Your Monday Morning Power Rankings

28 Comments

I gotta tell ya, no one feels like a number one team right now. Cleveland and Philly have the best records in baseball, but both are flawed teams who played some unexciting baseball last week.  Then you have Florida, but Philly beat them two out of three last week, so how can I put them above Philly?  Screw it: we ignore overall records at the top of the list this week and go with the hot hands.  Oh, and one more thing: there is so much damn compression right now, that you shouldn’t get too hung up on the rankings at the moment.  Five slots between teams could represent almost no difference in my perception of their mojo at the moment. I could have done a bunch of three and four-way ties at some of these rankings and it wouldn’t have made a big difference.

1. Reds (10): Are they the absolute best team in baseball? Eh, maybe not, but that’s not what the Power Rankings measure. I’m not sure exactly what they measure, but I know it when I see it, and the way I see it is that if you sweep your division rival and take over first place despite your ace relief pitcher doing a Steve Blass impression, you gotta be number one, at least for a week, OK? In other news, this is the first time that we’ve had two straight weeks of Ohio dominance at the top of the Rankings.

2. Rays (4): Kind of the same here in terms of what I feel about the Rays. Losing two of three to the O’s doesn’t feel like a number two team, but they’ve had a good run of late otherwise and are on top of their division and, dammit, no one else below them really excites me at the moment.  Really, aside from these top four teams, everyone is playing kind of blah baseball right now.

3. Tigers (16): The hottest team in baseball. Seven in a row and ten of eleven.

4. Giants (12): If you told me that the Giants would have the second to worst offense in baseball, that Pablo Sandoval would be hurt and Aubrey Huff and Buster Posey would be struggling and that, despite this, they’d be in first place in the West, I wouldn’t have really believed you. But I wouldn’t have called you crazy either. Because you can win with pitching.

5. Indians (1): Don’t read too much into the four-spot drop. Two rainouts on the weekend series and a few scorching-hot teams ahead of them will do that.  That said, it just seems like a matter of time before Detroit overtakes them in the real standings too, doesn’t it? Isn’t it time, now that all of the national outlets have gotten on board with their “hey, these Indians are exciting and special!” stories, for a decline? I admit that in this that I’m thinking of them as less of a baseball team and more of a stock, but it just seems to work like that a lot.

6-8. Phillies, Marlins, Braves (2, 5, 7): I guess in that order, because that reflects the standings, but you can make reasonable arguments in any order. They all went 3-3 last week. Braves won two straight series against the Phillies but are kind of getting away with murder as far their offensive holes go and of course they looked bad against the Nats. Phillies beat the Marlins in their mid-week series but in some ways the Marlins have been more consistent than the other two. They’re just all really even at the moment. I continue to believe that the Phillies will be the first to separate themselves, but they haven’t done it yet.

9. Cardinals (6): Remember last year how the Cards and Reds had that brawl, the Cards won the series and everyone said that, boy, this was the spark that was going to allow St. Louis to bury Cincy for good?  Well, life doesn’t work like that. As such, you should just ignore any grand pronouncements made about the impact of this past weekends’ series as well, because it kind of doesn’t matter. Same goes for Boston and New York too, by the way.

10. Angels (8): Lost two of three to Texas and two of three to the White Sox last week. The bullpen is a pretty big problem at the moment.

11. Yankees (3): I don’t hate the Yankees or anything, but I really do enjoy reading the tabloids after a weekend like New York just had. There’s no one who pumps success up to the stratosphere or beats struggles into the ground like the New York press.

12. Rangers (14): Josh Hamilton may start a rehab assignment soon.  They’re treading water well enough without him, but boy could they use him back in the lineup.

13. Rockies (9): Another bad week for Colorado. If you want to be a playoff team you don’t drop consecutive series to the Mets and Padres.

14. Blue Jays (21): Jose Bautista. Like I need to say more?  What’s the earliest anyone has anyone locked up an MVP?  Because this smells like one of those kinds of years.

15. Red Sox (17): It’s always nice to sweep the Yankees, but how big a feat is that at the moment? Ah, who cares: the Sox are at .500.

16. Royals (11): Two of three from New York was nice, but the wins stopped and the bats went cold as soon as they got to Detroit. Their next seven games come against Cleveland, Texas and St. Louis, so they had better find that mojo quickly.

