Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings


1. Phillies (1): In case you missed this little factoid from Gleeman, the Phillies will be able to start one of their big three of Halladay, Hamels and Oswalt in 17 of 19 potential playoff games. Yikes.

2. Twins (2): Just because they clinched doesn’t mean they don’t have something to play for, as you can bet that they’d love to pass up the Rays for the best record on the AL to get a little more home-cookin’ if they make it to the ALCS.

3. Rays (4): Although, it’s gonna be hard for the Twins to snag that best record given how the Rays are ending the season with the Mariners, Orioles and Royals.

4. Yankees (3): There’s no panic like Yankees fan panic.

5. Padres (8): They bounced back nicely following last weekend’s ugly series against the Cardinals. But unless the Braves completely crater — which it totally possible! — this weekend’s series against the Giants will be the biggest series they’ve played since the 2006 NLDS.

6. Giants (7): They’ve taken the schizo crown from the Cardinals: They either score like nuts or get shut down. Yesterday was a rare four-spot from them.

7. Rangers (6): The only thing they have to play for this week is health and happiness. And maybe pride, as they’re probably getting really damn tired of hearing how the Rays and Yankees would rather play them than Minnesota in the first round.

8. Braves (5): There’s probably something seriously wrong with your roster construction or your luck or both when you’re playing must-win games with Brandon Beachy and Mike Minor making starts.  Fact is that they’re just not a good team right now, and even if they hang on for the wild card, it’s hard to see them giving either the Reds or the NL West champ much of a battle, let alone taking down the Phillies.

9. Reds (10): Not that they’re any great shakes themselves these days. September has been the Reds’ worst month by far, and they’re not carrying a ton of momentum into the playoffs. Not that I’m sure momentum matters, but it certainly makes it hard to be terribly optimistic about them at the moment. Still: I’d like to see them play the Phillies. I’m curious how Aroldis Chapman matches up with the Phillies’ lefty bats.

10. Red Sox (11): There is probably a German word that perfectly captures the concept of “that feeling of disappointment one experiences when lamenting a loss that seemingly knocks you out of playoff contention despite the fact that you really didn’t have any chance of making the playoffs to begin with.” I probably couldn’t pronounce it, but that’s what a lot of Red Sox fans are feeling today.

11. Rockies (9): That Diamondbacks series was pretty much their Waterloo. The pitching, she just didn’t hold up. They now need to win like crazy, hope the Padres and Giants quit see-sawing and one of them just buries the other next weekend and hope that the Braves continue their swoon. All of those things are possible, but it’s looking close to over.

12. Tigers (15): Detroit finished its home schedule 52-29. Too bad they couldn’t play them all at home.

13. White Sox (13): I love how Ozzie Guillen has continued to ratchet up his “the White Sox don’t want me no more” rhetoric in the past week. This despite the fact that the Sox continually say that they want him. I haven’t seen someone work so hard to bring about their own end since Godric greeted the sunrise on the roof of the Hotel Carmilla. Look, I’m not exactly proud of that reference either, but my wife likes the show so I started watching it and it’s grown on me, OK?  I’ve only finished seasons one and two, though, so don’t spoil anything for me after that. 

14. Blue Jays (16): Deep thought: how come all the people who think it’s fair to question Jose Bautista’s professional integrity for hitting 50+ home runs don’t think of questioning Aroldis Chapman for throwing 105 miles per hour? At least there’s precedent for someone hitting 50. No, this doesn’t mean that I think it’s fair to question Chapman. It just means that PED-hysterics are still hung up on home run totals despite the fact that everything we know about PEDs suggests that the ‘roids=dingers calculus is facile and reductionist.

15. Cardinals (12): Has any team been less fun than the 2010 Cardinals? They just seem miserable.

16. Athletics (14): Clearly not ready for prime time, as the series with the Rangers showed, but I remain convinced that if they actually try to get a bat that helps them — as opposed to signing someone Beane thinks he could flip in the middle of next season — they could make serious noise in the west next year.

