Brian McCann, Johnny Giavotella
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AL East: Is the race over?

The All-Star Break has come and gone for Major League Baseball, and with the end of July approaching quickly, the moment to separate contenders and pretenders is upon us. While the National League leaves little room for doubt as to which teams will be playing in October, the American League is the complete opposite.

No division displays parity more than the American League East, where four of the five teams are within striking distance of the playoffs. The Boston Red Sox, well, they are looking forward to the end of the season. Surprisingly, it is the ancient New York Yankees who are holding a fairly commanding lead at 5.5 games over the second-place Toronto Blue Jays, with the Tampa Bay Rays a game behind them. The Baltimore Orioles are sitting a somewhat distant fourth place, seven games off the pace.

New York is only 54-42, a good record to be sure but hardly anything that would normally be blowing away the competition. However, the AL East is extremely weak in comparison to former years, leaving the Yankees in a commanding position. With just over two months remaining in the season, can anybody actually catch the Bronx Bombers?

As previously stated, the Blue Jays are the closest team to the Yankees but it is a one-sided group. Toronto can hit with anyone, sporting one of the most potent middle of the order hitters in baseball with third baseman Josh Donaldson, who is flanked by sluggers Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista. The Blue Jays have the best offense in the game, but the pitching without young phenom Marcus Stroman is simply mediocre at best. If Toronto is serious about making a run toward the playoffs, it needs the front office to make a move.

Tampa Bay is in the exact opposite position. The Rays have nobody of real note in the lineup, with youngster Steven Souza hitting for power but not much average. Third baseman Evan Longoria has a superstar’s name, but the statistics of an average player. The rest of the lineup is far from special, but the starting rotation is excellent. With Matt Moore finally back from Tommy John surgery and Chris Archer pitching like an ace, Tampa Bay is going to stick around. Yet, it desperately needs a bat or two.

Meanwhile, the Orioles have all sorts of issues on the mound. The only things keeping Baltimore from completely cratering into the abyss are manager Buck Showalter and a lineup featuring Chris Davis, Adam Jones and Manny Machado. It doesn’t appear that Baltimore has the chops on the mound to make a rousing run at the Eastern title, but this group won’t quit.

Ultimately, barring a major deal, the Yankees appear to be home free.

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