Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings

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At the outset, I’d like to say that there is absolutely no truth to the rumor that I had a graduate coaching assistant fill out my power rankings last week. I take my responsibilities in this regard just as seriously as Urban Meyer and Nick Saban take their votes in the USA Today coaches poll. I mean, if they can take a day out of their schedule to break down the top teams in the country and analyze their strengths and weaknesses in order to fulfill a task that gives them no extra pay and often works counter to their best interests of their program, surely I can find the time to do this post once a week, right?

Anyway, here are last week’s rankings.  On to this week’s:

1. Rays: Getting swept by the Red Sox was probably a good reminder that the Rays haven’t won jack yet. Indeed, based in part on the sweep, this is the first week I have to go with the Rays in the top spot by default more than anything else. I was tempted to put the Yankees here, but we’re still only a week removed from the Rays taking two from them in the Stadium so let’s give them one more week before demoting them. But they will be punished a bit: instead of the customary picture of Rays players high-fiving, all they get today is the team logo.

2. Yankees: Saturday’s nightmare game against Cleveland was rather alarming.  Given how the bullpen is going the loss of Alfredo Aceves might loom larger than many think.

3. Twins: They still can’t figure out the Yankees, but now they’re done with them. For the regular season anyway.

4. Reds: Taking seven of ten and knocking the cover off the ball is a pretty good way to go through life, son.

5. Padres: They’re still cruising. Now the biggest question is whether the team everyone figured would be the summer’s big seller has the stones to go out and actually buy a bat.

6. Cardinals: Albert Pujols would like you to know that his “slump” is over.  The quotes are because at its nadir, Pujols’ OPS was at .925.

7. Phillies: Whether this is a temporary demotion or the beginning of a freefall depends on whether they can figure out how to score runs again. One cold series is understandable. It happens. Two in row with no firepower is a concern.

8. Red Sox: A bit of leap — and maybe controversial to put them ahead of a Jays team whom they currently trail in the standings — but a sweep of the Rays gives you the benefit of the doubt when it comes to these things.

9. Braves: The last time they hosted the Phillies they began a nine-game losing streak. The next three days will tell us if they can actually justify some of the more ludicrous preseason predictions.

10. Blue Jays: Their next nine games come against the Rays and Yankees. I have this feeling that the Cinderella story is about to end.


11. Dodgers: Ethier comes back today and the next three come
against Arizona, so the week starts out about as good as one can hope.

12.
Athletics
: In the future, every team will be in first place in the
AL West for fifteen minutes. Well, maybe not the Mariners, but the other
three will be.

13. Giants: Now that Buster Posey has been
called up I can no longer complain that Brian Sabean won’t call up
Buster Posey. I feel like a cold warrior the day after the Berlin Wall
fell.

14. Rockies: While I’m on these two teams, its worth
noting that Ubaldo Jimenez faces Tim Lincecum at 4PM Eastern this
afternoon, in a matchup I’d like to refer to as the “Screw Up the Family
Cookout Invitational.”

15. Tigers: In honor of Max
Scherzer’s 14K post-callup performance, Dave Dombrowski sent the entire
roster down to Toledo last night and called them up at about 11 A.M.
this morning to be ready for today’s game against the Athletics. Either
that or else there was an epic party in Toledo last night.

16.
Rangers
: A pretty rough patch for the Rangers made all the rougher
by watching Derek Holland whip up 85 m.p.h. fastballs last night. And
Nelson Cruz on the DL doesn’t bode well for a suddenly flailing offense
either.

17. Mets: Yesterday Oliver Perez refused a request
to reassign him to the minors. Pretty soon they’re gonna start moving
his desk around, refuse to send him his paychecks and take his red
stapler from him.

18. Cubs: They’re creeping up and now
have a chance to get redemption against a Pirates team that has
inexplicably owned them this year.

19. Angels: I was
optimistic about their chances to get a head of steam behind them and do
what the Angels tend to do (i.e. win the AL West), but the Kendry
Morales injury may be too big to come back from.  Who hits the ball now?
Do they have the chits to get a Lance Berkman or even an Adam LaRoche?

20.
Marlins
: There’s no shame in getting dominated by Roy Halladay like
the Feesh did during the perfecto. There is shame, however, in only
scoring three runs against Kyle Kendrick, Jamie Moyer and friends in the other
two games of the series.

21. White Sox: Ozzie Guillen said
after yesterday’s game that the team is motivated to play better to
keep Kenny Williams from making trades and breaking up the team if they
definitively fall out of it. I’ve never heard a manager say anything
like that. But then again, I’ve not heard managers say a lot of the
things that Ozzie Guillen says.

22. Nationals: Sinking.
Will they be able to maintain the optimism that has surrounded the team
until Strasburg arrives, or will he be seen as a mere consolation prize
by the time he debuts?

