We’re past the Memorial Day pole and into the Dog Days of Summer. There are so many tight races right now in baseball that it is nearly impossible to determine who is going to make the playoffs and who will be left at home.
With inter-league baseball coming back this weekend, its time to start getting the awkward “Is Albert Pujols going to play third?” or “Will the Red Sox keep putting Adrian Gonzalez in right field?” questions. You know, if there wasn’t a silly DH rule in the first place, teams wouldn’t be in this position. But, I digress. Where does your team rank this week?
1. Texas Rangers (32-22, 1st in AL West)
This Week: @ Oakland (4), @ San Francisco (3)
Despite a rather rough week that included a four-game skid against the Mariners and Angels, the Rangers hold on to the top spot in the rankings thanks mostly in part to their powerhouse offense. A four-game set against the sliding Oakland A’s can solve a lot of woes, but the Rangers will need to ride whatever momentum they have after their Sunday victory against Dan Haren and the Angels.
2. Tampa Bay Rays (31-23, 1st in AL East)
This Week: @ NY Yankees (3), @ Miami (3)
Earlier in the week, the Rays ran into the apparent buzz saw that is the Chicago White Sox, but Joe Maddon and company turned the ship around against the then-first place Baltimore Orioles. Despite the tough week ahead, the Rays will throw both James Shields and David Price against the Yankees in Yankee Stadium. The team will also miss Josh Johnson in Miami, so there is a chance for the team to snag four wins this coming week.
3. Washington Nationals (30-22, T-1st in NL East)
This Week: vs. NY Mets (3), @ Boston (3)
It was not an easy week for the Nationals, dropping four of five games and getting one rain-out at home against the Braves. Even with the rough patch, Washington still holds a one game lead in the loss column ahead of both the Marlins and the Mets. They’ll get a chance to boost their lead over New York with a key three-game series in the nation’s capitol, but they’ll have to beat both R.A. Dickey and Johan Santana in the process.
4. Chicago White Sox (31-23, 1st in AL Central)
This Week: vs. Toronto (3), vs. Houston (3)
There is no team hotter in baseball right now, winners in 10 of their last 11 games. The South Siders have been getting great performances from everyone on the roster, but maybe none more dominating recently then pitcher Chris Sale. After a brief demotion to the bullpen to protect his elbow, Sale has been lights out, notching his seventh win of the season Sunday, improving his numbers to 2.30 ERA and 0.98 WHIP. There may be an All-Star appearance in the near future for the young White Sox ace.
5. Los Angeles Dodgers (33-21, 1st in NL West)
This Week: @ Philadelphia (4), @ Seattle (3)
It seems as though while one LA team (Angels) are trending upwards, the Dodgers are on the way down. They’ve had to place star center fielder Matt Kemp back on the DL with hamstring issues and the offense has suffered as a whole ever since. With the team in a slide, the questions surrounding Dee Gordon at shortstop have to increase, considering he still isn’t contributing at all offensively.
6. Miami Marlins (31-23, T-1st in NL East)
This Week: vs. Atlanta (3), vs. Tampa Bay (3)
This is more of what people were expecting from the Marlins before the season started. The main factor for the Marlins turnaround? The power burst of Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton hit .343/.432/.769 in May with 12 of his 13 home runs coming in the month. Should Stanton keep up the strong numbers, the Marlins will continue to play great baseball.
7. New York Yankees (29-24, 3rd in AL East)
This Week: vs. Tampa Bay (3), vs. NY Mets (3)
There were positive signs from the Yankees last week, including the strong effort by Phil Hughes on Sunday against Justin Verlander and the Tigers. However, there is nothing easy about the week coming up for the Bombers. First things first, the Yankees need to find a way to beat either James Shields or David Price, though asking to knock off both seems too daunting a task for the team’s stop-and-go offense.
8. New York Mets (31-23, T-1st in NL East)
This Week: vs. St. Louis (1), @ Washington (3), @ NY Yankees (3)
You really couldn’t have asked for a better week to be a Mets fan. It feels like a year ago when the Phillies took two out of three to start the weekend. Johan Santana got the franchise off the hook with the team’s first no-hitter, then R.A. Dickey followed that up with a complete game shutout of his own. Jon Niese then struck out 10 St. Louis Cardinals in six innings Sunday. If the team continues to score runs with two outs and get strong starting pitching, the sky is the limit. That, and the team is starting to get healthy, with pitcher Chris Young making his season debut Tuesday in Washington, plus Ruben Tejada and Jason Bay both expected to be activated by this weekend.
