Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

What's Next: AL East race tightens

Donaldson takes hot bat into June; NLCS rematch on deck for Cards, Dodgers

It's the first week of June in Major League Baseball, so with two months already in the 2015 history books, you might think the American and National League standings would be starting to present themselves clearly.

Maybe for some teams. Not for the members of the AL East.

As the new month dawns, a typically competitive division is as magnificently muddled as ever, and What's Next for all five teams is a week ahead full of challenging series that could make things even more confusing.

:: What's Next ::After Sunday, a total of four games separates first place (the Yankees and Rays) from last (the Red Sox), so everyone's a contender. New York and Tampa Bay are each one game over the .500 mark at 26-25, and every other team has a losing record. Then again, Boston is 22-29, one good week away from being right back in the hunt.

The Rays rebounded from a midweek sweep at home against the Mariners and have won two in a row. This week, they head west for series against the Angels and Mariners while the Yankees hit Seattle early in the week before returning home to play the Angels. New York stumbled over the weekend in Oakland but has hopes that it can right the ship.

"We've had good stretches," Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner said. "We have a lot of good players in this room. We've got a lot of good pitching, and think we've got a good team. We just have to hopefully play well in Seattle and put a good finish to the road trip."

Elsewhere around the East, the Red Sox will enjoy home games all week against the hot Twins and pesky A's. The Orioles, meanwhile, will have to prowl the pavement with games in Houston against the AL West-leading Astros and in Cleveland against the Indians. The Blue Jays will play at Washington and home against Houston.

Speaking of the Jays, they might have the hottest hitter in the game heading into the week.

Toronto third baseman Josh Donaldson has six homers over his last six games and he finished with 10 in May. Six of his 15 long balls this season have come in the seventh inning or later.

"I'll tell you what, he has been amazing," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "He's got that knack and that's why he's an elite player. That's not easy to do, consistently like he has been doing. Thank God we've got him."

And what about those Twins? Nobody expected them to be close in the AL Central, but they're entering June leading it and, at 30-19, with the best winning percentage (.612) in the entire Junior Circuit.

The Twins beat Toronto on Sunday to capture their 20th victory in May, marking the first time they've accomplished that feat in the season's second month since their World Series championship season of 1991.

"It's May 31st and I think maybe we're going to change tomorrow to May 32nd," Minnesota manager Paul Molitor said.

We'll see how they do in June, starting today.

And elsewhere around the Grand Old Game this week, one of the can't-miss series will take place in the home yard of the defending World Series champions. The Giants have been playing very good baseball lately, as have the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the two clubs will go at it by the Bay beginning Monday with Gerrit Cole going for Pittsburgh against San Francisco right-hander Ryan Vogelsong.

Another happens later, when we get our second rematch of last year's NL Championship Series in as many weeks. The Cardinals and Dodgers will get after it again, this time in Los Angeles. While Mike Matheny and Don Mattingly's first-place clubs are battling, Dodgers fans will be waiting to see if their favorite mercurial All-Star outfielder, Yasiel Puig, will be ready to begin a rehab assignment.

Puig has been on the disabled list since April 26 with a left hamstring injury.

Doug Miller is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB.