Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings

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Youkilis throwing bat.jpg1. Yankees: The only critical thing I can say is that for the past few years the Yankees have gotten off to slow starts and everyone with half a brain has said “don’t panic, it’s early.” I suppose that’s a two-way street and that we shouldn’t become overly optimistic before the break of May. But really: does anyone think that this Yankees team is as likely to crater as last year’s team was to rebound? I don’t. 

2. Rays: Lost in all of the Boston navel-gazing is the fact that the Rays are a pretty awesome team.

3. Twins: Second best in runs scored per game in the A.L., second best in runs allowed per game in the A.L.

4. Giants:  With Zito and Sanchez pitching like they have the rotation has gone from really good to phenomenal. And while I don’t think the offense is going to hold up, right now they’re third in the NL in runs scored. With their pitching, anywhere in the top 10 will keep them in it all season.

5. Phillies:  The recent mini-skid drops them down a couple of notches, but taking care of the Braves in the next three games would easily restore their early-season luster. 

6. Cardinals:
For all the ink that was spilled over Saturday’s game, it was only one game and I assume everyone in Cardinals Nation is pretending it simply didn’t happen. More germane: the fact that the team directly behind St. Louis in the Central is a pretender, and the no one else below them looks particularly good.

7. Athletics: I feel like I’m sleeping on the Athletics having them this low, what with their rotation and everything. I suppose I’m just flashing back to last season, however, when every time I looked up Gio Gonzalez was getting creamed or something. But you know what? Throw a bunch of young arms at the wall and a few are going to stick. Braden, Gonzalez and Anderson have stuck, Sheets and Duchscherer are providing some special veteran seasoning and this A’s team boasts some pitching you just don’t want any part of.  We’ll know soon whether I’m truly underestimating them: the Yankees come into town for three starting tomorrow.

8. Marlins: Two of three from the Phillies is nice indeed. The Phillies were quoted yesterday saying that they truly view Florida as a contender. If the past few years have taught us anything it’s that we discount Florida at our peril. My thing, though, is that you’re not going to go far in life betting on things like Nate Robertson being a pillar of your rotation, and I don’t think that anyone can ride Jorge Cantu and Dan Uggla to glory.  We’ll see, but I still think that this team does the slow fade thing over the course of the season.

9. Braves: They survived the west coast swing, which usually kills them, they absorbed an utter shellacking by San Diego and a no-hitter from Ubaldo Jiminez, and at the moment their offense consists of three guys, one of whom is 20 years-old and is bound to slump eventually. The fact, then, that they’re only a game back is practically a miracle. The Phillies series is bigger for the Braves than it is for Philadelphia.
 
10. Tigers: You don’t lose two of three to the Royals and keep your lofty ranking.


11. Blue Jays: Losers of four of five and, in my mind at least, a
little less than halfway towards finding their true level. At least
insofar as the Power Rankings are concerned.

12. Rockies: The no-hitter from Ubaldo Jiminez was nice, but
having their closer back would be nicer. Or at least having their
current closer not walk so many damn guys.

13. Padres:
Three wins in a row for the Padres, courtesy of the Diamondbacks’ awful
bullpen. But you know what’s cooler than that? The
Padres are now giving away free programs at all home games
. I find
that very cool for some reason.

14. Dodgers: The play of
the year happened over the weekend: no, not Manny’s pinch-hit homer, but
Ned Colletti designating Russ Ortiz for assignment.

15.
Angels
: Jered Weaver and Ervin Santana’s excellent outings over the
weekend are a nice couple of steps on the journey back towards the top
of the pitching rankings, which is where this team needs to be in order
to do what’s expected of them.

16. Pirates: A very
deceiving 7-5, as they have been outscored by 22 runs this season, which
is the second worst in the NL.  Don’t get used to them being in second
place in the Central.

17. Indians: Four wins in a row has
everyone vibing optimistic, and now they’re getting Russell Branyan and
his attendant power added to the mix. I fear that a nine-game road trip
through Minnesota, Oakland and Anaheim is going to bring everyone
crashing back to Earth, however.

18. Mariners: Two of
three from Oakland and Detroit and now three games against the hapless
Orioles may prove to be the springboard back to respectability.

19.
Rangers
: Four losses in a row, and now they face an angry Boston
Red Sox team. Not sure if it’s a good Boston Red Sox team, but
they’re certainly angry.

20. Diamondbacks:  Their bullpen
is an utter mess. How messy? They gave up 14 runs in 7.2 innings vs.
the Padres over the weekend.

