Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings

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Carl Crawford running.jpg1. Rays: This week: a Yankees sandwich between two stale slices of bread (Cleveand and Houston). Hard to say what a two-game series really means in the grand scheme of things, but it’s probably the best time to be facing the Yankees.

2. Phillies: Philly takes the “team most likely to run away with their division” sash from the Cardinals, activates Jimmy Rollins and prepares to step on the gas.

3. Yankees: That Detroit series was trublesome. Yeah, the weather sucked, but it was the first time I’ve seen the Yankees appear aimless, for lack of a better term, in eons. Thank God for the Twins. And no, I’m not worried about Rivera yesterday. He’s entitled to a bad day once in a while.  Call me if and when he goes all Trevor Hoffman. Then I’ll worry.

4. Twins: Dropping two of three over the weekend in a week in which they only played five games normally wouldn’t entitle a team to rank 4th, but (a) it’s the Yankees, they’re just the Twins’ kryptonite so I’m not gonna hold it against them; and (b) I’m not really seeing anyone who deserves to rank higher than them at the moment.

5. Reds: Don’t pay too much attention to that overall run differential (-1) in determining whether or not this team is for real. They lost a few games big early and have been closing that gap quickly.

6. Tigers: Three of four from the Yankees, two of three from the Red Sox. I don’t care how bad a year one team is having and how many little bumps and bruises the other has, that’s a good weeks’ worth of work right there.

7. Dodgers:  Too high? I dunno. They’re the hottest team in baseball right now, so they deserve some kudos.  Everyone will be on pins and needles waiting to hear whether Ethier goes on the DL, however.

8. Blue Jays: This may be the longest I’ve gone into a season without seeing a “the [Team no one expected to do anything but lose] are really turning heads!” feature in a major publication or website. Did I just miss it, or are the Jays just not registering on anyone’s radar?

9. Padres: If they had started out the season like everyone expected them to no one would be saying anything, but since they went all contenderish on us, criticizing the Padres for their lack of offense is totally legitimate.

10. Giants: This week they get a chance for revenge against the Padres for that sweep last week. I like their chances.


11. Cardinals: Albert Pujols in the month of May: 14-for-55
(.255) with one homer.  I don’t expect that — or the Cards’ current
swoon — to last.

12. Rangers: Giving up 27 runs to the
Blue Jays this weekend wasn’t exactly how they drew it up. Perhaps they
should just do what I used to do when I had a bad weekend in Canada:
pretend it never happened. Of course my bad weekends in Canada used to
accompany bachelor parties and copious amounts of rye whiskey, so I
didn’t remember much of them to begin with.

13. Rockies:
Will Jeff Francis save the season?

14. Marlins: The Mets:
the pause that refreshes!

15. Nationals: Calling Drew
Storen up could turn what has been an adequate-though-unimpressive
bullpen into a team strength.  Now, for that move with the rotation . . .

16.
Braves
: The offense is waking up, thanks in part to Bobby Cox
installing Eric Hinske in left field. Now, if only the gurgling,
swirling vortex of suck that is Melky McLouth would just go away.  What?
You mean they’re two different guys?

17. Red Sox: David
Ortiz heats up, Victor Martinez stays cool and the Yankees and Twins are
on tap.  The Sox have been playing better baseball lately, but they
need to step on the gas if they want to make any noise in this division.

18.
Athletics
: Justin Duchscherer was a high-risk, high-reward signing
to begin with this year, but losing him still stings.  Bill Beane went
up to the rooftop to flash the Jack Cust signal, but even the Three True
Outcomes king isn’t likely to right this listing ship.

19.
Mets
: If the A’s are listing, the Mets are hanging from the
Christmas Tree on the S.S. Poseidon.  Jerry Manuel plays the Leslie
Neilson role. And remember kids, this was back before Leslie Neilson was
funny. Dude plays the captain and he dies in the first half hour.

20.
Pirates
: The Pirates made the Reds look like they were pitching in
the Dead Ball era, and then came back and put 10 up on the Cubs Friday
night. This probably says something about all three of these teams.

21.
Cubs
: I’m just mad at these guys for
making me write that Alan Trammell isn’t the answer
this morning.
Alan Trammell is always the answer, in almost every context. In this he
is like Batman.

22. Angels: Only two and a half back. The
Angels are a big train that takes forever to get moving, but they
always move.  I get this funny feeling we’ll be having the same
conversation this fall that we always have: “wow, how did anyone doubt
these guys back in May?”

