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American League playoff race weekly recap: August 16th-22nd

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How has the race for October changed in the past week?

MLB: Minnesota Twins at New York Yankees Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Much has happened over the past week in the American League playoff race. If you didn’t get a chance to follow everyone involved, we have a weekly recap including all you need to know. As always, the AL East, AL West, and AL Wild Card race will be discussed, though the AL Central will be left out since the White Sox have an overwhelming 10-game lead.

Who had a good week? Who fell short? What’s the current status? Here’s what went down with every postseason contender.

AL East:

Tampa Bay Rays
Boston Red Sox
New York Yankees
Toronto Blue Jays

AL West:

Houston Astros
Oakland Athletics
Seattle Mariners

Tampa Bay Rays (77-48)

Weekly Record: 6-1

The defending American League champs seem poised to make another postseason appearance.

The week began with a four-game set against a Baltimore Orioles club that currently finds itself in one of the worst losing streaks in modern baseball — 18 in a row after the Braves finished them off on Sunday. That shoddy play was on display during an emphatic four-game sweep by the Rays at the Trop.

An opponent on the other side of the spectrum then came into Tampa, the Chicago White Sox. The Pale Hose won the opener of the weekend series despite a late-inning scare, but the Rays rebounded to win the series by taking the final two games without much of a fight. Second place might have changed in the AL East, but the Rays’ division lead remains solid at 4.5 games.

Next week, the Rays will travel to Philadelphia for a couple of games against the Phillies, and then will have another date with the hapless Orioles, this time in Baltimore.

New York Yankees (72-52)

Weekly Record: 7-0

New York hasn’t lost a game since the team left Iowa. This nine-game winning streak the team is currently on saw a sweep of the Boston Red Sox at home earlier in the week following a dominant performance from Gerrit Cole against the Los Angeles Angels in a make-up game on Monday. They’ve now surged 2.5 games ahead of both Oakland and Boston in the Wild Card race.

The Yankees swept three in a row against the Minnesota Twins before the finale was rained out due to Hurricane Henri. Next week, the schedule marks an interleague two-game set against the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves (also on a nine-game winning streak) down in Georgia, and four at the Coliseum with the Wild Card rival A’s.

Boston Red Sox (70-55)

Weekly Record: 1-4

As mentioned above, Boston had a rough time in New York, though the game immediately after getting swept went about as well as it could. Ace Chris Sale continued his comeback with five scoreless frames in a shutout win over the Rangers back at Fenway, but the Red Sox got smoked by Texas on Saturday, 10-1 before getting rained out today.

The Yankees passed the Red Sox, but they remain neck-and-neck with the A’s in the Wild Card race. Boston will now look to beat up on a couple of AL Central clubs currently below .500. The Red Sox will face Cleveland at home and the Twins in Minnesota next week.

Toronto Blue Jays (64-58)

Weekly Record: 1-4

Losing seven out of your last nine will severely dampen your postseason chances, especially if you’re on the outside looking in to start with. The Blue Jays capped off their road trip with two losses against the flailing Nationals, and at home, things didn’t get any better. Robbie Ray was tremendous, but the bullpen gave away a game against an underwhelming Tigers team. Although Toronto recovered somewhat behind shutout ball from Hyun Jin Ryu in a 3-0 win yesterday, the club lost 5-3 on Sunday to complete an awful week.

The Blue Jays remain stuck behind Seattle in the Wild Card race (4.5 games out overall) and are closer to the sub-.500 Angels than a playoff spot. They’re running out of time, and they have a tough four-game set against the White Sox lined up early in the upcoming week — no picnic even if you’re the home team. They’ll close out the final weekend of August with three games in Detroit.

Houston Astros (73-51)

Weekly Record: 3-4

What are the odds that a division-leading team in 2021 would have three-game losing streaks at various points of the season to the likes of the dismal Royals, Orioles, Rangers, and Tigers? The Astros dropped three in a row in Kansas City at the start of last week before taking the finale, 6-3, and then followed it up by likely relieving some of their frustrations with 12-3 and 15-1 drubbings of Seattle over the next couple days (though the Mariners won on Sunday).

Despite the shaky week, the Astros have maintained their 3.5-game AL West advantage over the similarly up-and-down A’s. The Royals will be in town for three next week, and then it’s off to Texas for another three with the Rangers.

Oakland Athletics (70-55)

Weekly Record: 2-5

Going from the Chicago White Sox to the San Francisco Giants is about as tough of a week as one can get these days, and the A’s just tried to survive it. They dropped three of four in Chicago before taking the Thursday finale and winning the Friday opener against the Giants in the Bay Bridge Series. San Francisco then shocked A’s closer Lou Trivino with a ninth-inning blast to come from behind and win on Saturday ... and then A.J. Puk with an eighth-inning blast to come from behind and win on Sunday. Ouch.

The following week will see out their homestand with two against the Mariners and four against the Yankees. Both will have significant ramifications on the contentious AL Wild Card race, where the A’s and Red Sox remain tied for the second spot (three games ahead of Seattle).

Seattle Mariners (67-58)

Weekly Record: 4-2

Seattle seems to be emptying the tank to stay in the race, but the road to a Wild Card spot in the American League this year is pretty rough to traverse. After a sweep of the Rangers that featured three tight games in a row, Yusei Kikuchi and Logan Gilbert got steamrolled in Houston in back-to-back losses. The Mariners won the finale, but they’re still a few games out in the Wild Card.

The road trip ends with two versus the A’s on Monday and Tuesday, and then the Royals travel to Seattle for a four-game series.