The Boston Red Sox completed a four-game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday evening. With less than ten games to go for most teams, the result buries the O’s seven games deep in the AL East standings, nearly guaranteeing that Baltimore will not win the divisional title this season. The result of the series also comes on the heels of a strong run of form over the last several weeks for Boston.
If we look back at what the situation was in the AL East to start the month and contrast it with the current standings, it really highlights how well the Red Sox have been playing compared to their divisional foes.
AL East Standings After Games Played on August 31st:
2. Boston 2 GB
3. Baltimore 4 GB
4. New York 6.5 GB
5. Tampa Bay 19.5 GB
Entering Friday, Boston will have a 5.5-game lead on Toronto and a crushing 7-game lead on Baltimore. In the last three weeks Boston have been 7.5 games better than Toronto and 5 games better than the O’s. Both the Jays and the Orioles are still mathematically in the hunt for the AL East, but the race certainly is not interesting at this point.
Boston built their lead with head-to-head wins against their rivals. Besides the sweep of the Orioles, the Sox took two of three from Toronto in a series from the Rogers Centre a couple of weeks ago. Boston also buried the New York Yankees last week when it looked like the Yanks might have been trying to get back into the divisional picture. That the Red Sox are a team that wins in the clutch is certainly a major point to consider when looking ahead at the playoffs. With the way they played over the last few weeks, they showed that they have players that don’t crumble when the going gets tough.
Boston’s strong play has effectively relegated Toronto and Baltimore to the Wild-Card race. Entering Friday the Blue Jays will hold the top spot in that race, but only by one game. The Detroit Tigers now hold the second spot, while Baltimore are half a game back of the No. 2 spot. Houston, Seattle, and New York are also in the mix as six teams compete for two spots, only one of which will make a divisional series.
While the winner of the AL East race appears to now be a foregone conclusion another matter, home-field advantage in the American League playoffs remains unresolved. Boston, Cleveland, and Texas may each be huge favorites to win their respective divisions now, but they are competing against one another in overall AL standings. Entering Friday they have .582, .586, and .588 winning percentages respectively. Where those winning percentages end up at the end of the regular season will determine home-field advantage in any series played between the clubs in the playoffs.
Boston look to continue their surge this weekend as they travel down to Florida to face the Rays. With an off day on Monday, Boston will then head up to New York for a set against the Yankees. The last series of the regular season will see the Red Sox return home to host the Blue Jays for a set. That final series will look a whole lot more interesting if the Jays can gain 2-4 games in the next week. However, that looks to be hoping against hope. The interesting race in the AL right now is the race for the league’s No. 1 seed.