Your Tuesday Morning Power Rankings

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Rays conversing.jpgSorry it’s a day late, but there were only four games last night, so it’s not like the balance of power shifted since yesterday afternoon.  If you’re still upset, though, just sign these forms and you’ll get your money back in sixty days. What? Well, now, that’s what you agreed to when you bought your shares! Look, I know old man Potter is paying fifty cents on the dollar, but if he gets his hand on this blog there’ll never be another decent blog post written in this town again . . .

1. Rays: And it’s not even close. They’re being chased by the best second team in baseball, and they still have the biggest lead of all the first place teams.

2. Phillies: Not a pretty series against the Red Sox, and losing Jimmy Rollins again isn’t a good thing, but they’re basically keeping an even keel despite a few less-than-stellar Roy Halladay starts in a row, so they’re doing OK.

3. Yankees: They’re either about to feast on the Indians, Orioles and Astros in upcoming series, or else they’re about to become the subject of even more “are the Yankees getting old” articles. I’m betting feast and would prefer to see it because I like to see great teams do great things, but if they stumble it will be much easier to write this blog for the next couple of months, that’s for damn sure.

4. Twins: I don’t believe in jinxes and stuff — as a wise and beautiful fictitious woman once said,  “please explain to me the scientific nature of ‘the whammy'” — but I guess Minnesota has a chance to show everyone that they can finally beat the Yankees this week. And if they can’t do it now, when everyone is all beat up, jeez, when can they?

5. Cardinals: The Cardinals reasserting themselves in the Central after a week or so of the Reds in first place is probably an instance of order being restored, but it’s sort of deflating too given how much fun we were having with the Reds in charge. Kind of like when Sgt. Hulka returned to the unit after Winger got them through the end of basic training.

6. Reds: Not that Winger isn’t still threatening to take over the unit. Tied as of this morning, and a nice job coming off the mat after that devastating loss to the Braves last Thursday. As is the case with the Yankees, the Indians-Pirates-Astros pupu platter will likely make life easier over the next couple of weeks.

7. Padres: Splitting with the Dodgers and Giants and taking two of three from the Mariners is basically holding serve, but enough other teams didn’t do that last week that the bump up a couple of notches is warranted in my view.

8. Dodgers: Still charging despite the injuries and a thin staff. I still think they need to make a move for pitching, even though everyone says that they won’t be taking on payroll. Maybe Frank McCourt can adopt Roy Oswalt and give him a “job” like he did his kids, thereby hiding the money they’d have to pay the guy.

9. Tigers: No Miguel Cabrera for the next couple of games and a rare two offdays this week, so it’s not like we’re going to get all that great a read on Detroit between now and the next time we meet up for the Power Rankings.

10. Rangers: Hands down the best bankrupt team in baseball.


11. Blue Jays: I have no idea how long this nice run will last,
but if you’re the Jays you couldn’t have drawn up a better “lots of
dudes start strong and maybe allow us to turn them into something at the
trade deadline” season if you tried.

12. Braves: Three at
Florida where they always struggle, followed by a palette-cleanser at
Pittsburgh, and then a death march against Philly and at Los Angeles. 
I’m going in to take a nap — when I wake, and I find they’ve come
through it all unscathed, I’ll know we have a playoff contender. If not,
I’ll know we don’t. 

13. Red Sox: Strong starts from
Lester, Buchholz, Dice-K and Wakefield made for a nice pick-me-up.
They’re four over .500 now, and are more than surviving a profoundly
gnarly part of their schedule.

14: Athletics: Nice starts
from Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and Ben Sheets against the Giants,
although I think the results had far more to say about the state of the
San Francisco lineup than it did the Oakland rotation.

15:
Marlins
: They don’t care what I say about them because I never
played in the major leagues.

16: Giants: We should start a
pool in which we all wager on which first-half flash-in-the-pan Brian
Sabean trades for at the deadline in order to not fix the Giants
offense.

17. Nationals: Losers of seven of ten and now
they embark on a ten-game road trip. I have this feeling we’ve seen the
last of those “check out the surprising Washington Nationals” articles
pretty darn soon.

18. Rockies: Call me crazy, but I don’t
think that signing Kaz Matsui is going to spur them on to one of those
2007/2009-style surges.

19. Mets: No matter how rough
things are at the moment, taking two of three from the Yankees and
lighting up the Empire State Building thusly
has to feel good.

