I think this is the first time I’ve done one of these recaps that the Yankees actually lost, which means the relative weight of this post is a little higher than the others. The Yankees still have a commanding lead in the AL East, but with all five of their American League rivals in play on Sunday, someone is bound to make a move.
Tampa Bay Rays (43-36) vs. Toronto Blue Jays (44-36)
The latest chapter in the absolute dogfight that is the middle of the AL East went for the Rays, who rode Shane Baz’s six innings with one earned run to win their third straight over the Blue Jays.
Randy Arozarena and Harold Ramirez both had two-run home runs to pace the Rays offense, and Ji-Man Choi added a solo shot that would hold up as the game winner.
The vaunted top four of the Jays’ lineup reached base a total of nine times, but as Yankee fans can attest to, some bad at-bats by the boys lower in the order ended up dooming the Jays, who now hold onto third in the division by just a single game.
Baltimore Orioles (36-44) vs. Minnesota Twins (45-37)
I have no idea who Tyler Wells is, but the 6-foot-8 righty handled a strong Twins lineup, nearly matching Baz’s above line. The Twins managed just seven baserunners against nine strikeouts, a relatively futile performance as they dropped their series finale to the Orioles.
The entirety of Baltimore’s offense came on three solo shots, off the bats of Rougned Odor, Trey Mancini and Ryan Mountcastle, and all surrendered by starter Devin Smeltzer. Minnesota fell to just two games ahead of Cleveland and 4.5 up on the White Sox (13-4 victors over the Giants) in the AL Central.
Los Angeles Angels (37-44) vs. Houston Astros (51-27)
This entire game comes down to one swing:
Framber Valdez was terrific — he struck out 13 batters, part of a franchise-record 20 overall Ks on the day — and the Mike Trout/Shohei Ohtani/Taylor Ward core of the lineup went just 2-11, but Jeremy Peña was really the story of the day.
Peña’s two home runs, including his second walk-off of the season, pushed his wRC+ to 132 and continued his seeming one-upmanship with Seattle’s Julio Rodríguez for AL Rookie of the Year. Perhaps more importantly, he’s had as good, if not better on the defensive end, a better season than Carlos Correa, which sort of justifies this gradual trend across baseball of teams being ok with letting their veteran free agents walk.
The Astros swept the Angels over the weekend, and a nightmare season for the boys down in Anaheim goes on and on.
Boston Red Sox (44-35) vs. Chicago Cubs (32-47)
Leave it to the Red Sox to be just about the only game left on a Sunday aside from the primetime affair. The Sox and Cubs played 11 innings at Wrigley, and it wasn’t really that exciting a game, with runs coming in only four frames, and even the eventual game-winner coming, not on a home run or booming double to the gap, but a throwing error to first where Manfred Man Bobby Dalbec and Christian Arroyo were able to scamper home.
So we have three teams trailing the Yankees in the AL East, separated by one single game with the Red Sox closest at 13.5 behind. With the Yankees off July 4th, they’ll have a day to see if these murky waters become even a tad more clear, with all three of the AL East hopefuls in action.