17.  Athletics (13): Scott Ostler, talking about the A’s offensive troubles and their close-but-no-cigar comeback yesterday, had a pretty good line this morning: “If this had happened 5 miles away, it would be called torture.  The A’s don’t do torture. It’s something lighter they offer, more of a sustained frustration.”

18. Mets (23): A 4-2 week on the road with a couple of those wins coming against a pretty good team and the offense clicking nicely. Such a contrast to that dysfunctional team that plays on the other side of town.

19. Brewers (25): Quietly, as the Reds and Cardinals took front stage, Milwaukee had a very good week. Don’t count them out.

20. Nationals (19): Series ahead against Baltimore, Pittsburgh and the Mets. A chance for them to show that they’re more than the ~.500 team they’ve appeared to be?

21. Orioles (27): A 5-1 week for the O’s, who at the very least have shown that no one who expects to win the AL East can expect to do so by feasting on the Orioles anymore.

22. Diamondbacks (20):  The Dodgers series salvages what was an otherwise bad road trip.

23. Dodgers (24): The offense is sleeping. Is there a team more dependent on a couple of guys (Kemp and Ethier) than Los Angeles?

24. Cubs (22): Cubs’ offensive output in their last four games: 11, 1, 11, 0.  If they score 11 tonight, be sure to tune in Tuesday, because we may see something we’ve never seen before.

25. Padres (26): What’s got 50 thumbs and has scored 46 runs in its last six games? These guys, right here!

26. Pirates (15): The Pirates must have gotten tired of that patronizing “oh look! They’re over .500!” chatter from last week.  Dropping five in a row sure showed everyone!

27. White Sox (30): Signs of life: two of three from the Angels and two of three from the A’s.

28. Mariners (18): Sub-headline of Steve Kelley’s story in the Seattle Times about the struggles of the Mariners’ closer: “Should Brandon League remain the Mariners’ closer? Should he be demoted? Does it really matter?” Yep. Pretty much nails it.

29. Astros (28): At least they’ll soon have a new owner and all of the related hubbub that goes along with it to distract everyone from the miserable product on the field.

30. Twins (29): Let’s put it this way: Gleeman’s mom and I have been taking turns calling him every hour to make sure he isn’t harming himself or others.

And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

5 Comments

Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Brewers 9, Reds 4: Milwaukee beats the Reds for the sixth time in seven tries this year. Orlando Arcia homered and drove in three. Jett Bandy had three hits and two RBI. The Brewers had 14 hits in all. Some bad news: Eric Thames left the game with a tight hamstring. He says he’ll be OK, however. And get manager Craig Counsell’s explanation of the injury is quite the humble brag:

“It just kind of tightened up over the day,” Counsell said. “It is really the on-base stuff. He’s just been on-base a whole bunch, running the bases, scoring from first, so just a whole bunch of baserunning.”

“He’s just been so awesome that all of his awesome beat-the-Reds muscles are tired. Maybe he’ll be better when he’s done beating the hell out of the Reds.

White Sox 5, Royals 2: It was tied at two until Avisail Garcia’s two-run home run in the sixth. Jose Quintana struck out ten in only six innings of work, allowing only an earned run. Rick Renteria said he was going to let Quintana pitch the seventh if the game was tied, but took him out once Garcia hit that bomb. At only 99 pitches I’m sure a veteran like Quintana would’ve been OK for another inning, but I always do scratch my head when the W is what determines when a starter is taken out.

Indians 7, Astros 6: Michael Brantley had an RBI double in the first inning and added a two-run single in the fifth. He’s hitting .318/.384/.561 with four homers and 15 driven in in 17 games. They should probably just award the Comeback Player of the Year Award now.

Yankees 3, Red Sox 1: It was Aaron Judge‘s birthday. In celebration he hit a two-run homer and made this spectacular catch, diving into the stands at Fenway:

The ump initially said it was no catch, but it was overturned on replay. The Yankees have won 11 of 14.

Orioles 5, Rays 4: Not a great night for the Rays. First, they gave up two runs on this little league homer of a disaster of a play:

 

Then, with a 4-3 lead in the 11th inning, they let the O’s come back and win it like this:

single
single
walk (bases now loaded)
sac fly (run scores)
walk (bases now loaded again)
walk

Alex Colome did everything until the second-to-last walk, then Danny Farquhar came in and walked in the winning run on four friggin’ pitches. I’m guessing Kevin Cash put his foot through a soda machine or something. At least I would’ve.

Phillies 7, Marlins 4: Maikel Franco hit a grand slam and the Phillies won their fifth game in a row. Franco had three hits in all. Sellout crowd too. No, not because the Marlins were in town. But because it was $1 hot dog night.

Pirates 6, Cubs 5: Pittsburgh needed six pitchers to get through this one, but they got through. Jon Lester allowed five runs on six hits and still hasn’t won a game this year. I suspect we’ll soon be hearing a lot about how it’s all attributable to David Ross being gone, whether there’s any truth to that or not. The game was most notable for Pirates second baseman Gift Ngoepe becoming the first player from Africa to play in the majors. He singled in his first at bat, too. The South African said this after the game:

“To accomplish this only for me but for my country and my continent is something so special. There are 1.62 billion people on our continent. To be the first person out of 1.62 billion to do this is amazing.”

Pretty cool.

Mariners 8, Tigers 0: James Paxton has been one of the few bright spots for the M’s in the early going. Here he tossed seven shutout innings, striking out nine and allowing only four hits. Two driven in a piece for Jean SeguraGuillermo Heredia and Nelson Cruz.

Braves 8, Mets 2: Julio Teheran allowed only two runs while pitching into the seventh while Mets starter Robert Gsellman didn’t fool anyone, allowing five runs in the first inning. In all he allowed six runs — five earned — on ten hits without making it out of the fifth. The Braves end a six-game skid.

Rangers 14, Twins 3: The Rangers avoid a sweep. It was relatively close until late in the game when Ryan Rua hit his first career grand slam and Shin-Soo Choo hit a three-run homer in Texas’ eight-run eighth inning. The Rangers also had a four-run sixth inning in which they only recorded two hits. A hit-by-pitch, a wild pitch and a passed ball helped things along.

Nationals 11, Rockies 4: On Tuesday night Trea Turner hit for the cycle. Last night he fell a triple short of doing it again. Bryce Harper had four hits as he continues his early season tear. The top of the Nats’ order is brutal for opposing pitchers. Adam Eaton, Turner, Harper, Ryan Zimmerman and Daniel Murphy combined to go 13-for-24 with three homers and all 11 RBI on the night. It’s not surprising the Nats have the best record in baseball right now.

Padres 8, Diamondbacks 5: Down 5-3 in the ninth, San Diego put up a five-spot to come from behind. Ryan Schimpf did most of the damage, hitting a go-ahead, three-run homer off of Fernando Rodney. You’ll be shocked at his strategy in that situation:

“Just try not to do too much, really. Just trying to get ready for something to hit, trying to square something up.”

No word on whether he’s happy to help the ball club.

Angels 8, Athletics 5: Matt Shoemaker picks up his first win since being cracked in the skull with a comebacker last season. He tossed five innings, allowing two runs while scattering seven hits. Cameron Maybin helped his cause by going 3-for-4 with three driven in.

Giants 4, Dodgers 3: L.A. had a three-run lead heading into the bottom of the seventh but the Giants came back. Michael Morse, back with the Giants for the first time since 2014, hit a tying, pinch-hit homer in the eighth inning. Then in the 10th, Hunter Pence hit a game-winning sacrifice fly with the bases loaded.

Blue Jays vs. Cardinals — POSTPONED:

I can’t sleep tonight
Everybody’s saying everything is alright
Still I can’t close my eyes
I’m seeing a tunnel at the end of all of these lights
Sunny days, where have you gone?
I get the strangest feeling you belong
Why does it always rain on me?
Is it because I lied when I was seventeen?
Why does it always rain on me?
Even when the sun is shinning I can’t avoid the lightning

Video: Gift Ngoepe singles in his first major league at-bat

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
5 Comments

Pirates infielder Gift Ngoepe, just called up from Triple-A Indianapolis, singled in his first major league at-bat on Wednesday evening against Cubs starter Jon Lester. It was a well-struck ground ball up the middle in the bottom of the fourth inning. Unfortunately for him, the Pirates could not bring him around to score.

Ngoepe, who was pinch-hitting, stayed in the game to play second base.