average above .300 will bode well for Tampa Bay.
If you’re looking to give out a “surprise of the year” award, you can hand it out to the Toronto Blue Jays. The Jays have been surging lately, winning 12 of their last 14 games and outscoring opponents 75-36. Teamwork has been and will continue to be the biggest thing for this team. They haven’t been hitting for average, instead for power. If the Jays can keep hitting top to bottom, expect them to do even more damage before the all-star break.