Roy Halladay, Carlos Ruiz

Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings

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The Phillies tightened their grip on the top spot by taking two of three from the Red Sox. What else that could have shifted the fundamental balance of power in the baseball universe went down in the last week?

As always, last week’s rankings are in parenthesis. Thought about going with those fancy-looking bracket things once — {  } — but I grew up in West Virginia, and that’s too hoity-toity for me.

1. Phillies (1): Two of three from the Sox, two of three from the Jays and now the chance to smack down both Florida and Atlanta before the break. Everything is coming up red pinstripes right now. Just imagine if they truly did have four aces as advertised before the season began.

2. Yankees (2): 14-4 without Jeter. And now he’s back. Let’s count the wins for the next 18 games, shall we?

3. Red Sox (3): The Astros showed up at just the right time. They cruise into the break with Toronto and Baltimore.

4. Braves (7): I actually want to be harder on my Braves than this — like I said last week, they are hard to take at times and seem to play worse than their record suggests — but they have both the fourth best record in baseball and the fourth best run-differential. The pitching remains fantastic and there are signs — small ones — that there could actually be some offense hanging around this team in the second half. Really, I looked, and I am having a hard time ranking anyone besides those top three ahead of them here.

5. Rays (5): A mezzo-mezzo week, but it came against some good competition in the Cardinals and Reds.

6. Giants (6): They have a half game up overall on the Rays, but their run differential is not as good and their own mezzo-mezzo week was against worse teams.

7. Indians (10): There is a very decent chance Cleveland finishes the first half in first place. I didn’t think that was possible even after they had been in first place for a while.  Query: how much does this tell us about the Indians and how much does this tell us about the AL Central as a whole?

8. Cardinals (12): I’d probably hate being a fan of a Cardinals division rival. Everything always seems to break right for them. Cy Young pitcher goes down? They find decent replacements. Outfield has holes? They stick Lance Berkman into the juvenation machine and, just as always seems to happen in St. Louis and hardly anyplace else, it works.  Albert Pujols goes down until sometime in mid-to-late August and … he ends up coming back a good month early.  NL Central foes have to think there’s a certain unfairness to this.

9. Brewers (4): Getting swept by the Yankees in New York is not the worst thing that has ever happened to a contender, but losing two of three to Minnesota is not cool.

10. Diamondbacks (9): Getting beat by Rich Harden, like they did on Friday, has to be the baseball equivalent of getting struck by lighting. I mean, you know that if lightning is on its game, it can totally lay you out. But you just figure the odds of ever meeting up with it are too damn low to worry about.

11. Rangers (11): I have them a notch ahead of the Angels, with whom they’re tied and against whom they’ve split six games this year. The reason? Eh, no good ones other than the cut-of-their jib and my sense that they’ll eventually pull away. But then again, I’ve been thinking they’d do that for a while now and they haven’t done it.

12. Angels (20): They were not impressed with either the new-look Nationals nor the bankrupt Dodgers last week.  A really strange and streaky team.

13. Tigers (8): Anyone remember the last team that fired a pitching coach mid-season and then saw a sudden and dramatic turnaround? I can’t. This seems like a deck chairs move.

14. Pirates (18): One and a half games out of first place. The Pittsburgh Pirates. Do you believe it?  A fun team to watch too. At least they would be if I wasn’t blacked out of watching Pirates games by MLB.tv for some damn reason. Middle of Ohio is supposed to be Pirates territory, Major League Baseball? Really?

15. Reds (14): Only two games back, but the Reds feel like the team that is wasting more of its potential than anyone this year.

16. Mets (17): If Joel Sherman’s report about the Mets offering Jose Reyes a big deal is true, will that be the biggest victory of the season for them?

17. Rockies (16): Crushed by the Royals yesterday and, as an added bonus, Carlos Gonzalez got wheeled off the field after crashing into a wall. Not a banner day.

18. Blue Jays (15): They dropped four of six to the Pirates and Phillies last week. I think they’re happy to be done with Pennsylvania for the year.

19. White Sox (19): For as bad as it has been in the first half, they are still only 3.5 out and head into the break with series against the totally hap-free Royals and Twins. See the above comment about the AL Central, which is pretty darn hapless as a whole itself.

20. Nationals (13): They’re 4-6 since Jim Rigglemen called it quitsies. I have this feeling they’d be around 4-6 no matter what happened, but Washington either taking off or falling off a cliff would certainly help us writers with our narratives, you know?

