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American League East Playoff Race: The Week Ahead

Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Last week's preview highlighted an easy schedule for the Blue Jays, and the team took advantage by adding to its lead in the American League East. A sweep of the Twins gave Toronto a 4-2 record, and the Jays look to be at full strength heading into this week's action.

Boston lost to Kansas City in Sunday's night match-up, and have now finished below .500 for the week. Toronto has now picked up 1.5 games on Boston over the past week, plus a half game over the third-place Baltimore Orioles.

Here are the current standings after Sunday's games:

Toronto 74 56 -
Boston 72 58 2
Baltimore 71 59 3

Here's a look into this week's pitching match-ups, with each pitchers ERA in brackets: Last Updated: August 31st

Blue Jays

M Estrada (3.47) @BAL Miley (5.51)
T Happ (3.19) @BAL Jimenez (6.62)
W Sanchez (2.99) @BAL Gallardo (5.69)
F Liriano (5.22) @TB Cobb (N/A)
S Stroman (4.58) @TB Snell (3.56)
S Dickey (4.43) @TB Archer (4.11)
Miss: Bundy, Gausman, Odorizzi, Smyly, Andriese

The Blue Jays kick off a nine game road trip this week, and the team will play its next 15 against A.L. East opponents. The first series against Baltimore carries major implications in the division race, and Toronto will boast a major advantage in terms of pitching match-ups.

Marco Estrada is struggling of late, as he's surrendered 11 earned runs in his last two starts, but the Orioles will have to face Toronto's two best starters in J.A. Happ and Aaron Sanchez. All three of the Orioles starters have an ERA over 5, so the Jays will look to score early and often, rather than trying to catchup against an elite bullpen.

Wade Miley is giving up a ton of homers this year, and a lineup packed with right-handed hitters projects to have plenty of success against him. Ubaldo Jimenez, who is taking the place of the injured Chris Tillman, was absolutely crushed by the Blue Jays in his last two outings against the team. Although he  is coming off a strong start against the Nationals, he's struggled with his command all season.

In the series finale, Aaron Sanchez makes his return to face the struggling Yovani Gallardo. The Jays scored 5 runs against Gallardo back on July 30th, and he's coming off an absolutely horrible start against the New York Yankees. Ultimately, the Blue Jays look like clear favourites in this series, and seem to have a serious shot at a sweep.

Toronto will miss two of Tampa's hottest pitchers in the weekend series, but Chris Archer offers an extremely difficult match-up. Blake Snell expects to make the start in Game 1 after leaving his last outing with a bruised leg, and the rookie left-hander would actually quite similar to his opponent in Francisco Liriano. Both pitchers generate plenty of strikeouts, surrender a lot of walks, and rarely pitch very deep into games. To make things more interesting, rosters will expand ahead of the 7:10 pm start time.

Alex Cobb is expected to return from Tommy John surgery this weekend, and will pitch in the majors for the first time since 2014. It's unclear whether he will start Friday or Saturday, and it's tough to know what to expect out of him. The 28-year old righty kept his ERA under 3 in his last two MLB seasons, so this could be a very difficult matchup if he regains his previous form.

Finally, R.A. Dickey will look to build on a decent month of August in the series finale. If Snell cannot make his start due to injury, we could see Jake Odorizzi in this one, but for now we will pencil in Archer for the rubber match.

Red Sox

M Porcello (3.23) TB Andriese (3.71)
T Pomeranz (2.95) TB Odorizzi (3.53)
W Wright (3.18) TB Smyly (4.80)
F Price (3.97) @OAK Triggs (4.39)
S Porcello (3.26) @OAK Neal (4.96)
S Rodriguez (5.35) @OAK Graveman (3.96)
Miss: Snell, Archer, Manaea, Detwiler

Boston's schedule gets much easier this week, as the Red Sox play two of the bottom teams in the American League. On one hand, the Sox avoid Chris Archer, but on the other hand, they will have to face two hot pitchers in Jake Odorizzi and Drew Smyly.

The Red Sox look scary at the moment, as Rick Porcello, Drew Pomeranz, and David Price are all pitching very well. Steven Wright is coming off a rough start against the Royals, but he's been terrific all season. Finally, Eduardo Rodriguez will make his first start in almost two weeks after dealing with a hamstring injury.

Boston will not have to face an ace against the Athletics, so this looks to be a rather easy series. Zachary Neal is a pitch-to-contact type of pitcher who carries one of the lowest strikeout rates in the majors, but also rarely surrenders a free pass. Finally, Andrew Triggs looks to be a terrific waiver claim from the Orioles, as the A's recently converted him to a starter after plenty of success in the bullpen.


M Miley (5.51) TOR Estrada (3.47)
T Jimenez (6.62) TOR Happ (3.19)
W Gallardo (5.69) TOR Sanchez (2.99)
F Bundy (3.71) NYY Green (4.09)
S Gausman (3.92) NYY Sabathia (4.33)
S Miley (5.51) NYY Pineda (5.02)*
Miss: Liriano, Stroman, Dickey, Cessa, Tanaka

After a big three game set against the Jays, the Orioles will host a streaking team in the New York Yankees. Although Sunday is Michael Pineda's regular turn in the rotation, look out for the Yankees to pitch Masahiro Tanaka on regular rest. The Orioles currently hold the second wildcard spot, so New York could look to create an extremely favourable pitching matchup against Wade Miley.

Dylan Bundy just faced the Yankees and got crushed, but the same can be said for Chad Green against the Orioles. Saturday's match-up will be a rematch of today's game, which will prove another difficult matchup for New York, as Gausman just threw seven scoreless innings. Ultimately, it's tough to envision the Orioles having a ton of success given their current rotation, but plenty of run support could keep them in the race throughout the week.