23. Indians: I’m just waiting for
the first “what will LeBron’s free agency mean for the Indians”
article, because you know it’s coming.

24. Brewers: Ken
Macha has to be on the hot seat right now, no? I mean, this is a team
that fired its manager a week before it went to the playoffs a couple of
years ago.

25. White Sox: “They’re universally poor in
all phases of the game; offense, pitching,
baserunning, defense and coaching all deserve some of the blame. But the
largest share of the blame (aside from obviously underperforming
players) has to lie with the front office who allowed a team to be
constructed in such a manner that nearly everything had to break
right just for the Sox to compete.”  And
this is a Sox blog, talking
.

26. Mariners: As David
Cameron points out
, 22 of the Mariners
next 29 games come against teams currently over .500.

27.
Diamondbacks
: I didn’t think the Dbacks pen could be as bad as
their numbers suggested, but then I watched their series against the
Braves and all was confirmed.

28. Astros: On pace to be
one of the worst offenses of all time. Which in that park is saying
something.

29. Royals: Ned Yost should retire right now
and leave as the winningest manager (percentage wise) in Royals history.

30.
Orioles
: The Orioles’ starting first baseman has zero home runs and
six RBI in 107 plate appearances this season.

And That Happened: Saturday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the rest of Saturday’s scores and highlights:

Athletics 10, White Sox 2: Matt Olson, Jaycob Brugman and Franklin Barreto stole the spotlight on Saturday, going deep for the first home runs of their respective major league careers. Not only was it a franchise first for the Athletics, but it was the first time three rookies accomplished the feat for any major league team to date. The last trio to pull it off did so for the Kansas City Packers of the Federal League, when Duke Kenworthy, Art Kruger and John Potts went yard for their first home runs in 1914.

Lost in all the mayhem? James Shieldscareer 2,000th strikeout, a 1-2 knuckle curveball that caught Khris Davis looking to end the second inning.

Rangers 8, Yankees 1: Aaron Judge may be unstoppable, but the Yankees are not. The rookie slugger collected his league-best 26th home run on Saturday afternoon, putting the Yankees on the board with a solo shot during the sixth inning.

It was a mistake Texas’ right-hander Austin Bibens-Dirkx wouldn’t make again, shutting down four of the next five batters he faced and leaving the bullpen to polish off the win with two scoreless frames.

Royals 3, Blue Jays 2: Jason Vargas may not have the pinpoint control of Ivan Nova or the sheer strikeout power of Chris Sale, but as of Saturday afternoon, he now owns the best record in the American League. He cruised to his 11th win against the Blue Jays, spinning seven innings of two-run ball and striking out just two of 27 batters. Marco Estrada matched him pitch for pitch, but lost the edge after Alex Gordon tripled to break the 2-2 tie in the seventh.

Nationals 18, Reds 3: It’s safe to say this was not the season debut Homer Bailey had been anticipating. The veteran right-hander was activated from the 60-day disabled list on Saturday and lasted just 1 2/3 innings against the Nationals’ blistering offensive drive. A six-run second inning forced Bailey’s early exit and brought his ERA to a bloated 43.20 mark after he surrendered eight runs on six hits and two walks. Trea Turner and Michael Taylor were the centerpiece of the Nationals’ 18-run drubbing, combining for nine hits, two home runs and five RBI as the Nats coasted to their 45th win of the year.

Orioles 8, Rays 3: Goodbye, ugly losing streak. Hello, Dylan Bundy. The Orioles pulled within five games of the division lead on Saturday, giving up fewer than five runs for the first time since June 2. Bundy led the charge, issuing three runs on five hits and four walks and striking out eight over seven innings for his eighth win of the season. An explosive four-run effort propelled the club to a comfortable lead in the seventh inning, while Manny Machado‘s eighth-inning sac fly put the finishing touches on an 8-3 finale.

Cubs 5, Marlins 3: After 12 years in the majors, Cubs’ veteran lefty Jon Lester still had some career firsts left to record — including his first win against the Marlins. He cut through Miami’s lineup with expert precision during Saturday’s win, giving up a J.T. Realmuto home run in the first inning and settling down to retire 18 of the next 20 batters he faced. The next team on his list? The Red Sox, whom the Cubs are not scheduled to face this season (barring a chance meeting in the World Series, of course).

Braves 3, Brewers 1: Is R.A. Dickey… good again? The knuckleballer commanded his third quality start on Saturday, squelching the Brewers’ offense with just one run and six strikeouts over seven innings. His only snafu came in the first inning, when he turned to pick off Travis Shaw at third base and was instead penalized with a balk, his first of the year.