17. Mets (18): Taking two of three from the Phillies is a nice way to spend the season’s penultimate weekend. And they even performed a valuable service yesterday: showing the National League that Cole Hamels can be hit.

18. Angels (19): Dropping three at home to a reeling White Sox team ain’t exactly uplifting. And it all but assured the Angels’ first sub-.500 season since 2003.

19. Dodgers (20): Kevin Baxter of the L.A. Times wrote an article over the weekend about how the example of the Rangers and Padres might make Dodgers fans feel better, what with going from owner-induced financial dire straits to playoff team in relatively short order. The difference, I guess, is that neither of those teams decided to punt player development during their dark days like that Dodgers have. And of course, each of those teams got new owners at the end of the road. There’s a pretty decent chance that L.A. is stuck with Frank McCourt for a long time.

20. Marlins (23): For a guy who watches baseball every single day and writes little recaps of nearly every game, I probably shouldn’t be surprised that the Marlins have a good chance of finishing above .500, but I am.

21. Astros (17): Houston extended all of their coaches’ contracts through 2012 over the weekend (they offered Jeff Bagwell the same two years, but he hasn’t decided if he’s going to come back yet). Brad Mills is under contract through 2011 with a team option for 2012. It’s been some time since there was this kind of stability in the dugout for the Astros.

22. Brewers (22): Only seven more games until the Brewers can fire their manager and trade their big star! Feel the excitement, Milwaukee!

23. Cubs (21): Mike Quade is 19-11 as the Cubs’ skipper. I get the feeling like the Cubs’ decision about the manager’s job is less about who to hire as much as it’s about how to deal with Ryne Sandberg if he’s not the choice.

24. Orioles (24): After taking two of three in Boston, the O’s get swept in Toronto. It was their 12th, 13th and 14th straight loss north of the border. No one has had this much trouble in Toronto since Keith Richards got busted by the Mounties at the Harbour Castle Hotel back in ’77.

25. Nationals (27): Hey, they got Nyjer Morgan back! That’s good news. For bloggers and stenographers at disciplinary hearings and stuff anyway.

26. Indians (25): Paul Cousineau at The DiaTribe tries to be optimistic as the season winds down, noting that Fausto Carmona, Carlos Carrasco and Justin Masterson have combined for a 2.35 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 63 K and 21 BB in 80 1/3 IP this month. But then doesn’t it seem like something happens with the Indians late each season that causes some people to think that they may sneak up on people and surprise next year? Only for things to stink again? I hope not, because I get a ton of Indians games where I live an I can
go to Indians games more ea
sily than I can go to any other team’s games, so even if I don’t root for them, better Indians baseball makes my summers more enjoyable. I’m just not optimistic, that’s all.

27. Royals (26): I’m rather excited about the Royals’ offseason. There’s a ton of talent down on the farm and it will be interesting to see if Dayton Moore eschews his past habits — inexplicably signing veterans that superficially fill holes but actually solve no problems — and allows the youngins to come up and develop without the Jose Guillens of the world blocking their way.

28. Diamondbacks (30): Dbacks hitters passed 1,400 strikeouts last week, setting a new record. That’s fun.

29. Mariners (28): I like stuff like this article from Larry Stone: comparing the Blue Jays and Mariners since they debuted in 1977. They’ve each played 5,376 games as yesterday. By way of comparison, both the Cubs and the Braves surpassed the 20,000 game mark this season.

30. Pirates (29): The Pirates notched their 100th loss over the weekend. Baltimore and Seattle could still join them, but there’s a good chance that the Bucs will be alone in the century club this year.

Maybe Alcides Escobar shouldn’t bat leadoff

Alcides Escobar
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Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.

Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.

Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.

It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.

Astros top Royals in Game 1 of ALDS

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve, left, celebrates with teammate Luis Valbuena after scoring a run during the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.

The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.

Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.

The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.

Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.

Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.

George Springer homers to extend Astros’ lead over Royals

Houston Astros' George Springer (4) celebrates with teammates after scoring a run in the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.

According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.

The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.