The year after combining for 298 wins, the New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox are primed for an intense three-way race in the AL East, the likes of which we haven't seen in quite some time.
Indeed, the Yankees hold a half-game lead over the Rays after taking two of three in the Bronx this weekend. The Red Sox enter Monday four-and-a-half games back, but have won 18 of 27 since falling seven games below .500 on April 17.
It's going to be a war of attrition as these three teams beat each up for the next few months. The Yankees and Rays face off eight times in July and the Red Sox have one stretch of 13 consecutive games against the other two.
Who knows how things will look come the end of the summer, but for now, sit back and enjoy the show.
Rays pitcher Ryne Stanek tags out Yankees outfielder Clint Frazier at home plate. (Photo: Wendell Cruz, USA TODAY Sports)
Here's how USA TODAY Sports' eight-person panel voted this week:
RANK (movement from last week)
1. Houston Astros (–)
- It's mid-May and they already have two separate 10-game winning streaks.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers (–)
- Not quite the Clayton Kershaw of old, but five quality starts in his first six outings.
3. Tampa Bay Rays (–)
- Returning from injury, Austin Meadows picked up right where he left.
4. Minnesota Twins (–)
- Byron Buxton's first 17 games in May: .322/.385./.610, 3 HR.
5. New York Yankees (+1)
- Aaron Hicks is back, which is huge with Brett Gardner struggling.
6. Chicago Cubs (-2)
- Cole Hamels (4-0, 3.13 ERA in nine starts) enjoying renaissance with Cubs.
7. Philadelphia Phillies (–)
- It's easy to forget just how solid second baseman Cesar Hernandez is.
8. Milwaukee Brewers (–)
- Keston Hiura has arrived, moving Mike Moustakas back to third base.
9. Boston Red Sox (–)
- In hindsight, we shouldn't have all gotten hysterical over Chris Sale's rough start.
10. Atlanta Braves (+4)
- Austin Riley making his presence felt immediately in the majors.
11. Arizona Diamondbacks (–)
- Jarrod Dyson is having a career year.
12. Cleveland Indians (+1)
- Brad Hand secured his first 12 save opportunities of the season.
13. St. Louis Cardinals (-3)
- After torrid April, Paul Goldschmidt has cooled off: 1 HR, .684 OPS in first 62 AB of May.
14. Pittsburgh Pirates (+2)
- Josh Bell could find himself in a Triple Crown race this summer.
15. San Diego Padres (-3)
- Manny Machado's first 16 games in May: .323/.386/.629, 5 HR.
16. Los Angeles Angels (+1)
- Tommy La Stella had 10 career HR coming into 2019 – he's already topped that this season.
17. Oakland Athletics (+1)
- Khris Davis only had two home runs from April 14-May 17.
18. Cincinnati Reds (+2)
- Jesse Winker's power output has been a pleasant surprise.
19. Colorado Rockies (–)
- Faced eight left-handed starters in a row from May 7-May 17.
20. New York Mets (-5)
- Mickey Callaway facing daily questions about his job security.
21. Washington Nationals (+2)
- Maybe Trea Turner's return will kickstart things in D.C.
22. Texas Rangers (–)
- Willie Calhoun may (finally) be here to stay.
23. Chicago White Sox (+2)
- Lucas Giolito has a 3.35 ERA with 50 strikeouts in eight starts.
24. Seattle Mariners (-3)
- Since starting 13-2, the Mariners are 10-24.
25. Toronto Blue Jays (+1)
- Vlad Jr. broke out with four homers last week.
26. Detroit Tigers (-2)
- Closer Shane Green (15-for-15 on saves) has been dominant.
27. San Francisco Giants (–)
- Pablo Sandoval has a 1.000 OPS through 83 at-bats.
28. Kansas City Royals (–)
- Jorge Soler may never be a superstar, but he's thriving (10 HR) in a full-time role.
29. Baltimore Orioles (–)
- Team's 5.55 ERA (through 46 games) is MLB's worst.
30. Miami Marlins (–)
- Team has an OPS below .600 which is … hard to do.
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