Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings

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Rays high five.jpg1. Rays: They dropped two out of three to split a four game series with Kansas City at home and could have easily lost three, but we’ll keep them in the top spot for now. The nine-game west coast swing on which they are about to embark will tell us just how strong these guys really are.

2. Yankees: And with Mark Teixeira heating up, the Rays may get knocked out of the top spot even if they don’t turn in a bum road trip.

3. Cardinals: It’s not just the Pujols show so far this year. David Freese had a great week and while last year they only had two real go-to starters, this year they appear to have four.

4. Phillies: The Giants series hurt, but seeing the offense wake up against the Mets is an encouraging sign. The next four games against the Cardinals could be an NLCS preview.

5. Tigers: Are they as strong a team as the Twins? I’m a bit dubious, but they took two of three from them, and swept the Angels, so I have to put them a notch above. They play Minnesota three more times this week, though, so this may be temporary.

6. Twins: Oh, and with Mauer gone, you have to figure that Twins futures are selling a bit lower today than they were, right?

7. Padres:  If the Padres were a stock I’d consider selling high, but I’ve said that for a couple of weeks now and look how wrong that was. In other news, my portfolio is like a bloody car wreck these days, so take all my financial market analogies with a grain of salt. Oh, and don’t doubt the Padres, because they don’t like it. Of course every team that has some unexpected success says that, so such stories are boring. If and when they tank, however, I think I’ll call them back for comment to see if it’s OK to doubt them. That’s a story you never see.

8. Giants: I’ve been saying that San Francisco needs some offense for a couple of years now, though I guess if they continue to have four world-beating starters they can get by like they’re the 1988 Dodgers or something.

9. Mets: I’m not going to call off the Mets’ happy-party just because they lost 2 of 3 to a strong Phillies team. Let’s see if they take care of business against the Reds before we make any declarations.

10. Rangers: I decided to be audacious and pick the Rangers to win the west last year and they didn’t. Cowed at my failure, I went back to picking ol’ reliable Anaheim this year. My prognostication patterns are much like my fashion sense: often wrong, but for radically different reasons depending on when you catch me.


11. Athletics: I don’t know if Billy Beane signed Ben Sheets to
actually make a run at the division or to simply hope for a hot first
half after which he could flip the guy, but
neither plan is panning out very well
.

12. Cubs: They’re playing much better baseball and now they get
series against the Pirates, the Reds, the Marlins and then the Pirates
again. I predict that there will be much more enthusiasm about this team
that is actually warranted come mid-month.

13. Marlins: Nice weekend, Marlins, but now you have Lincecum,
Zito and Cain coming to town.

15. Rockies: They’re still only four games out, so it’s not a
lock that Colorado is going to need another one of their patented
ungodly tears to win the division, but we’re getting closer to that
point each day.

14. Nationals: Great
post over at Federal Baseball
explaining why the Nats are above
.500, but why it won’t last.

16. Blue Jays: I repeat, there is absolutely no truth to the
rumors that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are going to start shaking
down visiting U.S. ballplayers for proof of legal immigration status
when they’re in town to face the Blue Jays.  That’s nothing more than a
hilarious, hilarious rumor.

17. Angels: I would officially like to use my one mulligan of the
week to take back my “slowly but surely, the Halos are righting the
ship” comment from last week.

18. Braves: I’ll believe that they’re back on track when they
beat someone who isn’t the Astros.

19. Dodgers: I’ll believe that they’re back on track when they
beat someone who isn’t the Pirates.

20. Mariners: I should probably drop them down a couple of
notches given the sweep at home against the Rangers, but (a) the return
of Cliff Lee; and (b) the exile of Eric Byrnes may have worked off the
weekend’s karma just enough to keep them stationary.

21. Reds: Same Houston caveat applies to the Reds that applied to
the Braves, but let’s be clear: the starting pitching is improving and
guys who need to hit well for this team to be successful (i.e. Jay
Bruce) are heating up. They may have some of that widely-predicted
pre-season friskiness in them yet.

22. Diamondbacks: These fellows give up so many runs that the
State of Arizona should divert anti-immigration resources to
arson-prevention.

23. Red Sox: The cartoon at
this post
would be much cuter if I didn’t believe that a healthy
portion of Red Sox fans thought that the current plight of the team was
worse than the plight of the gulf coast.

24. Indians: A year ago at this time it was controversial to
suggest that the Tribe could trade Grady Sizemore as a part of its
rebuilding effort. Now it’s hard to imagine that they’d get a hell of a
lot for him (.207/.271/.310).

25. Brewers: I really need to make a honorary last place on this
list for teams that aren’t truly the 30th best in baseball but who do
things to make them worse than the 30th team for one brief shining
moment. Things like getting shut out in three of four games.

