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Rays, Orioles set for battle as American League’s top teams

A much-anticipated series between the two best teams in the American League, both off to roaring starts in a pitched battle for a division title, will begin Monday night.

And the New York Yankees will be hundreds of miles from the very heart of it.

No, when the Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles meet in the first of three games at Camden Yards, it will pit two lower-revenue teams off to staggering starts – 28-7 for the Amazin’ Rays and 22-12 for the upstart Orioles .

The Yankees? Well, it’s too soon to wonder if it’s too late – but not too soon to wonder if this stretch of injury-wracked, disappointing baseball will cost them any hope of winning the AL East.

The latest indignity came Sunday at Tropicana Field, when ace Gerrit Cole was handed a 6-0 lead and gave up every bit of it, squandering a golden opportunity for the Yankees to deal the Rays a rare series L – and instead lost in extra innings to fall 10 games out in the AL East.

They’ve also tumbled to the middle of the pack in USA TODAY Sports’ power rankings.

The Yankees (18-17) are ranked 15th after dropping 11 spots in just two weeks, including a leapfrog in the rankings and out of the East cellar by the Boston Red Sox. With projected no. 2 starter Carlos Rodon out indefinitely with back trouble, MVP Aaron Judge’s return this week will come with his club facing a steep uphill climb.

A look at this week’s rankings:

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Rays players celebrate a walk-off win against the Yankees on Sunday.

1. Tampa Bay Rays (-)

3. Baltimore Orioles (+1)

4. Toronto Blue Jays (-1)

  • After a stopover in Philly, play 17 in a row against Braves, Yankees, Rays, Orioles, Twins.

12. Boston Red Sox (+5)

14. Seattle Mariners (+2)

15. New York Yankees (-2)

28. Chicago White Sox (-2)

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: MLB power rankings: Rays, Orioles battle atop American League East

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