Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings

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As always, last week’s rankings are in parenthesis and this week’s ranking are kind of pulled out of my butt:

1. Yankees (1): I’ve lost track, but we’ve got to be approaching Boyz II Men “End of the Road” territory for consecutive weeks at number one for the Bombers. After that they only have Boyz II Men “I’ll Make Love to You” and, um, Boyz II Men/Mariah Carey “One Sweet Day” territory ahead of them. Man, what the hell was up with Boyz II Men?

2. Rays (2): The Rangers come in for a little ALDS preview. Actually, I think if this were the ALDS they’d be playing in Texas, but that’s quibbling. Easily the most interesting series of the week.

3. Padres (4): I think what strikes me most about what the Padres are doing is that it’s not like there are a bunch of guys here performing above their pay grade.Yorvit Torrealba, maybe, but it’s not like several players are playing substantially above their heads.

4. Rangers (3): Losing Nelson Cruz to his third hamstring injury of the year is not good news, but at least they have a cushion.

5. Braves (5): I’ll tell you this: if the Braves do get overtaken by Philly, I’m not going to bitch about injuries. For one thing, Philly had more injuries to more significant players than the Braves have. For another thing, bitching about injuries is one of my least favorite whines in all of sports. NFL coaches are the worst for this (“Not makin’ excuses, but boy, if it wasn’t for all these injuries . . .”), but baseball has gotten pretty bad about it. No, the fact is that I said back in March that this is an Atlanta team that — while promising — needed everything to break right. Until recently things did break right. If they go south now that just speaks to the fact that they had way less margin for error than other contenders, and that’s just how things go sometimes, ya know?

6. Twins (8): My comrade D.J. Short tweets that the Twins are first in all of baseball in batting average, on base percentage, OPS and runs since the All-Star break, all without Justin Morneau in the lineup. They took two of three from the Chisox last week and now get ’em at home Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. There’s still a ton of time, but the Twinkies could go a long way towards sewing up the division this week.

7. Phillies (6): The other side of the Braves-Phillies coin: it’s really hard for me to get worked up at the Phillies being the team most likely to overtake the Braves. I’ve spent all season trying to drum up a hatred for them, and I just can’t. The most aggravated I get is when the Dodgers or someone blow a lead against them like they did last Thursday or the ump blows a call like in that Marlins game the week before and that’s hardly the Phillies’ fault. And I like Charlie Manuel a lot. And one of my favorite team-specific blogs is The Fightins. Almost makes me wish the Mets were better this year so the division can have a proper villain.  

8. Cardinals (10): Quite a letdown losing two of three to the Cubs and losing the division lead after the emotional sweep of the Reds. But like Earl Weaver said: This isn’t football; we do this every day. As such, emotion doesn’t have a hell of a lot of place in this sport. It certainly can’t sustain you.

9. Reds (9): Not that the sweep meant nothing. I can’t in good conscience put the Reds ahead of the Cards after they got smacked down by them last week.

10. Red Sox (11): I bet Jacoby Ellsbury could really go for some spare ribs right now. Get it? SPARE ribs? Anyone? Hello? Is this thing on?

11. Giants (12): If the Giants season starts to go down the drain right now, some of the people in this room will point to the acquisition of Jose Guillen as the reason why, simply because of the timing. That would be wrong, of course, because there are many things that contribute to losing. That being said, I would be fine with such a misapprehension holding, because the world needs to be warned against things like acquiring Jose Guillen for the stretch run. 

12. White Sox (7): I was on MLB Network Radio last night, and host Mike Ferrin did a little “Empire Strikes Back” baseball associations quiz. One of the questions was which team’s bullpen is the most Lando Calrissan-like, meaning they can’t be trusted. I went with the Phillies on inertia, but I really should have gone with the White Sox. Back to back blown saves by J.J. Putz following a few notable Bobby Jenks meltdowns. I’m just trying to figure out who Lobot is.

13. Blue Jays (13): One of my favorite blog posts of the last week comes from Dustin Parkes over at Drunk Jays Fans comparing Jose Bautista to that girl you met on the rebound while beer goggling. Such analogies can be useful to understand sports. Such analogies can also go on a tad too long for comfort.