26. White Sox:  This team misses Jermaine Dye, Scott Podsednik
and Jim Thome. That’s a pretty sad statement, but it’s true.

27. Royals: You know what’s gonna be a hoot? In 15 years, after
Zack Greinke plays out his string in Kansas City and is winding down his
career in New York or someplace like it, BBWAA members are going to be
talking about how, while he’s close, Greinke just isn’t worthy of making
the Hall of Fame because he wasn’t a “winner.”

28. Orioles: They still have the worst record in baseball, but if
you sweep the Red Sox, you deserve to be elevated out of the cellar.
NOTE: offer not good later in the season when sweeping the Red Sox is
seen as no big trick.

29. Pirates: They beat the Dodgers on Thursday and I figure
they’ve turned a corner. Then they get outscored 20-6 in the final three
games. Say what you want about the 2010 Pirates, but they are not a
team that does anything half-assed.

30. Astros: What
he said
.

And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

New York Yankees relief pitcher Johnny Barbato, right, walks off the field after being relieved in the tenth inning of a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles in Baltimore, Thursday, May 5, 2016. Baltimore won 1-0 in ten innings. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Orioles 1, Yankees 0: Kevin Gausman didn’t even break as sweat, allowing three hits in eight shutout innings. He got the no-decision, though, as the he, Masahiro Tanaka and relievers traded zeros through regulation. In the 10th, however, the Orioles broke through against Johnny Barbato and Andrew Miller. One wonders if they break through at all, however, if Miller starts the inning rather than comes in with runners on the corer and no one out. Barbato is a rookie with little experience and in that experience he has has demonstrated some pretty ineffective pitching. The Yankees have been stinkin’ up the joint, Miller is one of the best relievers in baseball and he had pitched just once in the previous five days. For the Yankees to go with Barbato there, when a single run means a loss, than Miller, is insanity. The old “don’t use your closer in a tie game on the road” thing was no doubt in play there, but for as conventional as that is, it is not wisdom. It’s the delegation of logic. It’s asking the manager to forget who his pitchers are and what his larger situation is (i.e. the Yankees NEED to win some games right now) in order to adhere to some stupid convention with less than a couple of decades of venerability. The Orioles won this game, but calcified thinking lost it.

Padres 5, Mets 3: Colin Rea pitched no-hit ball into the seventh before Yoenis Cespedes drove a ground ball single to right field with two outs. The hit came as a result of Cespedes going the other way against the shift. I’m assuming some people will say shifts suck because if there wasn’t one here Rea might’ve pitched a no-hitter, but the game story notes that the no-hit bid was extended by the shift several times. In other news, shift politics rather bore me. Hit doubles and homers and you don’t need to worry about shifts. They take away singles. Not much else.

Marlins 4, Diamondbacks 0: The Marlins have won 10 of 11 games. Five have come against bad teams, but what most people forget is that good teams winning a lot of games against bad teams is a huge part of why they’re good teams. I’m not sure if I’m mentally prepared for the Marlins to be a good team in 2016, but here we are.

Cubs 5, Nationals 2: Good teams beat a lot of bad teams. SUPER good teams beat other good teams too. The Nats are good. The Cubs are SUPER good and they cruise in a matchup between the NL’s two best so far. Kyle Hendricks pitched six scoreless innings and Ben Zobrist drove in four runs. Every team slumps at times and as a franchise the Cubs have been know to swoon, but this sure as hell feels different to me. These guys are fantastic.

Red Sox 7, White Sox 3: Sox win! Dustin Pedroia, Hanley Ramirez and Jackie Bradley Jr. all homered. The Sox have won nine of 11. Pedroia is looking like vintage Pedroia. This is another matchup of two good teams. One of ’em took two of three from the other, making them gooder right now.

Indians 9, Tigers 4: Michael Brantley was 4-for-5 with three RBI and Mike Napoli had a three-run homer. In other news, I had this exchange at about 9:30 last night with a Tigers fan friend of mine:

Text

Cardinals 4, Phillies 0: Brandon Moss hit a homer that they judged to be 462 feet. That would make it the fourth longest by anyone on the season. The previous long homers: Nolan Arenado, 471 feet, Sean Rodriguez, 468, and Byung Ho Park, 466. Home run measuring remains something of an inexact science but that’s pretty rad. Meanwhile, Jaime Garcia pitches seven two-hit shutout innings.

Blue Jays 12, Rangers 2: Edwin Encarnacion homered, doubled twice and drove in six runs. Is that good? I feel like that’s pretty good.

Reds 9, Brewers 5Jay Bruce hit a three-run homer and Alfredo Simon made it through seven effective innings and two-thirds of a not-so-effective one. Maybe he ran out of gas in the eighth when he allowed a two-run homer before leaving, but with the Reds’ bullpen stinkin’ like it stinks, you stretch a guy if you can. The pen came in and allowed another couple of runs in the ninth, but you know the old saying “you don’t lose often when you score nine runs and you’re playing Milwaukee even if your bullpen is a friggin’ train wreck.” I think Joe McCarthy said that.

