A month ago, the Baltimore Orioles led the AL East by 5 and 5½ games over the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays, respectively. At the end of July, the O’s are clinging to a half game lead over the Jays and a one and a half game lead over the Sox.
The Orioles had a very topsy-turvy month. They began losing four in a row, winning six out of seven, losing four in a row, winning five in a row, losing five in a row before ending the month with a win over the Blue Jays which put them back in first place. The O’s much vaunted offense struggled scoring more than 5 runs in a game only thrice in July despite having a lineup of Chris Davis, Matt Wieters, Adam Jones and AL HR leader Mark Trumbo. The O’s did add left-handed starting pitcher Wade Miley from the Seattle Mariners and added a bat by reacquiring Steve Pearce.
The Jays went 16-8 in July and have been adding parts like Melvin Upton, Jr. from the San Diego Padres, Joaquin Benoit from the Mariners and now it appears they have also added Ervin Santana from the Minnesota Twins. On a personal note, Santana is the only active MLB player who follows me on Twitter.
After a mediocre 10-16 effort in June, the Red Sox improved to 15-10 in July although they did lose 7 out of their last 10 games. It would have been 8 out of 10 had the Sox not scored five runs in the ninth inning yesterday against the Los Angeles Angels on back to back to home runs by Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts. With injuries to Craig Kimbrel and Koji Uehara, the Sox went out and obtained Brad Ziegler as well as starter Drew Pomeranz fresh off an All-Star Game appearance with the Padres with mixed results. The Sox appear to have added lefty reliever Fernando Abad from the Minnesota Twins which isn’t quite “abad” as it sounds.
The New York Yankees have stayed right at the .500 mark and GM Brian Cashman figures that’s where they will stay because they have dealt both Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller to the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians. Outfielder Carlos Beltran has also been dealt to the Texas Rangers. It’s true that the Yankees have a top notch closer in Dellin Bettances and Nathan Eovaldi will evolve into the 8th inning slot with newly acquired D’Backs pitcher Tyler Clippard getting the nod for the 7th inning. But the Yankees are playing for next year. Ditto for the Tampa Bay Rays who went 9-16 in July. Although they won their final four games of the month, they are 16½ games back of the Orioles and are already down pitcher Matt Moore who has been sent to the San Francisco Giants and outfielder Brandon Guyer who has been sent to the Cleveland Indians.
Speaking of the Indians, they still lead the AL Central, but their lead is now down to 4½ games thanks to the surging Detroit Tigers who finished July with six straight wins and victories in 8 of their last 10 games. The Indians obtained Andrew Miller from the Yankees, but could not obtain Jonathan Lucroy from the Milwaukee Brewers when the team would not guarantee he’d be their number one catcher next year. The Tribe won’t give up on Yan Gomes just yet. Meanwhile, the Chicago White Sox are 6-11 since the All-Star Break and may be without their top two starters Chris Sale and Jose Quintana by the end of the afternoon. After such a promising April, it appears that heads will soon start to roll on the South Side of Chicago.
The defending World Series champion Kansas City Royals had an absolutely awful July going 7-19 having lost 12 of 16 since the All-Star Break. They end July with four straight losses and have gone down to defeat in 8 of their last 10 games. Now 12 games back of the Tribe, it’s nearly inconceivable the Royals can win back to back World Series titles. The Minnesota Twins actually had a winning month in July going 15-11. But they still own the worst record in the AL and are 21 games back of Cleveland. In addition to the Santana and Abad trades, the Twins also traded their All-Star shortstop Eduardo Nunez to the San Francisco Giants. Ricky Nolasco and Alex Meyer have been sent to the Angels for Hector Santiago. Others could soon jump aboard the Twin Cities exodus.
The Texas Rangers began July with an 8½ game lead over the Houston Astros in the AL Central. But after starting the month 4-13, that lead shrank to 2½ games by July 22nd. But the Rangers have rebounded winning 7 of their last 9 games and now have a six game lead over the now struggling Astros who finished the month losing five of their last six games. The addition of both Carlos Beltran and Jonathan Lucroy to the lineup will undoubtedly help as will the addition of Jeremy Jeffress to an overworked bullpen. The Seattle Mariners are just above .500, 8½ games back of the Rangers. It’s hard to figure out what they’re trying to do. On one hand, they trade away Wade Miley and Joaquin Benoit but now appear on the verge of acquiring shortstop Zack Cozart from the Cincinnati Reds. Are the Mariners trying to be both buyers and sellers at the trade deadline? Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Angels and Oakland A’s are tied for last in the division 14½ games back of Texas. The Angels have sent Hector Santiago to the Twins for Ricky Nolasco and Alex Meyer. The Angels aren’t going anywhere but need warm bodies to start their ballgames. The Angels have also sent veteran reliever Joe Smith to the Cubs. The A’s have just sent outfielder Josh Reddick and pitcher Rich Hill to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Will Sonny Gray be soon to follow?
