The AL East is probably the most bunched up, wide open division in baseball. No team has emerged as the leader of the pack.The Yankees are on top of the Division but they have lost 4 of their last 5 games including getting blown out in Kansas City on Friday. As the first quarter winds down, here’s the first quarter American League East team report.
New York Yankees(22-16)
Things didn’t start well for the Yankees; they weren’t hitting and the defense was not playing up to par. As of late, the Yankees are the closest to resembling a team that can compete for the division crown. Pineda has been Cy Young worthy so far, and the Yankee bullpen – especially Andrew Miller – are pretty close to lights out. The biggest highlights so far have been sweeping the Red Sox at Fenway in the beginning of May and also taking 2 out of 3 from a hot Mets team, who at the time was the best in the majors. Lately, the Yankees have been scuffling and Pineda who has been great all year got tuned up Friday night by the Royals only going 5.1 innings allowing 10 hits and 5 ER. They are looking to get back on track to start the 2nd quarter. Right now they own a small lead on the Rays who took 3 of 4 games from them this past week. Of course, injuries will play a major key for them to stay at the top of the AL East. Despite the record, the Yankees still have a lot of questions in their rotation and probably can use another bat, but fans can expect them to be active before the trade deadline.
Tampa Bay Rays (20-18)
The Rays are the biggest surprise so far in the AL East. They are currently 2nd in the division and have been playing good as of lately.They were dealt a big blow when Alex Cobb and Drew Smyly were lost for the season. Its pretty amazing that they are over .500 and are two games back from first place. They are a scrappy team lead by the veteran third baseman Evan Longoria and also Logan Forsythe, who arguably has been their best hitter. The Rays have great pitching depth and that is the obvious strength of their team. Jake Odorizzi, Chris Archer and Nate Karns have been pitching well and keeping the Rays afloat. After allowing 11 runs in the first game of the 4 game series against the Yankees, they only allowed 4 runs the rest of the series, which is a big reason why they are 1 game behind them in the standings. Hitting will be the biggest question for the Rays, but so far they always seem to find a way to stay competitive no matter what cards they are dealt.
Boston Red Sox (18-19)
The Red Sox started the season strong and everything was clicking. Hanley Ramirez has provided a punch to say the least in that Boston lineup. Mookie Betts has been playing well at center field and is a weekly participant in ESPN’s Web Gems. David Ortiz is the heart and soul of the Red Sox, but has not gotten off to the start that he is capable of. The biggest concern for the Sox is the pitching staff. They are at the bottom of the majors in ERA, and have been getting very inconsistent outings from their starters. Buchholz had a great outing on Friday which is encouraging for Sox fans. It’s been a roller coaster for them as they have had dramatic wins, as well as some bad losses; including getting swept by their bitter rivals the Yankees in Boston. They are going to get timely hits like they always do, but if they don’t get that pitching under control they could fall in the division. They should be major players at the trade deadline, but are they going to part with any of their prospects? Time will only tell.
Toronto Blue Jays (17-21)
The Blue Jays have an explosive offense, but that’s no secret. Just like the Red Sox, they also have one of the worse ERA’s in the majors. In fact, 2 of the bottom 3 teams with the worst ERA are from the AL East. The Blue Jays don’t have that number one starter that can stop a losing streak. The ageless wonder Mark Buerhle has 5 wins but also has a ERA of over 5. Aaron Sanchez has been their best pitcher but he struggles with inconsistency. One thing the Blue Jays are gonna do is score a lot of runs. Josh Donaldson has been excellent in his first year in Toronto and has been the catalyst to that Blue Jay offense. Its only a matter of time before Encarnacion and Bautista really get things going, and the MLB needs to beware. Kevin Pillar, who is a defensive wiz, and Devon Travis are chipping in nicely as well as Russell Martin in his first year with the Jays. With 17 wins to their name, their offense is getting them by for now, but everyone knows if you don’t have enough pitching it can be a long season. We will wait to see how the season goes but the Jays can turn into sellers at the Trade Deadline if they fall behind.
Baltimore Orioles (15-19)
The Baltimore Orioles were picked by many to win the division. They went into the season with pretty much the same team minus Nelson Cruz returning. But things haven’t started off well for them so far. They are at the bottom of the division and have gone a combined 13-16 against the AL East. Adam Jones has been the best hitter; leading the team in almost every major offensive category. They are top 10 in home runs but are 18th in team ERA and 23rd in fielding percent in addition to committing 23 errors. Just like all the teams in the AL East, they’ve been up and down and lack consistency to make a push toward the top of the division. It has been a very emotional season not only for the team but the city of Baltimore. The city has been in turmoil over the events that happened when of a young man died under police custody in April. Riots and protests proceeded. There was looting, fighting, vandalism and a lot of damage to city businesses and property. Due to a fear of more violence in the city, the Orioles and White Sox had to play a game on April 29th in a empty stadium where no fans where allowed (they ended up getting the victory 8-2 that day). Although tensions between civilians and the police department has since calmed down, a good season from the Orioles can bring the city together. Orioles are 3-7 in their last 10 games, but I think everyone expects them to play better ball as the season continues.
In summary, all the teams have had their moments. The Yankees are two games up now but this division is pretty competitive. I won’t be surprised if the standings look totally different by the all star break. As of now, I don’t think you can predict a clear cut favorite in the East. I see only one team coming out of the division to make the playoffs, so let the race continue.