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Let’s start with the closest and most exciting race of all: the AL East.
The Baltimore Orioles have obliterated a ten game deficit and are now tied with the Yankees going down the home stretch. With the Rays now nearly out of the race, it has come down to the Yankees and Orioles in the East.
So how did they do it? How did a young, immature team who finished 69-93 in 2011 turn things around so quickly and become a playoff contender?
Buck Showalter’s name sits alone at the top of the list.
The Orioles’ resurgence this year has been nothing less than legendary, and much of their run can be attributed to the coaching of Manager Buck Showalter, who in my opinion deserves AL Manager of the Year.
Showalter has brought a sense of accountability and detail to the Orioles’ clubhouse while maintaining a close personal relationship with his players. His Orioles are 20 games over .500 and have a -12 run differential.
Baltimore has also won 14 straight extra-inning games. Pretty amazing. He provides his young team with a loose environment in which they can have a good time and grow, while instilling in them constant game knowledge and upcoming series advice.
Buck is not the sole reason for Baltimore’s overwhelming success this year. The emergence of the Orioles’ younger players have sparked this squad and given the city life again after a 15-year absence.
All-Star Outfielder Adam Jones has welcomed his role as the teams unequivocal leader and, at 29 home runs, looks poised to be the sixth Orioles outfielder to hit 30 home runs in a season.
Catcher Matt Wieters is having the best year in his young career and is getting better seemingly by the day. His RBI and home run totals continue to increase every year and his defense has been astronomically great.
Chris Davis has proven he can keep up with the best power hitters in the AL with his 26 long balls so far, despite missing over 20 games this season. The call-up of Manny Machado has provided the Orioles with the extra kick they needed to power them through the end of the season.
In the absence of Nick Markakis, Nate Mclouth, J.J. Hardy and Mark Reynolds have stepped up their games and provided the necessary offense to keep the Orioles in the hunt.
It appears as though the Orioles will coast through the end of the season with an easy schedule that features series against Seattle, Boston, Toronto and the struggling Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.
In spite of all of this, I believe the Yankees eventually pull this one out. It is not like the Yankees are playing poor baseball. They are still winners of six out of their last 10 and have a stacked lineup.
Jeter has been playing out of his mind, and A-Rod has really started to hit since coming off the DL. C.C. Sabathia and the Yankees pitching staff have been less than reputable of late, but the return of Andy Pettite and Ivan Nova should help the Yankees work their way into the playoffs.
New York does still have to face the red-hot Oakland A’s in New York this weekend. The series will sure test the Yankees, however, I am confident the Yanks will prevail.
Final prediction: Yankees take the AL East.