The Baltimore Orioles are atop of the AL East at a season-best nine games above .500 with a 49-40 record.
The lead of the Orioles over the other teams in the division looks like this after an extra-inning win against the Washington Nationals:
Toronto Blue Jays (47-44): -3 games
New York Yankees (45-43): 3.5 games
Tampa Bay Rays (41-51): 9.5 games
Boston Red Sox (39-50): 10 games
Baltimore is one of the hottest teams in the division winning seven of their last 10 games. The Rays have also won seven of their last 10, including a series win against the Orioles.
The Orioles are beginning to play more and more consistent baseball. The 11-inning affair in the Battle of the Beltway shows the mentality they have. With barely any bullpen left after an extra-inning game against the Red Sox, the Orioles’ pitching held the game until the offense exploded to turn a tie game into a six-run blowout.
— 10 (@SimplyAJ10) July 8, 2014
If Davis (@CrushD19) begins to hit consistently, along with Manny Machado’s newly-found offense, the Orioles are in good shape to extend their division lead. Despite troubles, the pitching has found a way to keep the Orioles in games.
The Orioles have their best chance to win the division earlier in the season for the first time in years. The rest of the division is playing poorly with the exception of the Rays, who could move up the rankings if Toronto and New York begin to lose more.
The Blue Jays are dealing with injuries, and this is the perfect time for the Orioles to start to pull away. The Yankees are going to stay close, as they have the money to deal with any issues they have before the trade deadline.
The Orioles have a 24-17 record against the AL East, while no other member has a record better than two games over .500.
If the Orioles continue their dominance over their own division, they will begin to extend their lead upwards.
There is only one series left in July that is against an AL East opponent, and that is the Yankees – to be played after the series with the Nationals.
In August, the Orioles have series against the Blue Jays, Yankees, and Rays. Those series are going to be important to win to maintain a lead in the division before heading into September.
The series outside of the division are vital because 22 of 26 games in September are against divisional opponents. The Orioles need a strong lead before going into the brutal stretch of 22 straight games against AL East teams.
From the end of August to mid-September, the Orioles have 20 straight games without a day off to deal with.
The Orioles need to extend their division lead early, because the end of the season schedule is going to be brutal.
The pitching is especially going to be tested, and the Orioles are going to have to become a stronger team if they are going to carry the division lead to the end of the season.
Despite the poor play from the division as a whole, MLB’s scheduling has essentially determined this division will not be decided until September.