14. Rockies (15): In that same vein, Andrew Martin from Purple Row explains how the Rockies 2010 season is kind of like having to move on a Wednesday instead of a Sunday. It may not be as colorful an analogy as the Jays one, but at least it doesn’t inspire me to think of Jose Bautista sitting in a pickup bar.

15. Angels (19): A big jump this week. Bigger than they really deserve, actually, due to some demotions and the fact that I didn’t want to think too hard about them to be honest. Why? Because they have the Red Sox, Twins and Rays in their immediate future and I’m just gonna have to adjust them dramatically one way or another after that, I imagine.

16. Dodgers (16): They probably should have been docked several spots simply for that metldown against the Phillies on Thursday.

17. Mets (17): The Mets are making one of their patented second half runs!

18. Athletics (14): Losing two of three to the Mariners is worse than dropping all three to the Twins.

19. Marlins (18): Their next ten come against the Pirates, Astros and Mets. If they’re not at least 6-4 on this stretch people should just stop going to their games.

20. Tigers (20): I know the Tigers are saying that yesterday’s dustup between Armando Galarraga and Alex Avila is much ado about nothing, the fact that Gerald Laird came out of it looking like the most reasonable one of the bunch means something. I’m not sure what it means, but based on his recent history, it’s something significant.

21. Astros (23): Correlation != causation!

22. Nationals (22): I love that Stephen Strasburg is the guy talking about how Bryce Harper needs to sign his deal. If Strasburg had clicked the ballpoint pen he used to sign his contract last year a couple of extra times he would have blown past deadline himself.

23. Cubs (26): If you had taken a Cubs fan forward in time from last spring and plopped him down this past weekend and allowed him to watch Chicago take two of three from the Cardinals on the back of a strong Carlos Zambrano start and a handful of Derrek Lee homers he likely would not have guessed that the team was sitting 17 games out of first place.

24. Diamondbacks (28): Can I tell you how happy I am t
hat Kirk Gibson is rocking the stache like it’s still 1986?

25. Brewers (21): This seems harsh, I suppose, but you can’t drop three of four to the Dbacks and not get docked a bit.

26. Indians (25); 27. Royals (24): Massive battle for these two teams this week. Who will emerge as the sole owner of last place in the AL Central?!

28. Mariners (30): Who said that firing everyone wouldn’t solve the teams problems? The Mariners fired everyone a little over a week ago and they beat up the Athletics and the Indians. They should fire the coaching staff once a month!

29. Orioles (27): I told you this morning that I’d dock them a place in the rankings because of the orange uniforms. That was a lie. I docked them two places after looking at the pics again. Not all throwbacks are created equal, my friends.T

30. Pirates (29): Pat Lackey of the Where Have You Gone Andy Van Slyke blog: “Does anyone doubt the Pirates are the worst team in the league anymore?
They reel off six-game losing streaks as easily as most people eat
breakfast.”  And Pat is not one of your bigger gloom-and-doomers as far as bloggers for bad teams go. Oy.

What’s on Tap: Previewing Saturday’s action

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 24:  Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers throws a pitch in the first inning against the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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It’s the last Clayton Kershaw start of the regular season. Prepare yourselves accordingly.

The Dodgers already have the NL West in the bag, but they’re still fighting for home-field advantage against the Nationals. Should the two teams end up with the same regular season record by Monday morning, the edge will go to the Dodgers, who have a better head-to-head record this year. Kershaw has already been announced as the starter for Game 1 of the NLDS, while the Nationals have kept their lineup close to the vest for the time being.

Facing the Dodgers is Giants’ left-hander Ty Blach, who is poised to make the second major league start of his career this afternoon. The Giants are in a precarious position heading into the last two games of the year and have the potential to force a three-way tie among NL wild card contenders. A thorough breakdown of the wild card and home-field advantage possibilities has been outlined here.

You can find more from Saturday’s action below.

