Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings

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Yankees high fives.jpgHere were last week’s Power Rankings. Now for this week’s. I’ve just received word that the Emperor has dissolved the Senate permanently, the Yankees are on top, and the last remnants of the Old Republic have been swept away.  Fear will keep the other teams in line. Fear of this battlestation!

1. Yankees: There was surprisingly little dissent when I put the Bombers first last week even though I was trying to be provocative. I suppose there is no reasonable basis for dissent now. Tied for best record in baseball, best run differential, coming off a good week.  They’re the Empire, and they’re back where they’re used to being.  Get used to it, Ewoks.

2. Rays: They’re just out of sync lately.

3. Braves: Atlanta ends an 11-day, 11-game road trip 6-5. Not too damn bad
considering that seven of those games were against the Twins and the
Dodgers and Jason Heyward was in a pretty fair slump during the first half of it.

4. Red Sox: Nothing spectacular, but the Sox have been one of the best teams in baseball for most of the last month. This despite no Ellsbury, no Beckett, no Dice-K.  Just slow and steady. They should be called the Boston Tortoises.

5. Padres: I like it when a team that wasn’t expected to compete plays well, because you get people saying stuff like “The Padres control their fate now. If they win out, the win the NL West.”

6. Dodgers: I’ll admit, this jump was fairly large for a team that has only won five of its last ten. Consider this me owning up to the fact that I pretty criminally underrated them last week. As many pointed out, they were basically an identical team to the Braves since the season began. I don’t think they’re as good as the Braves so I would have ranked them lower than Atlanta last week, but the point is a good one, and this is probably where they need to be.

7. Twins: The Twins haven’t been scoring runs in June. I guess it’s a long way down from Orlando Hudson to the tripe Ron Gardenhire has been trotting out there since his injury.

8. Mets: The sweep of the Orioles is what you want to see from a team who thinks it can contend and the Indians are dead ahead, which should be some more cake. But then come the Yankees, Tigers and Twins. I like the current trajectory, but I’m going to refrain from calling the Mets official contenders until they get through that patch.

9. Reds: Jeff Brantley does Reds radio. He was awful when he was on ESPN but I’ve actually come to like the guy on Reds broadcasts. Not that he adds any decent insight — he really doesn’t — but he’s a hokey, guilty pleasure. A couple of years ago he started talking about how much terrible food he eats while on the road. No hint of guilt to it: just matter-of-fact “I ate four scoops of ice cream last night, Mahty, and it was pretty dahn tasty.”  At some point someone told him that bit is hilarious, because he’s now doing ads for sub shops and stuff. One of them is for a two-sub special. Brantley says –in a serious drawl —  “I get two footlongs for twelve niney fahve. I call one mah startah, and one mah closah!”  It’s probably the best thing going on baseball radio right now.

10. Giants: It’s amazing how much easier it is to win when you pair offense with
good pitching instead of just going with the latter. The Giants have
been doing that pretty well for the past week.


11. Cardinals: The Cardinals are under .500 for May and June.
Given their talent they really have no business being in second place,
but there they are.

12. Rangers: Holding off the Angels, but just barely. Nothing
personal against Oakland, but I’d really like to see this be a two-team
race for the rest of the season so as to put an end to that musical
chairs thing going forward.

13. Angels: Kendry Morales? Who’s Kendry Morales? The Angels have
won eight of ten.

14. Blue Jays:  This is a big drop. I’m truly not trying to be
unfair here. I’m just struggling
to see who I place below them. This is the case for a lot of teams who
took a tumble this week. They didn’t play too terribly, necessarily, but
a number of teams (e.g. the Mets, Rangers, Angels) made a surge that
needed to be rewarded, so a bit of a bad week was penalized more than
usual. Not that Toronto had a great week or anything . . .

15. Phillies:  Another one that was knocked pretty hard, but
let’s face it: they’re now down to third place, they were blown out by
the Red Sox in two of those weekend games and they’re now making us
question whether we should be calling this current patch a slump or the
early part of the season a fluke.

16. Tigers: Sweeping Pittsburgh was nice. Dropping two of three
to both the White Sox and Royals was not. 

17. Rockies: The lowest ranked team above .500. That seems about
right to me.

18. Marlins: Nice first week for Mike Stanton — .368/.425/.526
— though the man noted for his power is still searching for his first
homer.