The Freeze, meanwhile, was not nearly as successful as his parent club, missing the finish line by mere inches during the customary between-inning sprint around the warning track.

Twins 4, Indians 2: There’s nothing more tragic than a solid pitching effort gone to waste. Corey Kluber allowed two runs and fanned 13 batters for his fifth quality start and second no-decision of the month, dropping what looked like a guaranteed win after Brian Dozier and Chris Gimenez reclaimed the lead with a pair of home runs in the eighth and ninth.

Angels 6, Red Sox 3: Not everyone was as delighted about Kole Calhoun‘s run-scoring balk as the Angels were. Calhoun plated a run in the seventh inning after Fernando Abad stopped his delivery on a 3-1 pitch, boosting the Angels’ lead to three runs and eventually securing their 6-3 win. Neither Abad nor Red Sox manager John Farrell saw eye-to-eye with crew chief Bill Miller, however, and contested the ruling after Abad claimed that he inadvertently balked after seeing Calhoun call for a time out.

Mets 5, Giants 2: From injuries to slumps, it’s been a rough ride for the Mets this month. Enter Jacob deGrom, who crafted his third consecutive quality start with eight innings of one-run ball, striking out seven and going 1-for-3 with a single against the Giants’ Johnny Cueto. The Giants, on the other hand, became the first team to record 50 losses this season after the bullpen blew a 1-1 tie in the eighth.

Pirates 7, Cardinals 3: Look, there may be plenty of legitimate baseball-related reasons to skip out on a wedding reception. I can’t think of any compelling enough to leave your own wedding, however, at least not just to watch Lance Lynn give up seven runs during the Cardinals’ 40th loss of the year.

Different strokes for different folks, I suppose.

Dodgers 4, Rockies 0: Clayton Kershaw is still very, very good. After faltering in a six-run outing against the Mets last week, the Dodgers’ ace returned with six shutout innings against the Rockies, striking out eight and matching Jason Vargas’ league-best 11 wins. He manufactured his own run support, too, drawing a bases-loaded walk in the third inning to cement the club’s four-run lead:

Padres 7, Tigers 3: The Tigers continued their eight-game skid with a tough loss at PETCO Park on Saturday, marring six solid innings from Anibal Sanchez with a five-run implosion in the eighth inning. Andrew Romine put up two of the Tigers’ three runs on an RBI double and single, but wasn’t able to single-handedly rally from a four-run deficit in the ninth.

Astros 5, Mariners 2: Sometimes, it’s difficult to identify the exact moment when a game swings out of control. Other times, it’s all too obvious. For the Mariners, that moment could be traced back to one line drive in the seventh inning:

In Mitch Haniger‘s defense, clearing 69 feet in under five seconds is a feat few can pull off, even with the game on the line.

Diamondbacks 9, Phillies 2: Nothing the Diamondbacks and Phillies did — not even the Ben Lively home run that made this play possible — was as impressive as the coordination and grace of this lone D-backs fan:

Aledmys Diaz is trying to improve his defense with strobe glasses

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MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports that Cardinals’ shortstop Aledmys Diaz has been sporting a new look around Busch Stadium with a pair of “strobe glasses,” technology-enhanced specs designed to help athletes focus on the ball. Like a strobe light, the lenses of these glasses affect a player’s vision by rapidly changing opacity, giving its wearers the illusion that the objects they see are moving more slowly than normal. Once a player adjusts to the new speed of play, they gain a greater sense of control and are able to time their actions with more precision.

Diaz isn’t the first MLB player to utilize the technology, just the first Cardinals’ player to do so. It’s been tested by Bryce Harper, Corey Brown, Tommy Joseph, Austin Hedges and Joe Mauer, among others around the league, and has been used for everything from refining a catcher’s reflexes behind the plate to tweaking a hitter’s ability to track a pitch. Per Langosch, Diaz has been using the glasses to hone in on the ball during pregame drills, increasing both his confidence and response time on the field and improving his defense at short.

The shortstop has been the focus of some concern this season after seeing a sizable dip in his production at the plate, and his five fielding errors, 0.6 UZR and 0.6 fWAR haven’t helped matters, either. He sustained a minor thumb injury during an at-bat on Friday night, and was left off of the Cardinals’ starting lineup on Saturday, though manager Mike Matheny didn’t rule out his ability to pinch-hit during the series. While the strobe glasses are a good start, Diaz will need more than a pair of specs to match the spotlight-worthy performance he turned out during his rookie season in 2016.