The AL East race has four of the five teams having a legitimate shot at the division title. This is a baseball fans paradise! With just 21 games left in the MLB season, every game is crucial for all four teams. Not only are the teams battling for the division lead, but there is a real possibility that two of the four teams will be playing each other in the AL Wild Card Game. Prior to the start of the season, this division was being discussed as one of the weakest in baseball. Midway through September, it has emerged as the best division in baseball. In today’s post, we break down the four teams including the remaining schedule.
Entering Sunday’s games, the Red Sox had a one game lead over the Blue Jays, a two game lead over the Orioles, and a three game lead over the Yankees. We’ll provide the breakdown in that order.
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox enter Sunday’s game with 10 home games and 11 road games remaining. ALL of their remaining games are against AL East opponents. After today, they’ll have two series left with both the Orioles and Yankees and one series left with the Rays and Blue Jays. In other words, their fate is in their own hands. If they can beat their competition head to head, they’ll put themselves in a very good position.
The Red Sox have the elite offense in MLB, never mind the AL East. There lineup is loaded with good hitters for average, power hitters, and speed. In addition, their starting pitching has really come together. Pick Porcello and David Price have both been pitching like aces. Drew Pomeranz, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Cay Buchholz have all pitched well. If the Red Sox were to get to the ALDS, they would likely be the favorite to get to the World Series considering their offense and starting pitching advantages. However, their bullpen is another story. The Red Sox struggle in close games. Throughout the second half of the season, they have lost many games that they should have won late. This is not a great formula for success against playoff teams and it may be an even bigger problem down the stretch run of the regular season.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays have 11 home games and 10 road games remaining. Included in the 10 road games is a west coast trip to play the Angels and Mariners. They also have one more series against each AL East opponent. They close out the season at Fenway Park against the Red Sox. This is shaping up to be a very big series.
Prior to yesterday’s 3-2 win over the Red Sox, the Blue Jays had lost four consecutive games. They were swept by the Yankees earlier in the week. Talent-wise, this team is very strong. Their lineup has big bats including Edwin Incarnation, Josh Donaldson, and Jose Bautista. Their starting pitching is very solid and is led by J.A Happ and Aaron Sanchez. Like the Red Sox, their bullpen is suspect as it currently ranks 11th in the AL with a 4.04 ERA. Another big point about the Jays is that they have the oldest team in MLB. Will this catch up with them at the end of the season including a trip out west?
The Orioles have 11 home games and 10 road games left. They have seven games against the Red Sox and also have series against every other team in the division. After their series against the Sox, they have a ten game homestead before closing out the season in Toronto and New York.
On paper, the Orioles do not have as much talent as the Red Sox and Blue Jays. While their offense can bash home runs with anyone with players like Mark Trumbo and Manny Machado, they lack the depth top to bottom in their lineup. Their starting pitching has been very weak. In fact, they rank 12th in the AL in starters ERA at 4.84. So, how have the Orioles been competing all year? Their bullpen. The same problem that the Red Sox have it a strength for the Orioles. They have arguably the best closer in baseball in Zach Britton who has 40 saves and 0.64 ERA. When the Orioles get in a close game late, they usually have the advantage.
New York Yankees
The Yankees have 10 home games and 11 road game remaining. They have two series remaining against the Red Sox, and one series against every other AL East Team. In addition, they have a three game series against the Dodgers starting on Monday Night. The Yankees close out the season with their last two series at home against the Red Sox and Orioles.
Six weeks ago, would anyone have guessed that the Yankees would be just three games out in mid-September? This is a team that sold off their elite players including Carlos Beltran, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman. At the time, the Yankees were a borderline .500 team. Now, they’re eleven games over .500. So, how is this all happening? The Yankees have gotten a big boost from Gary Sanchez, but is there any other player who has really stood out? Joe Girardi has done an outstanding job of managing this team to get them in this position. If the Yankees make the playoffs, Girardi should be Manager of the Year. They’ve won seven in a row and are very scary right now. They have nothing to lose because there were no expectations. There’s no pressure on them. They’re just going out and playing good baseball. Expect Fenway Park to be electric when the Yankees come in next weekend.
Four teams within three games in the standings. 21 games to go. Head-to-head matchups across the board in the best division in baseball.
Does it get any better than this?