Tampa Bay Rays Continue to Fight Through Stacked AL East

Dustin HullAnalyst IJune 8, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 07:  David Price #14 of the Tampa Bay Rays reacts after the final out of the fifth inning against the New York Yankees and getting out of a bases loaded jam at Yankee Stadium on June 7, 2012  in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The American League East has become unforgiving for the teams that play inside it, and certainly more for teams that are forced to play opponents from the best division in baseball.

The Tampa Bay Rays have played in the East ever since their franchise's Major League start in 1998. Even after they broke free from being cellar-dwellers in 2008, the division around them has only grown more competitive.

And this year has not been an exception, but rather an even more strenuous task to be at the top.

Every team in the AL East woke up this morning with a record over .500. The Rays find themselves tied for first after a confidence-building victory in New York, which came after dropping the first two games of the series.

The Yankees won't be going away any time soon, or any other AL East team for that matter. The Red Sox find themselves surprisingly in last place, but only three games behind the leaders of the division.

So is life in the AL East, where New York and Boston are no longer the only teams flexing their muscles anymore. The Blue Jays have power to carry them down the stretch, while the Rays have one of the best pitching staffs in the game.

And then there are the new kids in town, the Baltimore Orioles, who currently are tied with Tampa Bay for first place. Many of the talking-heads of the baseball media continue to wait for the Orioles to fade, but to no avail.

 Every team in this division is a contender to make the playoffs, especially with the new wild-card format that has added an extra team into the postseason.

 But even with the new system in place, there will be just as much, if not more important games down the stretch of this season. The Rays plan to be there through thick and thin.

 With Desmond Jennings back in the lineup, the Rays are beginning to get healthier, but still wait the return of Evan Longoria, Kyle Farnsworth (Although Fernando Rodney has filled-in for him tremendously), and Jeff Keppinger.

 The Rays have had enough problems with injuries so far this season, but on top of that, they must fight for every divisional win they can get. They've pushed through New York and Boston in the past, but it was anything but easy to do so.

 Now they have to deal with an improved Toronto team, and a Baltimore squad that has come from last-place to playoff contender in one season. Kind of reminds us of another team that did that not too long ago.

 But don't expect Baltimore's climb to be any easier than the one Tampa Bay had in 2008. After all, every team in the division is now considered dangerous to any opponent

So by the time September comes, teams that have been close in the standings will separate, seeing as four months change a lot in baseball.

Just like any other division, some teams in the AL East will eventually fall off the pace. Or will they?

It's just another day in baseball's premier division.