20.
Angels
: Eyeing this weekend, when they begin ten straight games
against the Royals and Mariners.

21. Cubs: What to do
with Zambrano? How
about working him in as part of a six-man rotation
?  Dumber things
have been done on the north side in the past. Anyone remember “Whitlow’s
Wall?” No, I’m not going to tell you what it was. That’s between you
and Google.

22. Diamondbacks: Nobody say nothin’ seein’ as
we don’t want to jinx it, but the Diamondbacks bullpen actually pitched
halfway decently last week.

23. White Sox: The Chisox may
be a disappointment this year, but at least they’ve given us “Alexis
Rios: deserving All-Star” this season, and that’s pretty neat.

24.
Pirates
: Since they got obliterated in that stretch against the
Brewers back in April, the Buccos are close to being a .500 team. A very
frustrating .500 team to be sure, but a .500 team all the same. I guess
that’s something.

25. Brewers: Losers of eight of ten.
Somethin’s got to change.

26. Mariners: Mike
Sweeney’s aggressive display
after the Griffey thing didn’t exactly
fire the team up, but it certainly helped Mike Sweeney, who has been on
a tear of late. Maybe he should challenge his teammates to a fight more
often.

27. Royals: Take a good look around and remember
this moment, everyone, for you are now entering the last week in which
Ned Yost will have a .500+ record as manager of the Royals.

28.
Indians
: It’s kind of sad that the highlights of the season going
forward will be watching guys like Kerry Wood and Austin Kearns to see
whether the team’s potential trade bait has what it takes to get traded.

29.
Orioles
: I took guff last week for having the Orioles in last
place. They, like the Astros, went 2-5 last week. But in a gesture of
friendship and good will, I move them up to 29.  May this fill Orioles
fans with joy and satisfaction.

30. Astros: Nothing
personal Astros fans: you guys just tend not to be as insecure as
Baltimore people, so I figured you could handle this.  Besides, you’re
paying more attention to the Oswalt derby anyway. Which, quite frankly,
is way more fun than whatever is happening on the field right now.

Astros push ALCS to Game 7 with 7-1 stunner against Yankees

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There’s just something about playing in your home ballpark. The Astros decimated the Yankees at Minute Maid Park on Friday, riding seven scoreless innings from Justin Verlander and a pair of big runs from Jose Altuve to win 7-1 and force a Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

Through the first four innings, however, the teams looked equally matched. Luis Severino no-hit the Astros through 3 2/3 innings, losing his bid on Carlos Correa‘s line drive single in the fourth. The Astros returned in the fifth to do some real damage, drawing two walks and plating the first run of the night with Brian McCann‘s ground-rule double off of the right field wall. Things didn’t get any easier for Severino. Jose Altuve lined a two-RBI base hit into left field, upping Houston’s advantage to three runs.

Verlander, meanwhile, muted the Yankees’ offense with seven innings of five-hit, eight-strikeout ball. While he didn’t come close to matching his complete game effort in Game 2, he was still plenty dominant against a struggling New York lineup. No player reached past first base until the sixth inning, when a pair of base hits from Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius gave the Yankees their first runner in scoring position. That didn’t last long, though, as Gary Sanchez grounded out on a 3-0 slider to end the inning.

In the seventh, Houston’s ace got into another spot of trouble. He walked Greg Bird on six pitches to start the inning, then plunked Starlin Castro on the wrist. Aaron Hicks struck out, in part thanks to a questionable call by home plate umpire Jim Reynolds, but it was Todd Frazier who presented the biggest threat after returning an 0-1 fastball for a 403-foot fly out to left field. Luckily for Verlander, George Springer was there to bail him out with a leaping catch at the wall.

The Yankees kept things exciting in the eighth, too. Aaron Judge ripped his third postseason home run off of Brad Peacock, taking a 425-footer out to the train in left field to spoil the Astros’ shutout. That was the only real break the Yankees got, however, as Altuve, Alex Bregman and Evan Gattis returned in the bottom of the inning to tack on another four runs, including Altuve’s solo shot off of David Robertson:

Ken Giles handled the ninth, expending 23 pitches and giving up a base hit and a walk before retiring Frazier and Headley to end the game. Thanks to Houston’s winning efforts, the two teams will compete in their first seven-game Championship Series since 2004 — and this time, at least one of them is guaranteed to come away with a win.

Game 7 of the ALCS is set for Saturday at 8:00 PM ET. Houston right-hander Charlie Morton (14-7, 3.62 ERA) is scheduled to face southpaw CC Sabathia (14-5, 3.69 ERA).