21. Royals: Reason to worry?
Zack Greinke did not top 94 mph with his fastball and averaged 91.2 mph
for the game against the Twins on Friday night.

22. Brewers:
Pitching, it was the Brew Crew’s downfall last year, and so it appears
to be again this year.

23. Cubs: After losing two of three to the Astros I should do
what they sometimes do in college football rankings and give them a
ceremonial last place slot. But hey: Soriano
isn’t going to be hopping anymore
.

24. Mets: Ike
Davis’ callup is a reason for optimism. Know what would be even better?
Firing Jerry Manuel and moving Jenrry Mejia to the rotation.

25. Nationals: Pfun Pfact: Ivan Rodriguez is leading the NL in
hitting. Bet you didn’t know that. And hey, between him and Livan
Hernandez pulling his mini-Hershiser act, at least the team is trying to
be interesting until Strasburg comes.

26. White Sox: A
suddenly sputtering offense and a four game losing streak has the White
Sox off to their worst start in 13 years. If only someone had predicted
this maybe it could have been avoided. Oh, wait, everyone predicted
this.

27. Red Sox: This is being covered everywhere — including
here
— so I’ll spare you. Come back next week, though, as we’ll
have the results of [bleeping]
Brookline High’s
game against
Walpole
this Thursday. 

28. Reds: The starting
pitching — expected to be a strength — has been terrible. Where have
you gone Aroldis Chapman, Reds’ Nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

29.
Astros
: The Astros have hit three home runs this year. Three.
That’s only three more than you’ve hit.

30. Orioles: The
team is skidding, the manager is on the ropes and the owner is
sorta-kinda-but-probably feuding
with the historical face of the franchise
.  I remember back when
Orioles fans were looked at with jealousy. Now I pity them.

Aroldis Chapman is pitching himself out of a job

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Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman looked shaky again last night, coming in to the game with a three-run lead before allowing a two-run homer to the Mets’ Amed Rosario. He would nail down the save eventually, giving Sonny Gray his first win as a Yankee, but Chapman’s struggles were the talk of the game afterward.

It was the third appearance in a row in which Chapman has given up at least one run, allowing five runs on three hits — two of them homers — and walking four in his last three and a third innings pitched. He’s also hit a batter. That’s just the most acute portion of a long slide, however. He posted a 0.79 ERA in his first 12 appearances this year, before getting shelled twice and then going on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation, missing over a month. Since returning he’s allowed 12 runs — ten earned — in 23 appearances, breaking out to a 4.09 ERA. He’s also walked ten batters in that time. At present, his strikeout rate is the worst he’s featured since 2010. His walk rate is up and he’s allowing more hits per nine innings than he ever has.

It’s possible that he’s still suffering from shoulder problems. Whether or not that’s an issue, he looks to have a new health concern as he appeared to tweak his hamstring on the game’s final play last night when he ran over to cover first base. Chapman told reporters after the game that “it’s nothing to worry about,” and Joe Girardi said that Chapman would not undergo an MRI or anything, but he was clearly grimacing as he came off the mound and it’s something worth watching.

Also worth watching: Dellin Betances and David Robertson, Chapman’s setup men who have each shined as Yankees closers in the past and who may very soon find themselves closing once again if Chapman can’t figure it out. And Chapman seems to know it. He was asked if he still deserves to be the closer after the game. His answer:

“My job is to be ready to pitch everyday. As far as where I pitch, that’s not up to me. If at some point they need to remove me from the closer’s position, I’m always going to be ready to pitch.”

That’s a team-first answer, and for that Chapman should be lauded. But it’s also one that suggests Chapman himself knows he’s going to be out of a closer’s job soon if he doesn’t turn things around.

And That Happened: Tuesday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Astros 9, Diamondbacks 4: The Astros built an 8-0 lead in the first four innings thanks to six extra-base hits and then put it on cruise control. It wasn’t all rosy, though. Astros starter Brad Peacock hit a double that plated a run, but he didn’t do so well in is primary task, failing to get past the fifth inning. Houston won here, but they’ve scuffled of late and still aren’t where they’d like to be once the playoffs start.

Yankees 5, Mets 4: Good news: Sonny Gray allowed two runs over six and got his first win in pinstripes. Bad news: Aroldis Chapman was terrible again, allowing two runs on two hits in his just-barely-a-save and then winced coming off the mound, which later was revealed to be due to a tweaked hamstring. It’s unclear if he’ll miss any time. If he doesn’t, he going to need to figure out how to miss some bats, because he ain’t been doing that lately.