In the NL East, the Washington Nationals have a four game lead over the Miami Marlins. The Nats have a new closer with the addition of Mark Melancon from the Pittsburgh Pirates supplanting Jonathan Papelbon after his performance declined following the All-Star Break. However, Papelbon appears to have accepted his demotion with grace (a quality he’s not always demonstrated).
There is a lot of excitement in Miami under the tutelage of Don Mattingly. Ichiro Suzuki needs two hits to reach 3,000 for his career. But even more exciting is if the season were to end today, the Marlins would earn a NL Wild Card berth and make the post-season for the first time since 2003. The Marlins went out and obtained starting pitcher Andrew Cashner and Colin Rea from the San Diego Padres. However, their excitement was short-lived as Rea injured his elbow only 3 1/3 innings into his Marlins debut.
For their part, the Mets have added outfielder Jay Bruce from the Cincinnati Reds. The Mets are currently 6½ games back of the Nats and can use all the offensive help they can get. After winning 7 of 10 heading into the All-Star Break, the Philadelphia Phillies have reverted to form going 6-11 since. As for the Atlanta Braves, they still own the worst record in MLB, 24 games back of the Nats. It’s unclear what the Matt Kemp deal means for the team long-term. It’s true they acquired Kemp from the Padres to get rid of Cuban dud Hector Olivera (with the Padres doing the same). Do the Braves see Kemp and Freddie Freeman as their power hitting tandem or will the Braves turn around and get rid of Kemp for prospects? It could be a little bit of both.
Although the Chicago Cubs went 12-14 in July, they still lead the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central by 7½ games and once again have the best record in MLB. The Cardinals best bet is the NL Wild Card of which they are only a game back of the Marlins for the second berth. The Pittsburgh Pirates appear to have given up on the season with the trade of their closer Mark Melancon to the Nats. Earlier in the month, the Bucs had picked up 6 games on the Cubs. But now they are only a game over .500. After having earned a NL Wild Card berth for three consecutive seasons, one wonders about manager Clint Hurdle’s future with the club.
The Brewers have just traded their closer Will Smith (not the Fresh Prince) to the San Francisco Giants and thought they had dealt their catcher Jonathan Lucroy to Cleveland until he nixed the deal but have since dealt him and reliever Jeremy Jeffress to the Texas Rangers. Now 15½ games back of the Cubs, the Brewers might not be done dealing. Although the Cincinnati Reds are 10-5 since the All-Star Break, they are still 21 games back of the Cubs and have parted ways with both Zack Cozart and Jay Bruce. Will they eventually part ways with manager Bryan Price?
After winning 8 of their last 10 games before the All-Star Break, the Giants have lost 11 of 15 since and have seen their lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers slip from 6½ to 2 games. The Giants have been without Hunter Pence during much of this time and they are simply not the same club without him in the lineup. Ex-Twin Eduardo Nunez is filing in at second base for the injured Joe Panik and the addition of Will Smith is a strong indication that Giants manager Bruce Bochy is pleased with neither Santiago Casilla or Sergio Romo at the back end of the bullpen. The addition of Matt Moore from the Rays is an indication that either Matt Cain or Jake Peavy will be demoted to the bullpen.
The Dodgers have their own issues in the absence of Clayton Kershaw. They added Bud Norris from the Braves, but now he’s hurt so they got Rich Hill from Oakland. Hill is 9-3 with a 2.25 ERA in 14 starts for the A’s this season. However, this did include one stint on the DL so the Dodgers are taking a risk here although Josh Reddick should boost their offense. The Colorado Rockies are a game under .500, but are 12-5 since the All-Star Break winning 8 of their last 10 games. The Rockies could be a true wild card down the stretch. The San Diego Padres have been selling off parts – Matt Kemp, Melvin Upton, Jr., Andrew Cashner and Colin Rea – only to get him back bruised. I’m surprised the Arizona Diamondbacks haven’t followed suit. Aside from trading relievers Brad Ziegler to the Red Sox and Tyler Clippard to the Yankees, the D’Backs are pretty much intact even they aren’t much of a team.
The dog days of summer have only just begun.
UPDATE: It seems the Blue Jays didn’t get Ervin Santana, but did acquire Francisco Liriano from the Pittsburgh Pirates for Drew Hutchison who will be a reclamation project for pitching coach Ray Searage as will as Ivan Nova who was acquired from the Yankees.
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