This week showcases a few “sleeper” teams in the top 5. Teams you don’t hear about, teams that never get media coverage. But it’s these teams that despite being hidden, are showing their talents in a loud way: being a leader in their division.
1. Texas Rangers
The Texas Rangers move to the top spot after an impressive week against pretty powerful teams. The Rangers went 5-2 this past week, including series’ wins over the Athletics and Tigers. The Tigers were able to hold off the Tigers last Sunday, despite Miguel Cabrera going 4-4 with three homeruns. A key player to contribute has been LF David Murphy, who has finally raised his BA above .200 since opening day. Murphy hit a three run homer that was crucial to swinging the momentum back to the Rangers.
2. New York Yankees
The Yankees may have fallen from the top spot, but they didn’t go far. Their week just did not compare to the Rangers, going 4-2 (with one game PPD) which included wins over struggling Mariners and Blue Jays. Their current series in Baltimore may not be as crucial as we thought; the Orioles went 0-6 this past week and are slipping in the rankings. If the rest of the season shapes up to how it is now, the race for the AL East will be between the Yankees and Red Sox, not the Orioles.
3. Arizona Diamondbacks
I don’t think anyone expected to see the Arizona Diamondbacks this high. I know I was surprised, and I was even more surprised when I realized it was the Diamondbacks leading the NL West, not the Giants. This past week they won their series against the Braves and Marlins, and now enter Colorado for a little divisional rivalry series. Paul Goldschmidt has been very successful recently, including in Arizona’s 9-2 win over Miami. Goldschmidt had four hits, four RBIs and was a triple shy of hitting the cycle.
4. Cleveland Indians
This is another team that is surprising to see this high. They lead over the AL Central over the Detroit Tigers. After sweeping the Mariners in a four game series and splitting a two game series with the Phillies, the Indians are sitting on a 26-17 record. In their 10-4 win over the Phillies, the Indians were able to quickly expose left-hander Cole Hamels, as Hamels gave up six hits five runs, two homers in five innings and quickly made his pitch count rise. Being patient while at bat against Hamels and not chasing anything, was crucial for the Indians in their win.
5. Pittsburgh Pirates
While the Pirates had a great week going 5-1, they are still stuck in third of the NL Central. The Pirates week included a 3-1 series win over the Brewers and a 2-1 series win over the Astros. Many of these games have been close, in which the bullpen gets to show off its dominance and record the win. And thanks to a powerful performance last Sunday, pitcher Jeff Locke has seen his ERA drop to 2.73 and recorded the shutout. He is now the third pitcher on the Pirate’s starting rotation to have ERAs under 3.00.
6. Cincinnati Reds
While the Reds are still a dominant team at 27-18 and second in the NL Central, this week started a nine game road trip. They started out with a 3-0 sweep over struggling Marlins, then dropped their series to the Phillies, and now enter New York to face the also-struggling Mets.
7. St Louis Cardinals
While a similarly dominant team to the Reds, the Cardinals were average this past week. They went 4-3, bringing their overall record to 28-16. They went 3-1 against the Mets, 2-1 against the Brewers and dropped the first game of their series against the Padres. The week ahead will be a test, visiting the Dodgers on the road and starting a four game series on the road against the Royals for two games, and then two games at home. Their pitching needs to stay strong, Miller has an ERA of 1.74 and behind him Wainwright is at 2.51.
8. Atlanta Braves
With all the attention on the Yankee’s success despite millions of dollars sitting the bench on the DL, the Braves are quietly still leading the NL East. Atlanta’s week went from going 1-2 in their series against the Diamondbacks to sweeping the Dodgers at home. Justin Upton was huge in the series against the Dodgers, hitting a grand slam in Friday’s game that ultimately won it for the Braves. Upton is leading the Braves in batting average at .280, runs at 33, home runs at 14 and RBIs at 28. The week ahead should be easy for the Braves, with the Mets and Blue Jays on the calendar.
9. Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox have now fallen to one game back in the AL East to the Yankees. Not because they haven’t been dominant, they went 5-2 this past week including a three game sweep of the Twins. In fact, during Saturday’s 12-5 win against the twins David Ortiz could not be stopped. Ortiz hit a three run homer in the first, brought in another run in the third thanks to an line drive single to right, and homered again in the seventh on a two run shot to right center. Ortiz is a crucial asset on offense who will be key to stop if opposing teams want success against the Red Sox. Especially when the AL East race heats up.