21. Mariners (21): Only 11 runs were scored in the entire M’s-Padres series over the weekend. But hey, nine of them were from the M’s, so that’s something.

22. Athletics (25): The bright spots of the season are (1) Gio Gonzalez taking great strides forward; (2) Jemile Weeks impressive debut; and (3) Firing the manager? Really, is there a third here that I’m missing?

23. Padres (23): See the Mariners’ comment above and reverse it.

24. Marlins (26): A 4-2 week. Seems like the ship has been righted. The mast is still broken and they’re out of emergency flares, but at least the ship has been righted.

25. Orioles (22): Zach Britton’s offensive numbers: 5 for 8, 2B, HR 2 RBI, 1.750 OPS.  Vlad Guerrero: .277/.307/.377.  Sample size, schmample size, let’s make Britton the DH!

26. Dodgers (24): The team went 2-4 and bankrupt. Frank McCourt is still in control and could be for a while.  Hey, at least there wasn’t a major earthquake or anything.

27. Twins (28): There has been more talk about a closer controversy on this team than I can recall for any sucky team in recent years. It’s like everyone up in Minnesota forgot that no one really cares when a sucky team’s closer situation isn’t solidified.

28. Cubs (29): They really don’t deserve to move up because I truly think they’re the second to the worst team in baseball overall, but let’s acknowledge that they had a better week than Kansas City and give them a little something other than misery and doom. Congrats: you’re 28th. Don’t get used to it.

29. Royals (27): A 1 -5 week, but it ends with a monster game by Eric Hosmer. Such is the essence of a team on a promising rebuild.

30. Astros (30): I’m guessing that, if there was a panel who voted on these Power Rankings rather than it just being me pulling them out of my keister,  Philly at number one and Houston at 30 would be the only unanimous choices.

And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 25: Luke Maile #46 of the Tampa Bay Rays tries to make the tag on Dustin Pedroia #15 of the Boston Red Sox at home plate as Pedroia scores the winning run in the tenth inning of their game at Tropicana Field on September 25, 2016 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Joseph Garnett Jr. /Getty Images)
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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Blue Jays 4, Yankees 3: Toronto blew a 2-1 lead in the top of the ninth but scored two of their own in the bottom half, first with an Ezequiel Carrera squeeze bunt topped with an Edwin Encarnacion walkoff RBI single to win it. Toronto remains in the first Wild Card position, a game and a half ahead of Baltimore and three games ahead of the Tigers.

White Sox 3, Indians 0: Carlos Rodon was dominant, shutting the Tribe out for eight and punching out 11. Carlos Sanchez drove in two of the Sox’ three runs. Fun fact: when we bought our first house back in 1999, my ex-wife’s credit report came back with the name “Carlos Sanchez” listed under “possible aliases.” We got the mortgage anyway and nothing was ever disrupted, but I’m keepin’ my eye on you, Carlos. Or maybe I should’ve just been more suspicious about my ex-wife back in the day. She seems like a normal, well-adjusted person, but what if she’s really a spy for the Venezuelan government?

Royals 12, Tigers 9: The Royals jumped out to a 7-0 lead after three innings against Matt Boyd and Anibal Sanchez and, try as they did, the Tigers never pulled closer than to within two. Whit Merrifield tripled in the first and hit a single and a double as well. The Royals hit four homers as a team. Dropping two of three to the Royals caused the Tigers to drop out of Wild Card position.

Mets 17, Phillies 0: The Mets are losing pitchers every week but it sorta does’t matter when you play the Phillies. New York took three of four in the series, scoring 44 runs in those four games. Yes, they gave up 23 and that might not always be the best thing in a four-game series, but they’re up a game on San Francisco and up a game and a half on St. Louis at the moment so they can’t really complain. Asdrubal Cabrera hit a grand slam, Jose Reyes had four RBI, including two, not one, but two bases-loaded walks. Curtis Granderson hit his 30th homer of the year.

Red Sox 3, Rays 2: And the Red Sox never lost again. That’s 11 in a row. Dustin Pedroia scored the go-ahead run in the 10th on David Ortiz‘s RBI double despite the fact that he should’ve been dead to rights at the plate. He avoided the tag — and missed home plate — but lunged back to the plate as Rays catcher Luke Maile dropped the ball. Pedroia also hit a homer. Oh, and Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez struck out a career-high 13 in five and a third. At one point he and reliever Heath Hembree combined to strike out 11 consecutive batters. That’s a major league record. It’s also the sort of thing which should probably make the Rays petition the league to just let them go home and forfeit the last week of the season because, Jesus, what’s the point?

