BOSTON — It’s nearly June, and the Red Sox are sitting pretty atop the American League East, 11 games above .500 and two games ahead of the second-place Baltimore Orioles. So the question now is, which teams have the best chance of unseating the Red Sox through the All-Star break and beyond?
Competition in the AL East historically has been fierce, and even the teams that don’t have a shot at the playoffs always wind up with the chance to take the postseason away from the ones that do. (Remember 2011, anyone?) So, with the Red Sox about to play 10 consecutive games against division opponents, here’s how we see their competition stacking up.
The O’s remain Boston’s biggest opponent at this point, mostly by virtue of them not having as much ground to cover. Still, we’re not 100 percent convinced by this Baltimore team. Much like the Red Sox, the Orioles have a pretty underwhelming rotation, whose 4.45 ERA ranks 17th in Major League Baseball. Baltimore’s starters even collectively have a losing record at 14-15. But the bullpen has been holding things down, and the Orioles still have a pretty scary lineup. Honestly, they’re just so similar to the Red Sox that you can’t help but be afraid of them.
2. Toronto Blue Jays
The Jays are a surprise this season at one game under .500, but should Boston and Baltimore’s respective offenses run out of steam, Toronto certainly would be the team to beat. It easily has the best rotation in the division and a lineup that’s almost unfair (Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion, etc., etc.) when it’s actually hitting. The Jays’ .233 team average currently is the fifth-worst in baseball, but if they break out of their slump, they’ll definitely break into the AL East race.
3. New York Yankees
The Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays are pretty much neck and neck as far as their abilities go, but we gave the edge to the Bronx Bombers for history’s sake. There’s not much of a chance for either the Yanks or the Rays to play October baseball at this point, and if the Red Sox are fighting a close race in September, you can pretty much guarantee New York will do anything it can to spoil it. Not to mention, one of Boston’s strong suits is its ability to rally from behind, and this Yankees bullpen is tough to face in those situations.
This Tampa Bay team has a pretty good rotation and a lot of fight in it, but the Rays haven’t really shown they’re good enough to come back from the basement of the division to have a chance in this race. Like we said, the deciding factor for the Nos. 3 and 4 spots was who would be better at playing spoiler, and we just don’t believe that will be the Rays. Still, we’ve been wrong many times before, so it looks like we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Apr 13, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado (13) and first baseman Chris Davis (19) celebrate Davis's home run during the third inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports