Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings

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I ain’t gonna lie to you: I’ve probably messed some stuff up here, as I feel like I’m relying a bit too much on the standings this week and not capturing as much of the usual mojo, nuance, juju and other assorted intangibles which usually spice these things up. Vacations will do that to you.

Anyway, feel free to lodge your objections in the comments. But please, show your work and tell me why I’m wrong. Plain old “you suck” doesn’t help anyone.

1. Rays: Just lookin’ ahead: the Rays last ten games of the season break down like this: three against the Mariners, three against the Orioles and four against the Royals. Yeah, I know that all evens out with what the Yankees and Red Sox have done over the course of the season, but ending easy like that has to be a psychological boost for Tampa Bay.

2. Yankees: Can you guess which AL East team has the most losses in the month of August? If you guessed anyone other than “The Yankees” you probably need to see a doctor, because my asking this question in their entry was a pretty big hint, yo. And that’s not why the Yankees are number two instead of number one. At best it’s the third reason behind (a) the many Yankees injuries and/or ineffective starters; and (b) the Rays’ use of “Sweet Caroline” after beating the Red Sox last night which gives them bonus points for style.

3. Twins: Like I said, I’ve not really been following baseball the past several days, but I do get the impression that the Twins have picked up approximately 24 relief pitchers during that time. Am I far off?

4. Padres: The only downside to the Padres’ continued excellence
this year is that when the playoffs start we’ll be subjected to endless
talk about how surprising they’ve been, as if we all didn’t have ample
time over the previous six months to grok the concept.

5. Reds: I’m guessing this has been covered already, but barring Albert Pujols winning the Triple Crown, I’m having a hard time seeing how Joey Votto doesn’t win the MVP. Even if the Cardinals manage to win the division, the calculus on the part of the writers is going to be “Votto and Pujols had substantially similar seasons and we thought less of the Reds when the season began, thereby rendering his season more ‘valuable.'” And that’s before even figuring in the “we’re tired of giving the MVP to Pujols” thing.

6. Braves: Best part of my vacation: I was on a beach, drinking a coldie when that awful loss to the Rockies — after being up 10-1 — went down on Wednesday. Indeed, I wasn’t even aware of it until after the Phillies score came in, so I already had it in my mind that, hey, at least the Bravos didn’t lose any ground. ‘Course, had I been watching it I probably would’ve plotzed, live on the blog, as it was happening.

7. Phillies: Sweeping the Padres in Petco is impressive, but dropping four in a row to the Astros at home pretty much balances that out and prevented movement in both the standings that matter and these silly Power Rankings.

8. Rangers: That “playoff preview” against the Rays a couple of weeks ago didn’t go all that well for them, but the one against the Twins last week was nice.  They gotta go to Minnesota this weekend, though.

9. Red Sox: The Sox are 14-13 in John Lackey starts this year. Take that as evidence that the pickup wasn’t as successful if you will. Take that as mere coincidence if you will. I’ve just seen the stat written by a couple of Red Sox beat guys in the past few hours, so I figured it was worth parroting.

10. Cardinals: I (thankfully) missed the hubub over the Glenn Beck rally with Pujols and La Russa and everything, but did anyone ever ask Beck if his shoutout to the famous animal rights activist La Russa constituted Beck caving to the “radical anti-hunting, anti-gun, animal rights” crowd he warned us about just a couple of short years ago?

11. White Sox: Another thing I missed last week was Guillen’s son talking smack about Kenny Williams on Twitter. I kind of get Ozzie’s “hey, I can’t be responsible for what my kids says” stance. Indeed, the same day Oney Gullien was spouting off, my son was saying “hey, look at that fat kid” while standing approximately five feet away from the fat kid and his parents. Now, my son is five and Oney Guillen is 20, but other than that it’s a totally identical dynamic.

12. Giants: The Giants have had to worry about starting pitching of all things lately. Never saw that one coming.

13. Blue Jays: Nice series win against the Yankees last week. Toronto is 7-5 against New York this season.

14. Rockies: Ubaldo Jimenez — who launched a bunch of “can he win 30?” columns and blog posts earlier this season, has been stuck on 17 wins since August 4th and has only won two games since the All-Star break and has a 4.01 ERA since that time.

15. Athletics: I haven’t done the research, but I’m guessing a plurality of prognosticators picked the A’s to finish last in the AL West this year, so the fact that they’re looking pretty good to finish in second place is something. Not something particularly fulfilling and worthwhile, but not nothing.

16. Marlins: I should probably stick the Marlins in last place simply on the power of their greed and mendacity, but I’ll be fair and put them in a spot that is justified by their record. But seriously, screw Jeff Loria and David Samson.