Orioles 2, Diamondbacks 1Hyun Soo Kim hit an early two-run homer and it held up. Dylan Bundy allowed the one run on three hits over five innings. Zach Britton got his 46th save.

Nationals 10, Pirates 7: Controversy here as Jung Ho Kang faked a tag on Bryce Harper, causing Harper to slide awkwardly which caused him to injure his thumb. Later, when Kang came up to bat he was buzzed by Nats pitcher A.J. Cole, leading to the benches clearing. So, apparently, faking a tag is a violation of the unwritten rules. Maybe someone should tell that to Derek Jeter and the million of other guys who have deked runners in the past:

Whatever the case, the Nats scored five runs in the eighth inning to come back from a deficit, powered by a Jayson Werth two-run homer which tied it along with two RBI singles and a bases loaded walk. Harper will have X-Rays on his thumb today to see how bad off he is.

Reds 4, Brewers 2Brandon Finnegan tossed five shutout innings to kick things off and Cincinnati built a 4-0 lead by the seventh inning. Finnegan only needed 54 pitches to get through five, but he game out as his leg tightened up following being hit with a comebacker in the second inning.

Mariners 4, Twins 3: Two homers for Nelson Cruz and one for Jesus Sucre. Seattle is two and a half behind Baltimore for the second Wild Card spot after going 12-5 in their last 17. Such and up and down team this year.

Astros 4, Angels 1: Joe Musgrove was strong and Evan Gattis, Tony Kemp and Tyler White homered. Houston is three back of Baltimore. They and Seattle can play the what-coulda-been game all winter.

Athletics 7, Rangers 1: The A’s avoid the sweep with a seven-run second inning that ended this one not long after it started. Jharel Cotton was strong once again, going seven innings while allowing one run. Since his callup in early September he’s allowed only four earned runs in 25 innings. The season highlight for the A’s is gonna be a midseason trade with the Dodgers to get Cotton.

Dodgers 4, Rockies 3: The Dodgers have had a load of highlights this year, including this walkoff win to clinch the NL West. Second baseman Charlie Culberson delivered the solo homer in the bottom of the 10th inning. Not that he was the only hero. The Dodgers were trailing 2-1 in the seventh when Corey Seager tripled in a run to tie the game. Rockies outfielder David Dahl gave Colorado the lead in the ninth with a solo home run off of Kenley Jansen. But Seager hit a game-tying solo shot in the bottom half of the ninth to send it to extras. What an exciting final game in Dodger Stadium for Vin Scully.

Padres 4, Giants 3: Manuel Margot tripled in the seventh inning and then scored the go-ahead run on Wil Myers‘ RBI single. The Giants were eliminated from division crown contention, and are hanging on by their fingernails in the Wild Card race after splitting a four-game set with San Diego.

Cubs 3, Cardinals 1: David Ross homered on the night he was given a touching tribute by the Cubs while Jon Lester tossed shutout ball into the seventh to pick up his 19th win. Ross got a nice sendoff when Joe Maddon came to lift Lester in the seventh. Rather than just pat Lester on the butt and let him walk off, he took Ross out of the game first, allowing him to leave to a standing ovation.

Braves vs. Marlins: POSTPONED: The time you won your town the race,
We chaired you through the marketplace;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
As home we brought you shoulder-high.

To-day, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.

Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.

Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears:

Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.

So set, before its echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still-defended challenge-cup.

And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl’s.

Red Sox set a new major league record with 11 strikeouts in a row

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 20: Starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez #52 of the Boston Red Sox works the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 20, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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Lost in the nifty base running by Dustin Pedroia that won Sunday’s game against the Rays, the Red Sox set a new major league record by striking out 11 batters in a row, per Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe. Starter Eduardo Rodriguez struck out the final six Rays he faced and reliever Heath Hembree struck out five Rays in a row after that. Tom Seaver had the previous consecutive strikeout streak of 10, set on April 22, 1970 against the Padres.

The Red Sox also set a team record with 23 strikeouts in total: 13 by Rodriguez, five by Hembree, one by Matt Barnes, and four by Joe Kelly. Per Abraham, that’s the most strikeouts in a 10-inning game since at least 1913 and the most in a game of any length since 2004.

For Rodriguez, Sunday marked the first double-digit strikeout game of his career. He has pitched quite well since returning to the rotation at the start of the second half. Over 13 starts, the lefty has a 3.10 ERA with a 70/23 K/BB ratio in 72 2/3 innings.