AL East playoff positioning battle proves anything can happen in September

As the season nears its end, the fight for the division in the AL East has been grabbing headlines to see who will come away with the glory: the Baltimore Orioles or the Tampa Bay Rays.
St. Louis Cardinals v Baltimore Orioles
St. Louis Cardinals v Baltimore Orioles / Patrick Smith/GettyImages

As the season continues to wind down, the battle for the AL East has been garnering a lot of attention. The Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles are fighting for the division lead. They recently finished a four-game series against one another in which they split the series two games apiece.

The Orioles currently hold a two-game lead on the Rays after winning the most recent game 5-4. They have 13 games remaining against the Astros, Guardians, Nationals, and a four-game series to finish it all versus the Red Sox. On the other hand, the Rays only have 11 games remaining against the Angels, Blue Jays, Red Sox, and then finish the season playing three games against the Blue Jays again.

Both of these teams have clinched a playoff berth, but now they continue to fight for the division lead. Recently, the odds of winning the division have been changing dramatically, with the Orioles having an 83.9% chance of winning, then dropping to 54.2% midway through the series. Now, their odds stand at 80.4%.

Who has the edge for the AL East, Orioles or Rays?

This division and the American League as a whole are waiting to see what could happen. If the Rays can win all six games vs the Blue Jays, Toronto could be eliminated from postseason contention. Also, if the Orioles slump, they could lose the division lead, which would be hard to obtain again.

In the last 10 games for each team, the Rays have been thriving with a 7-3 record, but the Orioles have started to struggle with a record of 5-5, including a four-game losing streak to the Cardinals and Rays.

Baltimore is starting a three-game series versus the Astros. So far in 2023, they've played three times, with the O's going 1-2. They then have to play the Guardians, in which they also hold a 1-2 record. Next, they have to play the Nationals. In the last two games the Beltway rivals played in 2023, the O's shut them out each game, winning 1-0 and 4-0. They will finish the season playing the Boston Red Sox. Boston and Baltimore have played nine times in 2023, and the O's have a winning record of 5-4, with most of those games coming down to the last out.

The Rays will need to play a three-game series vs. the Angels, in which they hold a current winning record of 2-1 in 2023. They have a tough next eight-game schedule in which they play the Blue Jays three times, then the Red Sox twice, and then the Blue Jays again three times. When facing the Blue Jays in 2023, they hold a record of 4-3, including a 20-1 loss to the Blue Jays. However, four of the games ended in tight fashion (within three runs). Finally, in between playing the Blue Jays for two more series, they have to play two games vs. the Boston Red Sox, in which they have dominated the Red Sox all season long with a record of 9-2.

Both of these teams will fight till the final day, and any mistakes made could cost them postseason seeding.