Less than seven weeks left and that AL East race is really shaping up. Sure, I often talk about the potential for great races down the stretch, but isn't that what makes being a baseball fan fun? Games that are essentially playoff games before the actual playoffs? For a while, it looked like the only jockeying might be for the wild card spots.
Instead, how does the AL East look right now?
The Red Sox have won five in a row to make this thing a menage-a-trois at the top. It must be noted that the Orioles and Red Sox occupy the two AL wild card spots right now, but the Mariners are only two games back. Even if all three AL East playoff teams make the playoffs, we have to consider the desire to skip the one-and-done playoff. That's a no-fun proposition to either go home after one postseason game or burn one of your frontline pitchers while the top seed lines it up how they want it.
The head-to-head crime coming up should be great, too. The Red Sox and Orioles play eight more times. The Blue Jays and Orioles square off six more times, including a three-game series in the final week. The Blue Jays also have a three-game series the last week (the last three games of the season, actually) as part of their six remaining bouts with the Red Sox.
Each team obviously has its strengths and weaknesses, but they all have some serious home-run power on offense. The Jays and Orioles, respectively, are the top two home-run hitting teams in baseball, respectively. The Red Sox have seven players with at least 12 homers and two -- David Ortiz and Mookie Betts (for more on Mookie, check out the Red Sox comment below) -- with at least 27.
You know what this means?
Fireworks are coming to the East. We're gonna see huge comebacks (like the Orioles on Sunday night or Blue Jays on Tuesday night), ridiculous individual performances (like Mookie Betts on Sunday and Tuesday) and some unbelievable clutch hits (we're aren't gonna list the dozens of capable players here).
Interestingly, the Yankees aren't even that far away at 5 1/2 back. No, I don't consider them a contender here, but they have a chance, albeit a very small one. They play the Orioles nine more times while facing the Red Sox eight times and Blue Jays seven times. So there's plenty of time to take care of business themselves.
And if you hate the AL East, this is a win-win. You can root for them to all beat up on each other and in the process leave the door open for the two wild cards to come from the other divisions. The Mariners, Tigers and Astros are close enough to the two spots for that to happen.
Please feel free to contact me with comments either on Twitter (@MattSnyderCBS) or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, allow me to remind you that if we disagree about something, one of us is either stupid or biased -- maybe both. It's probably not me, either.
|Jason Hammel's career splits show a drastically different pitcher in the first half (3.99 ERA) vs. the second half (5.15 before this season). This time around, Hammel has a 0.95 ERA in six second half starts. And he's arguably the Cubs' worst starting pitcher.||--||0-0|
|I count four players who would probably get at least one down-ballot vote for Cy Young and this attack teams with one of the better offenses in the NL.||--||0-0|
|The lead had dwindled to two, but now it's back up to six with the Tribe taking five of their last six games.||3||0-0|
|Hey Mariners and Astros: Do you have dreams of running the Rangers down? Better hurry. The Rangers' final 15 games come against the A's, Angels, Brewers and Rays.||1||0-0|
|J.A. Happ, 20-game winner? "No way that's possible," should have been the reply a few months ago. Yet he's 16-3 right now.||1||0-0|
|Few fill the stat sheet like Mookie Betts. He's in the top 10 in the AL in hits, runs, doubles, triples, home runs, RBI, stolen bases, total bases, extra-base hits, times on base, average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, WAR and many more. A lot of those are top five, too. Oh, here's a number: 23. That's his age.||2||0-0|
|Zach Britton has a chance to move into a "best closer season ever" discussion if he continues along this path.||2||0-0|
|Back on May 11, my intro topic in the Official Power Rankings was a discussion of having three straight seasons in MLB with a team ending a drought and going to the playoffs. The main topic was the Mariners having the longest MLB playoff drought and having a shot this year. Well, they are surging with 11 wins in 14 games.||1||0-0|