 

Mariners 6, Astros 3: It was tied at three in the ninth when Luke Gregerson loaded up the bases and Robinson Cano cleared them off with a three-run double. A rare good start from an Astros’ stater is again wasted by the Houston pen. But sure, Carlos Gomez is the issue here.

Rockies 17, Giants 7: Remember yesterday when I said that the back end of the Giants rotation was bad? I should’ve said it was a tire fire in a sulfur mine. Matt Cain, who is clearly not right, allowed eight runs, six earned, on ten hits in four innings. The Rockies scored 13 runs in the fifth inning, which Cain started but couldn’t finish. Cain and Jake Peavy may be famous, but they’re killing San Francisco right now. In other news, Tim Lincecum will throw his little showcase for teams in Arizona later this morning. If the Giants aren’t at least thinking about getting back together with their old flame something is wrong.

Colin Rea loses no-hit bid in the seventh against the Mets

San Diego Padres starting pitcher Colin Rea works against a Pittsburgh Pirates batter during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, April 19, 2016, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
AP Photo/Gregory Bull
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Update (12:01 AM EDT): And it’s over. Yoenis Cespedes drove a ground ball single to right field with two outs in the seventh inning to end Rea’s no-hit bid.

*

Padres starter Colin Rea has tamed the hot-hitting Mets lineup so far this Thursday night. The right-hander has walked only one, the lone batter above the minimum he has faced. Rea has also struck out three while accumulating 76 pitches.

The Padres’ offense provided Rea with five runs of support, scoring once in each of the first, second, and third, as well as twice in the sixth. Wil Myers smacked a solo homer off of Jacob deGrom in the first inning. Rea helped himself with an RBI single in the second, Alexei Ramirez brought in a run with a double in the third, Derek Norris drove a solo homer in the sixth, and Jon Jay shortly thereafter hit an RBI double.

The Mets entered play Thursday tied for the National League lead in home runs hit as a team with 40. Rea, meanwhile, came into Thursday’s action with a 4.61 ERA and a 22/13 K/BB ratio in 27 1/3 innings spanning five starts and one relief appearance.

If Rea is able to complete the job, he would become the first pitcher in Padres history to throw a no-hitter. Jake Arrieta threw the first no-hitter of the 2016 season on April 21 against the Reds.

We’ll keep you updated as Rea attempts to navigate through the final three innings.

Jason Heyward hopes to return to Cubs’ lineup on Friday

Chicago Cubs' Jason Heyward hits a double to drive in Dexter Fowler off Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher J.J. Hoover during the ninth inning of a baseball game, Friday, April 22, 2016, in Cincinnati. The Cubs won 8-1. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
AP Photo/John Minchillo
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Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward hasn’t played since Sunday due to a sore right wrist, but he’s hoping to be included in his team’s lineup on Friday, MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat reports. Matt Szucur, Ben Zobrist, and Kris Bryant have handled right field while Heyward has been out.

Heyward, 26, has gotten off to a disappointing start, as he’s batting .211/.317/.256 with only four doubles, no home runs, and 13 RBI in 104 plate appearances. He signed an eight-year, $184 million contract with the Cubs back in December.

Heyward said he hurt his wrist putting emphasis on it during hitting drills. He said, “I was doing some work off the tee and doing a drill with a donut on the bat, swinging, trying to stay through the middle, and I put more emphasis on [his wrist] and strained it from that.”

Cardinals plan to get creative to keep Aledmys Diaz in the lineup

St. Louis Cardinals' Jedd Gyorko high-fives with Matt Carpenter as they and Aledmys Diaz, center, leave the field following the Cardinals' 11-2 victory over the San Diego Padres in a baseball game Saturday, April 23, 2016, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi
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Cardinals shortstop Jhonny Peralta is expected to return from the disabled list in early June, which means current shortstop Aledmys Diaz would return to the bench. There’s only one problem: Diaz has been one of the best hitters in baseball. The 25-year-old owns a sparkling .381/.422/.679 triple-slash line with 14 extra-base hits (including five homers) in 90 plate appearances.

The Cardinals plan to get creative to keep Diaz’s bat in the lineup. Per Jon Morosi of FOX Sports, the club is considering using Peralta at first and third base. Peralta, 33, last played third base in 2010 with the Indians and Tigers. He has logged only three games and nine total defensive innings at first base in his major league career.

Diaz isn’t about to displace Peralta. Last season, Peralta was one of the best-hitting shortstops, finishing with a .275/.334/.411 triple-slash line with 17 home runs and 41 RBI in 640 plate appearances. He was even more productive in 2014, his first year with the Cardinals.