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After 1st quarter, what do we know about AL East?

MLB.com @wwchastain

At the quarter-season mark, the American League East has basically been a clash between traditional heavyweights, New York and Boston.

However, there's a lot of baseball to be played in the summer of 2018. Will the Yankees or Red Sox run away with it? Or will the Blue Jays, Orioles or Rays find a way to fight their way back into contention?

At the quarter-season mark, the American League East has basically been a clash between traditional heavyweights, New York and Boston.

However, there's a lot of baseball to be played in the summer of 2018. Will the Yankees or Red Sox run away with it? Or will the Blue Jays, Orioles or Rays find a way to fight their way back into contention?

Here's a look at where each of the teams in the AL East stacks up with three-quarters of the season remaining:

BLUE JAYS

One thing we learned in the first quarter:

The Blue Jays have gone from one extreme to another, but for the most part, this is the type of performance most experts were expecting. Toronto was projected to finish slightly above .500 and in the mix for the second AL Wild Card spot. At the quarter-season mark, that's exactly where the Blue Jays find themselves. A Wild Card berth remains possible, but the division lead keeps slipping farther and farther away.

One thing we'll be watching in the second quarter:

The performance of the rotation. Toronto's starting staff was supposed to be its biggest strength, but instead it has become a major weakness. Losing Marcus Stroman to the disabled list won't help, but a starting group of J.A. Happ, Aaron Sanchez, Marco Estrada and Jaime Garcia should be far too good to remain near the very bottom of the Majors in earned run average.

Video: TOR@NYM: Happ K's Lagares to strike out the side

Key series or stretch in the second quarter:

The Blue Jays will travel to Los Angeles from June 21-24 for what could turn out to be a crucial series against the Angels. Los Angeles is an early favorite for the second AL Wild Card spot, and that's what the Blue Jays are eyeing as well, so these four games could loom large down the stretch.

Stock watch: Down

The Blue Jays had their first winning April since 2012 and enjoyed one of their best starts in franchise history. They went 16-12 in April but have been playing below .500 baseball in May as the rotation continues to struggle and the offense has started to dry up.

ORIOLES

One thing we learned in the first quarter:

The Orioles' lineup is still frustratingly one-dimensional. If they hit home runs, great. But if they don't, they'll find runs hard to come by, as they were for the first month-plus of the season. Baltimore got off to a rough start and, while its pitching was an issue at times, it was the offensive struggles no one saw coming.

One thing we'll be watching in the second quarter:

When will the Orioles trade Manny Machado? Machado has had a red-hot start to the season and will be a free agent at season's end. He is just 25 years old and has the ability to affect a postseason race. So, where does he go, and what do the O's get in return?

Video: TB@BAL: Machado rips an RBI double to left field

Key series or stretch in the second quarter:

All eyes will be on Machado, but closer Zach Britton could also be an intriguing trade piece. Britton, who had offseason Achilles surgery, is slated to return in early June.

Stock watch: Down

Although the Orioles have played better as of late, it would be tough to not consider them "down" given how far they are below .500. The Orioles got off to the second-worst 25-game start in club history and won back-to-back games just once through the first week of May. The good news is that Baltimore has gotten back Jonathan Schoop and Mark Trumbo from injury, which has been a big boost.

RAYS

One thing we learned in the first quarter:

Left-hander Blake Snell is pitching the way he was projected to pitch when blowing through the Rays' farm system. He has four quality pitches, and he's maintained a high level of consistency in most of his outings, save for his previous start, against the Orioles, in which he allowed three solo home runs en route to his third loss of the season.

Video: ATL@TB: Snell K's 5 over 6 1/3 innings vs. Braves

One thing we'll be watching in the second quarter:

Can the Rays remain in contention? If this group falls too far behind -- which is entirely likely given the fact they play in the same division as the Yankees and Red Sox -- they could start changing out the veterans for younger players.

Key series or stretch in the second quarter:

The Rays begin a four-game series against the Yankees in New York on June 14. They finish the month by playing six games against the Astros, three more against the Yankees and two against the Nationals. If they're still standing after that, they might find themselves a pennant contender.

Stock watch: Down

The Rays' stock plummeted at the beginning of the season, then rose. Now they are in the middle of another stretch in which they can't deliver the big hit, and one-run games are lost.

RED SOX

One thing we learned in the first quarter:

Mookie Betts is back to the MVP-caliber player he was in 2016 and perhaps even better after the slight downturn he had last season. Betts has been a dynamic force in the leadoff spot, and manager Alex Cora will keep him there all season. Betts already has a pair of three-homer games this season.

Video: Mookie Betts collects four three-homer games

One thing we'll be watching in the second quarter:

What type of pitcher will David Price be? Boston's No. 2 hurler was dominant in his first two starts, then fell into a rut. He missed a start at Yankee Stadium with carpal tunnel syndrome and looked better in his most recent start, against the Blue Jays. The Red Sox need Price to be at least close to top form if they want to go all the way.

Key series or stretch in the second quarter:

From June 26 to July 1, the Red Sox play three against the Angels at home and three against the Yankees in New York. Those six games will be a good measuring stick.

Stock watch: Up

There was no way the Red Sox were going to maintain the 17-2 stretch that started the season, but they are clearly playing with new energy under Cora. It looks as though the Red Sox and Yankees will fight all season for the top spot in the division, and perhaps the best record in the Majors as well.

YANKEES

One thing we learned in the first quarter:

This team could live up to the hype. The Bombers turned it on after beginning the season at .500 through 18 games, rattling off a stretch of 17 wins in 18 games for their best run since 1953. We knew the Yankees would probably slug with ease, but we didn't expect their starting pitching to be so competent -- a key component during that 18-game stretch.

One thing we'll be watching in the second quarter:

Aaron Judge has shown signs of being a more complete player than he was last season, a high bar to clear considering he won the AL Rookie of the Year Award and finished second to Jose Altuve in the AL MVP chase. Judge is laying off tough sliders and crushing everything else, subscribing to his philosophy of hunting mistakes. He batted .345 with a .586 slugging percentage on his first 29 at-bats ending in sliders this season compared with .158/.300 in 120 such at-bats in 2017.

Video: OAK@NYY: Judge skies 2-run homer to left field in 5th

Key series or stretch in the second quarter:

It's looking like a Yankees-Red Sox summer, and the rivals reunite June 29 to July 1 at Yankee Stadium. They've split the first six games thus far, Giancarlo Stanton and Judge are crushing Boston pitching, and there have been fireworks on the field resulting in suspensions for Tyler Austin and Joe Kelly. Who knows what the next installment could hold?

Stock watch: Up

The Yankees won 19 of 22 games facing a meaty part of their schedule, playing well against the Blue Jays, Twins, Angels, Astros, Indians, Red Sox and A's.

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.