10. San Francisco Giants
While it might surprise you the Giants are not the leader in the NL West, the way they performed this past week confirms this. The Giants were swept by the Blue Jays in a two game series, and then went 1-3 in their series against divisional rival Rockies. The week ahead seems to be equally as difficult, as the Nationals come to AT&T Park followed by the Rockies.
11. Colorado Rockies
The Colorado Rockies may be only 24-21, but this past week did not reflect that. The Rockies lost their series to the Cubs, but then turned to go 3-1 in a four game series against the Giants. Jordan Pacheco, a hitter who doesn’t have a homerun on the season, hit his first Friday against the Giants in a flashy way. Two outs in the fifth, Pacheco hits a grand slam into left field off Madison Bumgarner, his first of his career. This pushed the Rockies ahead of the Giants and was the hit that ultimately brought the Rockies the win.
12. Oakland Athletics
The Oakland Athletics are currently in the second of the AL West, but they are 5.5 games behind the Texas Rangers. If they want to start moving up in the rankings, any series against the Rangers is crucial. The A’s dropped their last series to the Rangers but turned the week around by sweeping the Royals. A week later they are playing the Rangers again, this time in Arlington. The A’s almost rallied in the tenth to beat the Rangers, but came up short. The A’s had the bases loaded with one out and could not bring a run across, and they lost. This is something they will need to work on in order to avoid the loss in close games.
13. Washington Nationals
The Nationals are almost to the end of their ten-game West Coast road trip. This trip included a series loss to the Dodgers, a split with the Padres, and then a three game series against the Giants. After a day of rest on Thursday the Nationals will welcome the Phillies into D.C. and then play half a four-game series against the Orioles at home and then finish up in Baltimore. Pitcher Andrew Cashner was again dominant for the Padres, and the Nationals couldn’t stop their offense in their 13-4 loss last Sunday.
14. Detroit Tigers
The Detroit Tigers have made a slight fall, mainly thanks to their poor performance against the Rangers, going 1-3 in the four game series. Sunday’s game was an offensive powerhouse, Miguel Cabrera hit three home runs and Prince Fielder delivered a bases-clearing double. Yet the Tigers still fell to the Rangers. Doug Fister only went 4.2 innings, allowed nine hits and five earned runs, had three strikeouts and a 3.62 ERA. The bullpen was not able to stop the runs and the Tigers fell to the Rangers, 11-8.
15. Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays are now tied for third in the AL East with the Baltimore Orioles. Both teams are four games back and the rest of the season for both these teams could go either way. A crucial factor in the AL East race was the sweep of the Orioles this past week by the Rays. However, the Rays could only go 1-2 against the Red Sox the series before. The Rays have currently split their series against the Blue Jays, with the last game being played this afternoon. And then on Friday they head to New York to face the Yankees in a three game weekend series. It has certainly been an AL East filled past two weeks for the Rays.
16. Baltimore Orioles
This was a surprising fall that I definitely did not see coming. Before yesterday’s walk off win in the tenth inning against the Yankees the Orioles were riding a six game losing streak. A huge factor that contributed to this was closer Jim Johnson, who had just broken the Orioles record for most consecutive saves, proceeds to blow three consecutive saves. His win yesterday brings his record to 2-4, which is not normal in Jim Johnson fashion. Pitching needs work if the Orioles want to compete for the AL East title.
17. San Diego Padres
This week has been impressive for the Padres, going 5-2 with a sweep over the Orioles, a split with the Nationals and then winning the first game of their series with the Cardinals. Their weekend included a 13-4 win over the Nationals, in which Andrew Cashner was again dominant. Cashner allowed three runs in six and two thirds innings, one walk and six strikeouts. Cashner has proven he can excel in the starting rotation, and since moving into the rotation he is 3-2 with a 2.80 ERA in six starts.
18. Chicago White Sox
The White Sox are proving themselves as contenders in the NL Central. They won their series against the Twins this past week, split their series with the Angels, and have won the first two games of their current series with the Red Sox. The Marlins and Cubs come into town next, which should help move them forward in their division.
