Your Monday Morning Power Rankings

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Some people didn’t like my little tour of the cities thing last week and said that you’d prefer it if I just stuck to the “Team X has won Y of Z games, so look out for Team X!” blather.  I can’t tell if those people are merely trolls or if there is a genuine thirst for said blather. I was going to test it this week by doing something loony, but loony takes a lot of time, so we’re leaning more toward the blather

But know this: last week wasn’t the last time I’ll get loony with the rankings. I can feel a “most famous ‘Love Boat’ guest star from each team’s city” Power Rankings working its way into creation soon, so be on the lookout.

As usual, last week’s ranking is in parenthesis.

1. Phillies (2): Passing Boston for the top spot. Now they get to play a series against those Red Sox. This shall be good from both a baseball perspective and from a Power-Rankings-Clarification perspective.

2. Yankees (3): Every day it seems like they’re losing someone else to an injury or at least have someone suffering from an ache or a pain. Yet they just keep racking up victories.

3. Red Sox (1): I don’t care if the Pirates are better and the Padres are playing decent baseball lately. Losing back-to-back series to those guys is not something the number one team in the Power Rankings does. Of course, if they beat the hell out of Philly this week, all is forgiven.

4. Brewers (5): Dropped two of three to the Rays, but came back strong by sweeping the Twins.  Braun and Fielder are pulling an Aaron-Matthews act.

5. Rays (8): Hanging tough, but is B.J. Upton on the block?

6. Giants (10): Bumgarner and Lincecum bounce back. Sanchez to the DL. That’s a net gain.

7. Braves (7): If you had no idea what their record was and just watched some random games, you’d conclude that they were in last place. As a fan, those two-hit games are so damn frustrating. And unlike previous Braves teams that were all pitching — which there were many — I’m just not getting the satisfaction out of those good outings from Jurrjens and Beachy and whoever.  Easily the biggest detachment I’ve felt between team quality and game enjoyment since I’ve been watching the Braves.

8. Tigers (8): Back in sole possession of first place. In Verlander We Trust.

9. Diamondbacks (12)Kirk Gibson says this bunch reminds him of the ’84 Tigers.  Which one is Rusty Kuntz?

10. Indians (4):  I think I rank them too high when they have a good week and too low when they have a bad one. I think it’s a smaller battle in the overall war pitting optimism against pessimism.

11. Rangers (13): Texas’ schedule leading up to the All-Star break: Astros, Marlins, Orioles and Athletics.  Time to create some space or else be stuck in a dogfight all season, no?

12. Cardinals (6): They’ve scored 21 runs in the six post-Pujols-injury games, but 12 of those runs came in one game.

13. Nationals (16): I’m torn: I love Davey Johnson and want him to excel, but the Nats are only 3.5 behind my rooting interest for the Wild Card in a division in which it looks like the Wild Card is the only option for the non-Philly teams. Hurm.

14. Reds (11): After series against Tampa Bay and Cleveland, their last seven games before the break are against St. Louis and Milwaukee. Moving time for Cincy, too.

15. Blue Jays (17): I think it has less serious implications than the schedules of the Reds and Rangers — ya think the Jays are contending in the East? — but it is worth noting that they are in the middle of an outrageously brutal stretch of the schedule. Series against the Reds, Braves and Cardinals — a makeup game against Detroit tonight on what should have been an off day — and then series against the better-than-we-thought Pirates, the Phillies, the Red Sox and then the better-than-we-thought Indians.

WARNING: CLUSTERF*** AHEAD. The next six teams are all roughly at around the same record. They’re all in the same general ballpark in terms of run differential. Seattle had the worst week among them so I dropped them the most from last week, but it wasn’t horror-show bad. All of the others were respectable enough on the week. It was hard to rank them, because I’ve been hot and cold on each of them at times and still don’t really know what kind of team they really are. So what I’m saying is, don’t complain about the specific order of the next six, because I could go in any direction, really.

16. Rockies (15): Colorado has a makeup game today too, on what should have been their last offday before the All-Star break. In this case, however, the rainout that is being made up had no rain.

17. Mets (18): I guess you don’t want to see your old manager succeed with a division rival, but really folks, Davey Johnson hasn’t worked for the Mets since a couple of months before the song “Ice Ice Baby” was released as a single. Time to let it go, ya know?

18. Pirates (20): Tied with the Reds in the standings, 48 runs behind them in run differential.

19. White Sox (19): The race in the Central would be more interesting if Adam Dunn hadn’t been a complete bust so far. I still figure that he has to turn it around, right? The Sox are only 4.5 out, so if he does, it could make things interesting.

20. Angels (23): Winners of five of seven and only two back. Someone’s gotta win the AL West, right?

21. Mariners (14): Still the best pitching in the American League, and series against a bunch of offensively-challenged teams between now and the break.

22. Orioles (24): Signs of life from Derrek Lee. For whatever that’s worth.

23. Padres (28): I still don’t think they’re any good, but two of three from both Boston and Atlanta is a damn fine week, and is deserving of a few-notch bump.

24. Dodgers (25): All comments on this team are pending approval of the bankruptcy trustee.

25. Athletics (22): They went 2-4 on the road trip against the Mets and Phillies, but they were close games. I dunno, it’s something.