17. Dodgers: The Dodgers’ most important battle of the season starts today, and it ain’t the three-game series against the Phillies.

18. Mets: Let’s see, look for a silver lining . . . look for a silver lining . . . OK: while there’s a decent chance the Mets will slide behind the A’s in runs scored this season, it’s not really likely that they’ll fall behind Houston, Baltimore, Pittsburgh or Seattle, so no worse than 26th in runs scored is probably clinched.

19. Tigers: Detroit takes two of three from the Royals and splits four with the Jays. That’s about right. 

20. Angels: Can you guess which AL West team has the most losses in the month of
August? If you guessed anyone other than “The Angels” you probably need
to see a doctor, because my asking this question in their entry was a
pretty big hint, yo. 

21. Brewers: Unless you take your Brewers baseball really, really seriously, an argument can be made that the entire season was worth it in light of the fact that it produced this.

22. Nationals: I’ve cited a number of reasons why I’m glad I was gone last week, but here’s a reason I wish I was blogging last week: In the wake of the Strasburg news, I would have been able to post this.

23. Astros: Houston has played spoiler for the Braves and Phillies in recent weeks. Now they get the Cardinals.

24. Cubs: There wasn’t a ton of baseball talk during my week in northern Michigan, but the topic that came up the most when chatting with random sunbathing and beer drinking Michiganders on holiday was Alan Trammell getting slighted by not being selected interim manager when Piniella stepped down. I don’t know that it was really a slight — the Cubs probably weren’t considering him for the full time job anyway — but Tigers fans of a certain age are rather protective of the guy.

25. Indians/Royals: The battle for fourth place in the AL Central has been neck and neck. Can’t say it’s been inspiring or exciting or anything, but it sure has been neck and neck! And yes, I know the Royals are up right now, but Cleveland has a much better run differential, so I feel pretty comfortable calling this a tie.

27. Orioles: Playing well, but the Orioles are the first team to be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs so I can only place them so high. I wonder how much money MLB made selling Orioles playoff ticket licenses?

28. Diamondbacks: The Diamondbacks are considering changing the
dimensions of Chase Field in order to make the park less hitter
friendly. I wonder if this option appeared above or below “get a decent
bullpen” on the list of run-suppression action items.

29. Mariners: I was trying to think of something good to say
about the Mariners and couldn’t come up with anything. Thank God, then,
for Carson Cistulli, who gives Mariners fans some reasons for optimism. [minutes pass]. OK, I just read that all the way through. I don’t think that was really meant to make anyone feel any better.

30. Pirates
: The Pirates have five starting pitchers with 10 or more losses this year. Don’t see that very often.

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

Video: Holliday’s home run a fitting goodbye for Cardinals

ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 30: Matt Holliday #7 of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a solo home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the seventh inning at Busch Stadium on September 30, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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If tonight was his last night in a Cardinals uniform, Matt Holliday made the most of it.

After sitting out most of the second half with a fractured thumb, the 36-year-old was activated from the disabled list on Friday and slotted in as a pinch-hitter during the seventh inning of the Cardinals’ 7-0 shutout. What happened next could hardly have elicited more sentiment had it been scripted:

The solo shot was Holliday’s first home run as a pinch-hitter, and his first home run of any kind since August 9. The triumphant moment might have been the last of its kind in St. Louis, as it was reported earlier today that the Cardinals do not plan to exercise Holliday’s option in 2017.

Prior to the game, the left fielder released a statement in which he expressed his gratitude for the past eight seasons with the Cardinals’ organization:

I would like to thank Mr. Dewitt, Mo and the entire ownership group for the opportunity to play for the St. Louis Cardinals.

I am proud of what we have accomplished on and off the field during the past seven years. I have also been humbled by the incredible support and participation in our Homers for Health program.

It has been an honor to play in front of such great fans and for such a historic organization. I can honestly say it has been a dream come true.

While I’m disappointed this could be it here in St. Louis, I understand that it might be time to move on.

I’d like to express my love and admiration for Tony, Mike and all of the coaches and staff that I have had the pleasure to do life with these past seven-plus years.

The most emotional part of this is my teammates and the relationships I’ve built with some of these guys over the years. Particularly, Adam and Yadi, to be considered part of the core with two of the finest human beings I’ve ever known.

Finally, I’m eternally thankful for the Lord bringing me to the city of St. Louis in August of 2008. Lots of cool stuff has happened since then. On behalf of my wife Leslee and our children Jackson, Ethan, Gracyn and Reed: Thank you!