Nationals 3, Angels 1: Gio Gonzalez snaps the Angels’ winning streak at six thanks to six innings of two-hit, shutout ball. He was backed by two Howie Kendrick solo homers. Kendrick has been on fire since coming over from Philly at the deadline. Since the trade he’s hitting .386/.413/.727 with four homers and 11 RBI in 14 games. Nice pickup.

Rays 6, Blue Jays 4Lucas Duda hit a two-run homer and Wilson Ramos added a solo shot to help the Rays end their four-game losing streak and giving them what, for them anyway, is an absolute offensive explosion. Josh Donaldson homered for the third straight game in a losing cause.

Red Sox 10, Cardinals 4: An eight-run fifth inning by the Sox did in the Cards. Xander Bogaerts had three hits and Hanley RamirezSandy Leon and Jackie Bradley Jr. each knocked in two. The play of the game was a defensive one, though, as the Sox turned an around-the-horn triple play:

Boston has won 11 of 13.

Giants 9, Marlins 4: Giancarlo Stanton homered in his sixth straight game. The record for consecutive games with a home run is eight, held by Stanton’s manager, Don Mattingly, Dale Long, and Ken Griffey, Jr., so keep watching. That was it for the Marlins, though, as the Giants offense did some damage. Denard Span had three hits including a homer. He and Hunter Pence each drove in a pair. Ryder Jones homered. Madison Bumgarner may have given up that shot to Stanton, but he knocked in a run of his own with a single while scattering nine hits and allowing four runs in six innings.

Brewers 3, Pirates 1: Zach Davies outdueled Ivan Nova, allowing one run over six. Manny Pina drove in two and Keon Broxton hit a pinch hit solo homer for the Brew Crew.

Rangers 10, Tigers 4: Texas beat up Justin Verlander for three homers and five runs over six innings, with the dingers coming off the bats of Joey Gallo (natch), Mike Napoli and Robinson Chirinos. Gallo’s homer was estimated at 459 feet, but the most impressive part of it was that the strikeout friendly slugger did it after coming back from an 0-2 count and laying off some high heat from Verlander, who had struck him out on three pitches in his previous at bat.

Reds 2, Cubs 1: Starters Luis Castillo and Kyle Hendricks each tossed six scoreless innings, but Scooter Gennett drove in Joey Votto with a sacrifice fly in the eighth to break a scoreless tie and Billy Hamilton singled home the go-ahead run in the ninth. Votto reached base three times, all on walks, to bring himself to within a game of Ted Williams’ record for the most consecutive games of reaching twice.

Indians 8, Twins 1: Carlos Santana hit two homers and teammates Jason Kipnis, Edwin Encarnacion and Austin Jackson each went deep as well. Danny Salazar allowed one run over seven, striking out ten. Maybe this year will be the opposite of last year for Cleveland, and they’ll peak late instead of early with healthy starting pitching heading into the playoffs.

Braves 4, Rockies 3: Nolan Arenado committed a rare throwing error which allowed Brandon Phillips to score the go-ahead run for Atlanta in the eighth inning. Nick Markakis homered as the Braves get a rare win in Coors Field. Back in the day (like, 20 years ago) they owned Colorado, but the Rockies had taken 11 straight from the Braves in Denver before this one.

Athletics 10, Royals 8: The teams combined to score 11 runs in the eighth inning. Viva bullpens. Matt Joyce hit a three-run double that inning, pulling the A’s from behind. Ned Yost walked Rajai Davis to load the bases to get to minor, too which, oops. Joyce had homered earlier in the game which made it all the more questionable, but managers like their lefty-lefty matchups and their theoretical double plays. Drew ButeraEric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas all homered in the Royals half of the run-happy eighth.

Mariners 3, Orioles 1: Andrew Albers allowed one run over five for his first win in just over four years. The last came on August 12, 2013. Don’t make any plans for mid-August, 2021 if you’re an Albers fan. He had some serious help from Jarod Dyson. Look at this throw, off friggin’ balance, too:

Dodgers 6, White Sox 1: Seems unfair to let the White Sox play the Dodgers, but that’s what the schedule called for. It looked close for a while, actually, as the game was tied 1-1 in the eighth. That’s when L.A. unloaded for five runs, with the go-ahead run coming on a bases loaded hit-by-pitch of Joc Pederson followed by two-run singles from both Austin Barnes and Corey Seager. The Dodgers are no 50 games over .500.

Padres 8, Phillies 4: Cory Spangenberg homered for the third time in four games and drove in four and starter Dinelson Lamet allowed two runs over seven innings of work, striking out seven. He also leads the league in Names That Should Totally Be That Of The Main Character In Magical Realist Novels.