26. Marlins (27): Small bright spot in an otherwise dismal month? Hanley Ramirez seems to be waking up a bit in the past few games, going 6 for his last 17. Small, but maybe something to cling to.

27. Royals (26): Mike Moustakas (12 for 50, 1 HR) is not quite taking the bigs as well as Eric Hosmer has. And Hosmer has cooled down a bit.

28. Twins (21): Reports of their resurgence were apparently exaggerated.

29. Cubs (29): I get this sense that people aren’t appreciating how bad they are by virtue of the fact that Houston is even worse. But really, they’re terrible.

30. Astros (30): The thing about the Astros is that they can lose any number of ways. They can lose the high scoring games, they can lose the low scoring games. Just a really, really versatile crappy team.

Pujols has 2 more RBIs, Cardinals beat Pirates 8-7 in 10

Cincinnati Reds v St. Louis Cardinals
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PITTSBURGH – Albert Pujols drove in two more runs and the St. Louis Cardinals went on to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-7 in 10 innings Tuesday night.

Pujols hit a two-run single in the third inning to push his career total to 2,218 RBIs. That came a night after he broke a tie with Babe Ruth for second place on the career list. Hank Aaron holds the record with 2,287.

Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol then removed the 42-year-old Pujols at the end of the inning. St. Louis opens postseason play Friday when it hosts a best-of-three National League wild-card series.

Juan Yepez gave the Cardinals the win when he hit a tiebreaking single with one in the 10th inning off Chase De Jong (6-3) to score automatic runner Ben Deluzio.

“Tonight was interesting because you’re fairly scripted in who you want to use and who you don’t want to use and what you want tomorrow to look like so you can get ready for Friday,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “It was a good one to still figure out a way to come out on top.”

The Cardinals threw out the potential tying run at home in the bottom of the 10th when automatic runner Kevin Newman tried to score from second base on Oneil Cruz‘s line single off the glove of first baseman Alec Burleson. The ball deflected to second baseman Brendon Donovan, who threw home to catcher Andrew Knizner.

The Pirates challenged the call, but it was upheld on video review.

“I thought we were going to get it overturned,” Newman said. “I just thought he didn’t tag me until he got higher up on the body.”

It was the Pirates’ 100th loss, the second year in a row they have reached that mark.

The Cardinals got two hits each from Donovan, Corey Dickerson, Knizner and Paul DeJong.

Cruz had three hits for the Pirates and Bryan Reynolds, Rodolfo Castro, Jack Suwinski, Ke'Bryan Hayes and Ji-Hwan Bae added two apiece. Miguel Andujar drove in two runs.

Chris Stratton (10-4) pitched two scoreless innings for the win.

“They weren’t the prettiest two innings I’ve ever pitched but I got a great play from the defense in the 10th inning to help me out,” Stratton said. “It was a good play all the way around.’

Pujols’ hit put the Cardinals ahead 3-1 but the Pirates answered with six runs in the bottom of the third. Andujar’s run-scoring double highlighted an inning that includes RBI singles by Castro, Suwinski, Ben Gamel and Bae.

The Cardinals then scored four runs in the seventh inning to tie the score at 7-all. Donovan hit an RBI single, Dickerson drove in two runs with a double and the tying run scored on a throwing error by Cruz, the rookie shortstop.

Both starting pitchers lasted just 2 2/3 innings. The Cardinals’ Dakota Hudson was rocked for seven runs and nine hits while the Pirates’ JT Brubaker allowed three runs on four hits.

Brubaker was activated from the injured list before the game. He had been out since Sept. 16 with right lat discomfort.

HELSLEY HURT

Reliever Ryan Helsley, the Cardinals’ closer, left in the eighth inning with a jammed right middle finger. Helsley was injured after catching a line drive by Bae and using his hands to brace himself while dodging a piece of a broken bat.

Helsley said he expects to be ready to pitch Friday.

“I don’t think there was anything super wrong with it,” Helsley said. `Just give it some rest and let it resolve itself.”

ROSTER MOVES

The Pirates optioned right-hander Roansy Contreras to Triple-A Indianapolis to clear a roster spot for Brubaker. They also recalled infielder/outfielder Tucapita Marcano from Indianapolis and optioned catcher Jose Godoy to the same club.

PIRATES AWARDS

Center fielder Bryan Reynolds was voted the winner of the Roberto Clemente Award, emblematic of the Pirates’ MVP, by the Pittsburgh chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Mitch Keller won the Steve Blass Award for best pitcher. Former infielder Michael Chavis was voted the Chuck Tanner Good Guy Award.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cardinals: OF Tyler O'Neill (strained right hamstring) has been ruled out for the wild-card series but St. Louis is hopeful he can play in the NLDS round if it advances. . 3B Nolan Arenado (left quadriceps tightness) missed his second straight game but could play Wednesday.

UP NEXT

Cardinals: Have not decided on a starter for Wednesday, though Marmol said LHP Matthew Liberatore (2-1, 5.46) and RHP Jake Woodford (4-0, 2.33) are possibilities.

Pirates: RHP Johan Oviedo (4-3, 3.12), who was acquired from the Cardinals on Aug. 1, gets the start.