23. Brewers: A nice bounceback
week. Forgive me, however, if I don’t take the tarp off the bandwagon
just yet.

24. Royals: The Royals have a team OBP of .338
and a SLG of .412.  The Rays have a team OBP of .335 and a SLG of .410.
Yet the Rays have scored 40 more runs in the same number of games. I
feel like Richard Dreyfuss in “Close Encounters,” sculpting stuff out of
my mashed potatoes, convinced that it means something important but not
knowing just what.

25. Pirates: Losers of three of four
to the Reds and three straight to the Braves. Guess they picked a bad
week to play good teams.

26. Mariners: They might have a
tough go of it without Mike Sweeney for a few days. Oh, you didn’t hear?
A
couple of anonymous Mets trashed a teammate to the press yesterday

so Sweeney hopped a flight back east to come and kick their ass.

27.
Diamondbacks
: Signs that summer is upon us: Memorial Day, higher
temperatures and the first Adam LaRoche trade rumors of the season. 
There are a lot of players worse than Adam LaRoche, but I don’t know of
any who are more inessential than he is, if that makes any sense.

28.
Indians
: In case you haven’t noticed, and judging by the attendance
you haven’t,
the Indians have continued to stink.

29. Astros: This has
nothing to do with the current Astros team, but I find myself strangely
affected by the Astros Daily’s
page of all of the former Astros and Colt .45s who have died
. One of
many random observations I had: I was aware that Eddie Matthews played
for the Astros, but I had never seen a picture of him in their uniform
before now. It’s jarring to see a guy who played for the Boston Braves
in an Astros cap.  Pretty jarring to see Nellie Fox in one too. I guess baseball went from a sepia toned golden age to whatever it is now at the exact moment the Astros came into existence. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

30. Orioles: Losers of five in a row
and now they have nine straight against the Yankees and Red Sox ahead
of them. Y’all best settle in and get comfy, Orioles, because you’re
gonna be in 30-ville for a good long while.

Mets Syndergaard ejected after throwing behind Utley

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NEW YORK — In a scene that has seemed inevitable since October, New York Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard has been ejected for throwing a 99 mph fastball behind Chase Utley of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Utley is playing at Citi Field this weekend for the first time since his late takeout slide in last year’s playoffs broke the right leg of then-Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada.

New York was incensed by the aggressive slide, which led to a change in baseball rules on slides at bases this season. But the Mets had not attempted to retaliate until Saturday night.

With one out and nobody on in the third inning of a scoreless game, Syndergaard’s first pitch to Utley sailed behind the second baseman’s back by a considerable margin.

Plate umpire Adam Hamari immediately ejected Syndergaard, prompting irate Mets manager Terry Collins to come storming out of the dugout. Collins also was ejected.

Indians’ Brantley unsure of return from shoulder injury

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CLEVELAND — Indians outfielder Michael Brantley has no timetable for his return from the shoulder injury that has sidelined him for the second time this season.

Brantley spoke to reporters Saturday for the first time since being placed on the 15-day disabled list on May 14. He began the season on the DL following surgery for a torn right labrum in November. Brantley hit .231 with seven RBIs in 11 games before being shut down again.

“I wasn’t bouncing back quick enough to keep playing back-to-back games, which is very important,” he said. “I want to be healthy each and every day and I have to play at a high level. This is the major leagues. You have to be at the best of your ability and the highest health-wise you can be.”

Brantley, who received an anti-inflammatory shot in the shoulder two weeks ago, doesn’t think he returned from the surgery too soon.

“I was ready,” he said. “We talked about it. We had a great process laid out. Everything went smoothly. It was just a bump in the road.”

Brantley has been hitting off a tee but isn’t sure when he will begin taking swings in the batting cage. He is playing catch since he throws left-handed but wants to be cautious about resuming a hitting program.

“Surgery is nothing to play with,” he said. “You have to be smart and understand your body.”

Brantley visited Dr. Craig Morgan, who performed the surgery, in Wilmington, Delaware after he returned to the DL. An MRI showed no changes in the shoulder.

“He said everything checks out good, just make sure to take your time and we’ll see what happens from there,” Brantley said.

Brantley finished third in the AL MVP voting in 2014 when he hit .327 with 20 homers and 97 RBIs. He batted .310 with 15 homers and 84 RBIs last season.

Blue Jays walk off Red Sox, 10-9, as Travis scores Martin

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TORONTO (AP) Devon Travis drove home Russell Martin with two out in the bottom of the ninth as the Toronto Blue Jays rallied to beat the Boston Red Sox 10-9 on Saturday.

With the Blue Jays trailing 9-8 on a David Ortiz home run in the top of the inning, Boston closer Craig Kimbrel retired Edwin Encarnacion and Michael Saunders. But Justin Smoak singled on a line drive to center, and with Ezequiel Carrera pinch running for Smoak, Martin drove in his third run of the day on a double to tie the game.

