Some of the biggest complaints I hear about baseball are how slow the games are, or how the long the season lasts. But for me, those are some of the best parts of the game. One week you’re on top, the next you’re clawing for a wild card spot.
Take the American League East, for example. The entire division has been a scramble for first since the start of the season. The five teams have bounced from first, to second, to third and back to second, with the exception of the Tampa Bay Rays who have been sitting comfortably in the last place spot for some time now. Current standings have Toronto in first, with Boston just two games behind. Baltimore rides the heels of the Sox just three games out, with the Yankees trailing behind at 6.5 games.
With a little over a month of baseball left and a playoff spot still entirely possible for Boston, Sox fans must consider who will be their biggest threat for the remainder of the season: Baltimore or Toronto.
Back in June or July, Baltimore would have been the clear choice. The Orioles and Red Sox passed off first place throughout the two months, as Toronto began gaining ground on the two. Currently, the Orioles have the worst post All Star break record in the division (21-25) while the Jays have the best (24-18).
Prior to losing to Baltimore Tuesday night, the Jays had won five of their last seven. Baltimore, on the other hand, had lost four of their last seven games. The Orioles’ rotation has been moved around since ace Chris Tillman injured his shoulder earlier last week. His replacement? Ubaldo Jimenez. At the All Star Break, Jimenez held a 7.38 ERA before being sent to the bullpen, where even there Buck Showalter hesitated to use him. Since back in the rotation, Jimenez has had two impressive starts against fairly decent teams. Despite the so far so good comeback for Jimenez, Baltimore’s pitching as a whole has been nothing short of awful. They hold a 4.94 ERA as a team, third from the worst in the division. Toronto on the other hand ranks first in the division, posting a team ERA of 3.75 with 696 strikeouts.
The Blue Jays have also been hot hitters lately. In their last seven games, Toronto has hit 14 homers and had 50 RBI’s, with 6 of the homeruns coming from third baseman Josh Donaldson. Baltimore has homered 11 times, but with only 36 RBI’s in the last seven days. Toronto’s position might seem somewhat familiar, as they were in roughly this same spot last year, with the Yankees rather than Boston trailing behind.
It goes without saying how important this last month will be for all three teams as they all remain in the hunt. These last 30 games will be mostly divisional, with the Jays matching up with the Orioles once more, and two series each with the Sox, Rays and Yankees.
With all of that said, let’s not completely rule out Tampa Bay. They do have a rally praying mantis on their side after all.