19. Athletics: Swept back over the Bay Bridge by the Giants. But I
think you only play tools heading westbound, so it was an easy trip
back.

20. Nationals: How long will it take everyone to get over the
Strasburg hype and notice that the team has generally been on a downward
spiral for the past few weeks?  I’m guessing the honeymoon lasts until
late July, at which point everyone will be freaking out about whether or
not Bryce Harper is going to get signed.

21. White Sox: The Sox took two of three from the Cubs and now
have the advantage in the battle for the
BP Cup
!  So, like, I assume they’ll try to tank the next series so
they don’t actually have to claim ownership over something as dubious as
the BP Cup.

22. Cubs: Ted Lilly looked like he was working really fast to get
that ninth inning started last night so as to finish his no-hitter
before the rain got too heavy. I wonder if that’s what made him give
Juan Pierre such a good pitch to hit to break it up or if he would have
attacked him like that anyway. I guess attacking him was the right move
regardless — it’s Juan Pierre, after all, not Willie McCovey — but I’m
guessing the rain had something to do with it too.

23. Royals: Still over .500 with Ned Yost at the helm! (15-14).

24. Brewers:  The Brewers have the distinction of being the
lowest ranked team anyone really thought had a chance to do anything
this year.

25. Indians: A nice week, actually. Splitting with the Red Sox is
like a series win for them, and two out of three from the Nats is nice
too. And what with the 16,000 extra fans for Stasburg, yesterday was
kind of a win too.

26. Astros: No shame in getting swept by the Yankees. Taking
three of four from the Rockies was pretty sweet.  Of all of the bottom
dwellers of these rankings, the Astros have the best chance of breaking
out and climbing into the ranks of the merely “meh.”

27. Diamondbacks
: I’m assuming the Dbacks are about to sell off
everything that isn’t nailed down.

28. Mariners: I’m still tickeld that Milton Bradley is emerging
as a team leader these past few days.

29. Pirates: Plenty of seats still available at one of baseball’s
prettiest parks!

30. Orioles: Pfun Pfact: if the Orioles lose tonight, they will
have the same record at this point in the season as the 1988 Orioles
did! You know, those awful, awful 1988 Orioles who started the season
0-eleventy-seven?  Good times, good times . . .

Adrian Beltre may not return to the Rangers until June

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Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre is nursing a calf injury, an issue that plagued him starting early in spring training. At first, the hope was that he’d be ready by the regular season, then at some point in April, then at some point in May. According to MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan, however, even a May return is looking “murky.”

Manager Jeff Banister said, “It’s at the point where we didn’t necessarily see the progress results we thought we would see. We decided to take a step back and get him back to where the soreness and [swelling] is out of there. We weren’t progressing forward at the rate we wanted to.”

Fortunately for the Rangers, Joey Gallo has performed admirably in place of Beltre at third base. The 23-year-old has played solid defense while hitting .232/.361/.623 with seven home runs and 16 RBI in 83 plate appearances. Gallo will continue to man the hot corner until Beltre is healthy enough to return.

Beltre is sitting on 2,942 career hits. His reaching the 3,000-hit milestone was expected to be one of the highlights of the 2017 season.

And That Happened: Thursday’s Scores and Highlights

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I’m taking the day off to go down to Kentucky to watch horses do horsey things (watch for me photobombing equestrian types on NBC Sports Network). Bill will be along later today and Ashley will be here this evening, but I can’t leave you without the recaps because that’s what I do.

Don’t do anything dumb while your mother and I are out. We’ve marked all the bottles. We’ll know if you’re lying to us.

Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Dodgers 5, Giants 1: It was 1-1 until the 11th inning thanks to Julio Urias, making his 2017 big league debut, and the Dodgers’ bullpen and Matt Moore and the Giants’ bullpen takin’ care of business. The Dodgers got tired of it being close in the top of the 11th, however, beating up on Corey Gearrin, Steven Okert and Hunter Strickland for four runs. Andrew Toles knocked in the go-ahead run with a single. A sac fly, single and a bases-loaded walk finished the scoring. The Giants wouldn’t have even scored the one run if it wasn’t for the Dodgers throwing the ball around.

