It’s time for another weekly recap of everything that’s happened with the playoff contenders in the American League. After seemingly building a comfortable AL West advantage akin to the AL Central-leading White Sox, the Astros were removed from discussion last week. However, a shaky week has brought them close enough to at least be mentioned again, even if it remains a long shot that they fail to win the division.
On another note, the Rays were written up due to just barely fitting the parameters for inclusion the other day, and the work on those comments will stand. However, they will not be mentioned next week if their AL East advantage remains over seven games. Their dominance of the division will almost certainly be too much to overcome.
Here are the teams that we’ll discuss:
Tampa Bay Rays (86-51)
Playoff Status: 1st in AL East
Weekly Record: 4-2
At this point in the season, the Rays’ coronation as AL East champions for the second year in a row seems somewhat inevitable. Anything can happen in baseball, but it is their division to lose at 7.5 games ahead of the Yankees and eight in front of the Red Sox at week’s end. To compete year-after-year with lesser resources while going head-to-head with the likes of Boston and New York is truly remarkable.
Tampa Bay had a big four-game set against Boston, which ended in a split. That essentially maintained the status quo in both the division and Wild Card race. The Rays followed that series up by taking two out of three at the Trop against the last-place Twins, and they could’ve swept considering they only lost the finale by one run.
Next up for the Rays is a road trip of three games apiece in Boston and Detroit.
New York Yankees (78-58)
Playoff Status: 2nd in AL East; 1st in AL Wild Card
Weekly Record: 2-4
New York’s week began with the end of a West Coast road trip and an unfortunate series loss to the Angels, only averting a sweep in the finale to snap a four-game losing streak. Back at Yankee Stadium, they squeaked out an extra-innings win over Baltimore on Friday before allowing the lowly Orioles to embarrass them at Yankee Stadium on back-to-back afternoons. A week of poor play against the Angels and Orioles is not going to be well-received by anyone in the fanbase.
The Blue Jays come into town for a four-game set starting on Monday, and then it’s time for a weekend Subway Series at Citi Field. At this point, the Yankees are far behind the Rays and realistically playing for a Wild Card spot.
Boston Red Sox (79-60)
Playoff Status: 3rd in AL East; 2nd in AL Wild Card
Weekly Record: 4-3
Once comfortable leaders of this competitive division, the Red Sox are now fighting hard to cling to that last playoff spot. The ballclub bounced back from two losses at the hands of Rays to open the week with four straight victories, a streak that stretched into their weekend set against Cleveland. Boston lost the Sunday finale, but still sits just half a game behind New York for the top Wild Card position. Oakland’s awful week also means that they now have a three-game edge on Seattle, who is now their closest Wild Card competition.
Next week, it’s about as hard as they come in the American League these days with three at home versus Tampa and another three on the road against the White Sox.
Toronto Blue Jays (73-62)
Playoff Status: 4th in AL East; tied for 4th in AL Wild Card
Weekly Record: 5-1
The Jays remained alive by taking two out of three from the Orioles and coming back from down 8-2 in the eighth against the A’s to win the incredible opener of that three-game set. That recovery paved the way for a dominant sweep of Oakland in which they plated 29 runs in total. They still trail Boston by four games in the Wild Card race, but they’re hot and hanging in there.
The team will travel for a couple of series against divisional opponents: four in New York and three in Baltimore. It’s unlikely, but if they can find a way to sweep the Yankees, they would suddenly be just half a game behind them.
Houston Astros (79-57)
Playoff Status: 1st in AL West
Weekly Record: 2-4
Getting blanked on back-to-back games against the Mariners certainly raised an eyebrow. However, the Astros are still in prime position for another division title, even after losing a three-game set to the Padres, clinched on a walk-off homer by Jake Cronenworth. They lead Seattle by 4.5 games.
Houston will head home next week to play a pair of AL West rivals in the Mariners and Angels.
Seattle Mariners (75-62)
Playoff Status: 2nd in AL West; 3rd in AL Wild Card
Weekly Record: 5-1
Playing with house money, Seattle is still alive after shutting out Houston for 18 straight innings and earning a satisfying victory for newly-promoted team president Jerry Dipoto when Abraham Toro hit a late grand slam off the man he was dealt for: former M’s closer Kendall Graveman. Seattle kept the positive energy going during their weekend set in Arizona, pushing their winning streak to five in a row as the swept the D-backs aside.
The schedule is the same for next week, with three-game series against the Astros and D-backs — this time in Houston and then back at home to face Arizona. If they can shock baseball and sweep the Astros, then they would not only keep the pressure on Boston for the Wild Card, but also only be a game and a half behind them entering play on Thursday.
Oakland Athletics (74-63)
Playoff Status: 3rd in AL West; tied for 4th in AL Wild Card
Weekly Record: 2-4
Winning two out of three in Detroit at this point in the season is the minimum you can do in the middle of a postseason chase, and losing a game that you led by six with not many outs to go (as they did on Wednesday) is beyond frustrating. Remarkably, Oakland blew another six-run lead on Friday in Toronto, losing in walk-off fashion. That set the tone for a brutal sweep, securing a 2-4 week that dropped them behind Seattle and Toronto.
The A’s will seek a better showing ahead, as they square off at the Coliseum against the White Sox and Rangers.