19. Philadelphia Phillies
With a 21-24 record, the Phillies have been performing just “average.” This past week also helps prove this fact. The Phillies split their two games series with the Indians, won their series 2-1 against the Reds, and have gone 1-1 in the current series against the Marlins. I think a good word to describe this team is inconsistent. You never know what you’re going to get with the Phillies. This will be put to the test with their upcoming road series against the Nationals and Red Sox.
20. Seattle Mariners
The Seattle Mariners (20-25) showed the baseball world that the New York Yankees are beatable. They won their series 2-1, including beating the Yankees 12-2 last Wednesday. This momentum was crushed after being swept in four games to the Indians. The Mariners now start their two game series with a similar Angels’ team, and then hit the road to face the Rangers. Let’s see if they can do to the Rangers what they did to the Yankees.
21. Kansas City Royals
While the Kansas City Royals may be struggling, they are still in third of the AL Central only 4.5 games back. The Royals beat the Angels 2-1 and outscored them 22-15. The Royals turned around to be swept by the Athletics and then drop the first game of their series to the Astros. Pitcher Guthrie has been strong with five wins, 32 strikeouts and a 3.49 ERA. With the Angels back on the schedule this week, the four game series should be a real confidence booster for the Royals. Or we hope.
22. Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays last week went from sweeping the Giants and outscoring them 21-9, to being swept by the Yankees on the road. They are currently 1-1 in the series with the Rays, with the Orioles in town starting Thursday. Toronto is currently ten games in the AL East, and a week filled with divisional rivals will help them move up if they make it happen.
23. Los Angeles Dodgers
It is an understatement to say this season so far has been disappointing for Dodgers fans. They are 18-25 and last in the NL West seven games back. This week has been equally disappointing for the Dodgers, going 2-1 against the Nationals and then being swept by the Braves. They now begin a series with an equally struggling Brewers team, in which the Dodgers won game one. The Cardinals in town will be a struggle, but behind them come their neighbor Angels who are equal competition.
24. Chicago Cubs
The Cubs only played six games this past week, and they won two of them. One came from the Mets and one from the Rockies, to avoid the sweep. They are ten games back in the Central, tied with Milwaukee. The start of the series with the Pirates resulted in a loss, thanks to a grand slam by the Pirates in the fifth.
25. Minnesota Twins
Like the Orioles, the Twins went 0-6 this past week. This included a series loss to the White Sox and a sweep by the Red Sox. A road trip to Atlanta and Detroit will not help that streak get much better. The Twins were outscored by the Red Sox 20-8, including a 12-5 loss on Saturday. Pitching has been a problem for the Twins, their second best pitcher has an ERA of 6.20.
26. Los Angeles Angels
There just does not seem to be any good news for the Angels this season. They are fourth in the AL West with a 17-27 record. They managed three wins this past week, two coming against the White Sox, one from the Royals. Pitching hasn’t been great, their leader Vargas has an ERA of 3.55 which certainly isn’t terrible, but could have room for improvement. Trout is still consistent, .278 batting average with eight homeruns and 29 RBIs.
27. New York Mets
Playing the Reds at home is certainly not the best way to start your week. And this shows for the Mets, for they’ve already dropped the series with one game left to play tonight. And then the Braves and Yankees come into town, all top ten teams. It’s going to be a tough week for the Mets.
28. Milwaukee Brewers
The 17-26 Brewers could only manage one win this past week, and it happened to come against the Cardinals to avoid the sweep. The Dodgers come into town for the Brewers’ current series, in which they already dropped game one. While the Pirates coming to town later this week will not be easy, the series against the Twins should be more comfortable and gives the Brewers and opportunity to bring their momentum up.
29. Houston Astros
With the same record as the Miami Marlins, performance this last week determined who ended up in the last spot. The Astros managed a 3-3 week, going 1-2 against the Pirates and Tigers. They now welcome the Royals into town, in which they won game one. But this week will only get tougher with the Athletics and Rockies on the schedule starting Friday.
30. Miami Marlins
It is Miami that ends up in the bottom spot this week. Like I said before, this had to do with this past week’s performance, in which the Marlins went 2-5. They were swept by the Reds and went 1-2 against the Diamondbacks, now at home against the Phillies in which they’ve currently split 1-1. With the White Sox on the road, they have a chance to move out of this bottom spot.