Nationals 16, Rockies 5: The Nats came into Colorado and scored 46 runs in four games. Which, damn. They put up 11 runs in the seventh inning here, with Bryce Harper hitting a three-run shot. Trea Turner hit for the cycle on Tuesday, finished a triple shy of another cycle Wednesday and hit a double and two singles and driving in two here. Harper is hitting .418/.535/.823 with eight homers and 25 RBI. That’s a 59 homer, 184 RBI pace. I know Harper has a habit of putting up big Aprils and that injuries have derailed him in the past, but this is shaping up to be a really special year for this guy.

Cardinals 8, Blue Jays 4; Cardinals 6, Blue Jays 4: The first game of the twin-bill ended in spectacular fashion with Matt Carpenter hitting a walkoff grand slam in the 11th inning. They wouldn’t have even gotten to extras, however, if it wasn’t for Randal Grichuk‘s two-run homer with two outs in the ninth which tied it up. So much drama in game 1 it’s a shame they had to suit up for fame 2 rather than just go out for drinks. But they did play game 2 and it went swell for St. Louis. Dexter Fowler, Greg Garcia and Matt Adams each had three hits. Fowler hit a dinger. The Blue Jays are a total mess. But they’re not the only mess in the bigs right now because . . .

Braves 7, Mets 5: M-E-S-S Mess! Mess! Mess! Six losses in a row and 10 of 11. They’re not scoring. Everyone is getting hurt. Just a disaster. The last time the Mets were this screwed up was just after the All-Star break in 2015 and you know what happened then. Oh, wait, they won the pennant. Eh, let’s let the New York press and Mets fans freak out. Maybe it’s actually warranted this time. Who knows. All I know is that Kurt Suzuki hit a big three-run homer here and when the Braves make you look bad, you’re not living your best life.

Mariners 2, Tigers 1: Justin Verlander and Hisashi Iwakuma battled. Verlander battled a tad better — allowing only an unearned run in seven innings while striking out eight while Iwakuma allowed only one unearned run in five and two-thirds — but the Mariners got the win anyway. The go-ahead run came thanks to a Ben Gamel RBI single off of Francisco Rodriguez in the ninth. Can’t trust the Tigers bullpen in a close game. Ever.

Phillies 3, Marlins 2Jeremy Hellickson allowed one run over six innings as the Phillies win their sixth straight. Hellickson is 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA on the year. Philly is doing OK right now, but if they aren’t in contention come July, he’s going to be a pretty attractive trade target.

Indians 4, Astros 3: Down 3-2 in the bottom of the seventh, Francisco Lindor hit a two-run bomb. And I mean bomb. The thing was estimated to be over 450 feet. Corey Kluber struck out ten over seven innings. In addition to being one of the best shortstops around, Lindor is hitting .301/.368/.614 on the year and he’s on a 40-homer pace. That $100 million deal he reportedly turned down is gonna look positively quaint.

Yankees 3, Red Sox 0: Masahiro Tanaka tosses a Maddux. You do know what a Maddux is, right? In case you forgot, it’s a complete game shutout in which the starter throws fewer than 100 pitches. Here it was a three-hitter in which he only allowed one runner to reach second base. Chris Sale was no slouch himself, striking out ten in eight innings. He’s pitched great this year but he’s not getting any help. They’ve only scored four runs in his five starts. Boston has scored  only 13 runs in their last seven games. They’ve been shut out three times in the past seven.

Diamondbacks 6, Padres 2: Taijuan Walker struck out 11 and Chris Ownings hit a pair of solo homers. Yasmany Tomas had a two-run homer.

Angels 2, Athletics 1: I had a dream last night that I owed the Oakland A’s $30,000 in medical bills. Something in the dream made it make sense — baseball teams ran hospitals or something — and for whatever reason, my family had used theirs and I was responsible for the bills. My family, by the way, included Ronald Reagan, who was treated at A’s hospital. Insurance wouldn’t cover a lot of his bills because a man had come out of the woodwork claiming to have been his lover, and the insurance company had a right to discriminate based on sexual orientation. What I’m sayin’ is that a lot was going on in this dream and I’m a little upset with the A’s over it right now.

Oh, by the way, Ricky Nolasco allowed one runs in five and two-thirds and four relievers combined to shut the A’s out the rest of the way. The Angels scored both of their runs in the first.

I probably do need that day off, eh? See you Monday.