New York Mets (Bartolo Colon) @ Philadelphia Phillies (Phil Klein), 1:05 PM EDT

Pittsburgh Pirates (Chad Kuhl) @ St. Louis Cardinals (Michael Wacha), 1:05 PM EDT

Baltimore Orioles (Wade Miley) @ New York Yankees (Luis Severino), 4:05 PM EDT

Los Angeles Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw) @ San Francisco Giants (Ty Blach), 4:05 PM EDT

Miami Marlins (Wei-Yin Chen) @ Washington Nationals (Tanner Roark), 4:05 PM EDT

Chicago Cubs (Jon Lester) @ Cincinnati Reds (Tim Adleman), 4:10 PM EDT

Cleveland Indians (Trevor Bauer) @ Kansas City Royals (Edinson Volquez), 4:15 PM EDT

Detroit Tigers (Jordan Zimmerman) @ Atlanta Braves (Aaron Blair), 7:10 PM EDT

Minnesota Twins (Hector Santiago) @ Chicago White Sox (James Shields), 7:10 PM EDT

Toronto Blue Jays (J.A. Happ) @ Boston Red Sox (Eduardo Rodriguez), 7:10 PM EDT

Tampa Bay Rays (Jake Odorizzi) @ Texas Rangers (Colby Lewis), 8:05 PM EDT

Milwaukee Brewers (Wily Peralta) @ Colorado Rockies (Jeff Hoffman), 8:10 PM EDT

San Diego Padres (Clayton Richard) @ Arizona Diamondbacks (Archie Bradley), 8:10 PM EDT

Houston Astros (Collin McHugh) @ Los Angeles Angels (Tyler Skaggs), 9:05 PM EDT

Oakland Athletics (Jharel Cotton) @ Seattle Mariners (Hisashi Iwakuma), 9:10 PM EDT

Settling the Scores: Friday’s results

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 30: Norichika Aoki #8 of the Seattle Mariners is congratulated by teammates in the dugout after hitting a solo home run off of starting pitcher Raul Alcantara #50 of the Oakland Athletics during the second inning of a game against the Oakland Athletics at Safeco Field on September 30, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
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Raul Alcantara was in the business of distributing home runs on Friday night.

Robinson Cano caught the tail end of a 94.1 m.p.h. fastball in the first inning, driving it to center field to put the Mariners on the board. In the second, Norichika Aoka found his fourth home run of the year on a similarly-placed heater. The Mariners then targeted Alcantara’s off-speed stuff, picking on the right-hander’s changeup and slider to get two more home runs in the third: the first, another dead-center blast by Cano, and the last, a bomb by Nelson Cruz that popped off the center field wall and survived an umpire review.

Taijuan Walker, who enjoyed the spike in run support from his 3.6 average, was not immune to the home run bug either, giving up the first and only run of the night on Ryon Healy’s 102-m.p.h. home run in the sixth inning.

While Walker excelled at run prevention, he also came one walk shy of hitting a career-high mark, with five walks spread over six innings. Seattle’s bullpen stepped in for three perfect innings to close out the game and, despite six perfect frames from Oakland relievers Zach Neal and Daniel Coulombe, quashed the A’s hopes of closing a four-run gap.

The Mariners’ win on Friday puts them one game back of the wild card; if they take the rest of the series and the Tigers and Blue Jays lose one of their remaining weekend games, the Mariners will tie for the remaining wild card spot. With Hisashi Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez on the hill this weekend, winning shouldn’t be an issue. Getting the Blue Jays to collapse against the Red Sox (and, to a lesser extent, the Tigers against the Braves) is another story.

Here are the rest of the box scores from Friday’s games. Keep an eye out for the first modest bat flip of Jose Bautista‘s career, Madison Bumgarner‘s eighth RBI of the year, and the Orioles’ three-homer inning.

Orioles 8, Yankees 1

Marlins 7, Nationals 4

Mets 5, Phillies 1

Cubs 7, Reds 3

Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 3

Tigers 6, Braves 2

Rangers 3, Rays 1

Rockies 4, Brewers 1

White Sox 7, Twins 3

Indians 7, Royals 2

Cardinals 7, Pirates 0

Diamondbacks 5, Padres 3

Angels 7, Astros 1

Mariners 5, Athletics 1

Giants 9, Dodgers 3