After Martin advanced to third on a wild pitch, Travis forced third baseman Travis Shaw to stretch to corral a shot, and though he tried to throw Travis out at first, his throw was dropped by Hanley Ramirez and Martin scored.

The walk-off win was Toronto’s second of the season, the first coming against Texas on May 3, and completes the series win over the Red Sox, snapping a two-series home losing skid.

Martin hit his third home run in four games with a solo shot over the right-field wall in the sixth inning, while Xander Bogaerts and Shaw both had home runs for the Red Sox.

Ortiz’s 13th home run of the season and league-leading 46 RBI had seemed to be enough for the Red Sox, who watched an 8-4 lead disintegrate in the eighth inning as the Blue Jays rallied to tie the score.

Reliever Gavin Floyd (2-3), who gave up Ortiz’s shot, got the win, while Kimbrel (0-2), on his 28th birthday, was tagged with the loss.

Bogaerts, who went 3-for-5 with three runs, extended his hitting streak to a career-high 21 games with a homer off the top of the left-center-field wall in the fourth inning. The streak is the second longest in the majors this year, behind teammate Jackie Bradley Jr.’s 29-game run, which ended Thursday.

Ramirez drove in three runs, while Dustin Pedroia had a pair of doubles and two RBIs as he extended his hitting streak against Toronto to 22 games.

Boston starter Rick Porcello gave up four runs on seven hits while striking out five over 6 2/3 innings.

Marcus Stroman tied his shortest outing of the season, also against Boston, surrendering seven runs on 11 hits while striking out five. He was chased in the fifth inning with one out.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Blue Jays: SS Troy Tulowitzki (right quad) was placed on the 15-day DL. Tulowitzki, who is batting just .204 this season with eight home runs and 23 RBIs, had sat out two games this week with the injury. Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney are expected to split time at shortstop until the veteran returns. Toronto activated left-handed reliever Aaron Loup from the 15-day DL to take Tulowitzki’s place. Loup, who has yet to play this season, has been recovering from a forearm strain and just completed a rehab assignment with Triple-A Buffalo.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: LHP David Price (7-1, 5.34) returns to a happy hunting ground Sunday. The former Blue Jay makes his first start of the season at Rogers Centre, where he is 11-1 in 15 career starts with a 3.34 ERA.

Blue Jays: RHP R.A. Dickey (2-6, 4.60) is 0-5 in his last eight starts against the Red Sox. He is looking for his first win against them since going 4-0 in 2014.

Hendricks pitches 5-hitter, Cubs beat Phillies 4-1

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CHICAGO (AP) Kyle Hendricks pitched a five-hitter for his second career complete game, Dexter Fowler hit a leadoff homer and the Chicago Cubs beat the Philadelphia Phillies 4-1 on Saturday.

Hendricks (3-4) struck out seven and walked none. He was in line for his second career shutout before giving up a run in the ninth.

Fowler sparked a two-run first against Jerad Eickhoff (2-7) with his sixth home run.

Jason Heyward had two doubles for Chicago, which has won four in a row. Ben Zobrist had two hits, including an RBI double, to extend his streak to 14 games.

The Phillies lost for the sixth time in eight games.

Philadelphia had just four hits before right fielder Heyward and second baseman Zobrist allowed Freddy Galvis‘ fly to drop between them for a leadoff double in the ninth.

Galvis scored from third when Ryan Howard struck out swinging on a pitch in the dirt. The Cubs had a shift on with the lefty at the plate, allowing the runner to take a huge lead.

Catcher Miguel Montero looked him back, but Galvis took off for home as he threw to first on the strikeout, spoiling the shutout and drawing boos from the crowd. Hendricks then retired Cameron Rupp on a groundout.

Dominant in a rare win over struggling Atlanta in his previous start, Eickhoff came up short against the team with the best record in the majors. The right-hander went six innings, allowing four runs and eight hits while striking out seven and walking one.

The Cubs, tops in the majors in run differential, wasted no time grabbing the lead.

Fowler drove a 3-1 fastball just over the wall in left-center for his second leadoff homer this season and the 16th of his career. Heyward followed with a double and scored on a two-out double by Zobrist, who came in on a 22-for-50 tear.

The Cubs made it 3-0 in the third on back-to-back singles by Addison Russell and Hendricks and a double by Heyward. Hendricks got thrown out trying to score to end the inning, but the way he was pitching, it didn’t matter.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Phillies: Galvis came up limping in the sixth inning after Hendricks hit him in the right leg with a pitch. He walked gingerly to first and stayed in the game after being tended to by a trainer.

UP NEXT

RHP John Lackey (4-2, 3.38 ERA) goes for his first win in more than three weeks for Chicago while RHP Vince Velasquez (5-1, 2.75 ERA) tries to shake off his shortest outing of the season for Philadelphia. Lackey is 0-1 in his past three outings, although he has lowered his ERA from 4.02 to 3.38. Velasquez lasted four innings against Detroit on Monday, allowing three runs and nine hits.