|I liked the Rich Hill/Josh Reddick deal for the Dodgers when they made it and it could still turn out very well for this season. As things stand, though, Hill's blister continues to linger (he might start Saturday) while Reddick is hitting .163/.192/.183 since the trade.||2||0-0|
|Add Matt Holliday to the list, as the Cardinals have been absolutely ravaged by key injuries. Adam Wainwright and Mike Leake pitching closer to 5.00 than 4.00 ERAs doesn't help either. Yet here they are in playoff position. Resilient, this bunch.||4||0-0|
|Here they come again? That's wins in 8 of 11 with series wins over the Dodgers and Giants on a very tough West coast road trip.||4||0-0|
|A three-game sweep at the hands of the Mariners last week and now two straight losses to the Royals, who seem to have designs on crawling back into contention. I know the Tigers have the ridiculously easy schedule I mentioned last week, but do they seem to be playing with fire.||2||0-0|
|Wednesday marks the first day they entered in second place since May 11.||2||0-0|
|I realize this will be difficult (impossible?) for many to admit, but the youth movement Yankees are pretty fun. Well, at least offensively.||2||0-0|
|Was just starting to think a Marlins wild card game would be really fun. Envision something like a Jose Fernandez vs. Clayton Kershaw or Madison Bumgarner matchup, for example. Instead, it's hard to see them playing well enough through Giancarlo Stanton being out for the season (and several other key injuries) to make that happen.||3||0-0|
|Is it too late for a playoff run? Probably. Nevertheless, the Royals have won eight of their last 10. This group had a white-hot August run two years ago, too. If nothing else, it's interesting. (Also, Alex Gordon red hot since the comment last week. The reverse-jinx!).||3||0-0|
|The Astros went 23-10 in Dallas Keuchel's starts last season. This year, they are 10-14.||--||0-0|
|Since June 24, the Diamondbacks are 9-29 against every other team, but 4-1 against the Mets. Mets, go sit in the corner and think about what you've done. This type of behavior cannot be tolerated from someone who fancies himself a "contender." XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX||5||0-0|
|At 7 1/2 out, are the Phillies on the periphery of the NL wild card race? Probably not, but who am I to stand in the way of Phillies fans who would like to say otherwise? Go nuts. Scoreboard watch!||3||0-0|
|Charlie Blackmon has nine homers and 15 RBI in his last 11 games. Just imagine having that kind of an insane streak at the big-league level. (Oh, and six of those homers came on the road, WELL ACTUALLY COORS FIELD guy).||2||0-0|
|You know what's pretty cool? Seeing Justin Morneau have a productive season at the plate since joining up late.||1||0-0|
|Brad Miller since the All-Star break? .311/.386/.613 with 10 homers and 23 RBI in 29 games. He's only 26, too. Late bloomer, perhaps? He's shattered his previous career high of 11 home runs in a season with 23 and counting.||6||0-0|
|"The A's went 2-5 and they moved up! How is that possible?" Look below, pal. Taking three of four from the Orioles in a series that ended last Wednesday has to carry the day amidst this junk.||1||0-0|
|Joey Votto's second half is easy to notice, but pay attention to Billy Hamilton's. He doesn't have to get on base at a high clip to be a huge basepath threat.||1||0-0|
|Much like the A's, this isn't a bump based as much on merit as it is some really awful baseball going on behind this spot.||5||0-0|
|Five losses in their last seven games, so I'm contemplating rescinding the awesome nickname I've given them.||5||0-0|
|The Brewers have lost seven of their last 10 and the only team they play below .500 from now until Sept. 12 is the Rockies (three-game series in Milwaukee Aug. 22-24). That's 22 of their next 25 against winning teams and the three isn't against a terrible team by any stretch. So I guess it's time to pivot over to "Go Pack Go!"||1||0-0|
|They snapped an 11-game losing streak Tuesday night.||5||0-0|
|28-year-old rookie Ryan Schimpf played in 733 minor-league games before finally making the majors back in mid-June. So far he has 12 homers in only 151 at-bats. That includes two 2-HR games, the latest being this past Friday.||--||0-0|
|DANSBY SWANSON ALERT. THIS IS NOT A DRILL!||3||0-0|