9. Baltimore Orioles (30-24, 2nd in AL East)
This Week: @ Boston (3), vs. Philadelphia (3)
Are the Orioles beginning to come back down to Earth? The team dropped five of six against AL East rivals last week. If there is good news, its that Brian Matusz put together another strong performance against the Rays. The team also locked up star center fielder Adam Jones to a long-term contract extension, so even if the immediate future is looking a little bleak, the long-term picture is continuing to look brighter each week the Orioles remain competitive.
10. Cincinnati Reds (30-23, 1st in NL Central)
This Week: vs. Pittsburgh (3), vs. Detroit (3)
While the Reds main competition in St. Louis lost significant ground last week, Cincinnati continues to separate themselves from the rest of the field. Joey Votto is putting together another MVP-caliber season with a season line of .346/.476/.620. The X-Factor for the Reds moving forward has to be if Mat Latos can turn his season around from his rough start. Should the team be able to pair him with Johnny Cueto at the top of the rotation with the strong bullpen depth of Aroldis Chapman, Logan Ondrusek and Sean Marshall, this turns into a very deadly pitching staff.
11. San Francisco Giants (30-24, 2nd in NL West)
This Week: vs. Chicago Cubs (1), @ San Diego (3), vs. Texas (3)
Its the first week of June, and the National League’s leading hitter? That’s right, its Melky Cabrera, who’s bopping along at .371. Not to mention, despite picking up a loss in the game, there were signs of life from Tim Lincecum in his last start, going 7 innings while striking out six. However, he still issued five free passes. It was a step in the right direction, but still not the Timmy of old.
12. Atlanta Braves (29-25, 4th in NL East)
This Week: @ Miami (3), vs. Toronto (3)
Last week was certainly a better week for the Braves, picking up a series win against the Cardinals and earning a split in Washington. Atlanta gets a hard luck draw against the Marlins to start this week, having to go through both Josh Johnson and Mark Buerhle, then have to face off against Ricky Romero to conclude the week in Toronto. Nobody ever said it was going to be easy.
13. Boston Red Sox (28-26, T-4th in AL East)
This Week: vs. Baltimore (3), vs. Washington (3)
What, they were really going to be terrible all season? Top prospect Will Middlebrooks has hit his way into this everyday line-up and making it impossible to take him out, hitting .314 with 6 home runs and 22 RBI. His performance is so strong that the team has experimented with Adrian Gonzalez in right field and even moving Middlebrooks to shortstop. Despite being in a tie for fourth, the team sits only three games back of first place Tampa Bay. Anything is possible, right KG?
14. Los Angeles Angels (28-27, 2nd in AL West)
This Week: vs. Seattle (3), @ Colorado (3)
Much like the Red Sox, I don’t think anyone truly expected the Angels to be in last place all season. As a team, LA is still struggling offensively, but don’t tell that to the combination of Mark Trumbo and potential Rookie of the Year Mike Trout. Both players are carrying the offense while the likes of Albert Pujols and Erick Aybar continue to try and fix their early season woes.
15. Toronto Blue Jays (28-26, T-4th in AL East)
This Week: @ Chicago White Sox (3), @ Atlanta (3)
Despite all their power in the offense, the team is only 24th in team batting average, and Brett Lawrie is the only player hitting over .280. Its also getting increasingly harder for the team to compete in the uber-intense AL East, where first and last are separated by a whooping 3 games. Though the Blue Jays are getting the red hot White Sox before resuming interleague play, the good news is Ricky Romero will throw twice this week, so they’re going into battle with their best option.
16. Cleveland Indians (28-25, 2nd in AL Central)
This Week: @ Detroit (3), @ St. Louis (3)
Nothing about what the Cleveland Indians are doing right now makes total sense. They are hitting about league average, and the pitching is a hit or miss. Yet, the team continues to remain competitive and near the top of the AL Central. Offensively, Jason Kipnis is the real deal. With the recent promotion of Lonnie Chisenhall, the future of the Indians line-up is right now.
17. Philadelphia Phillies (28-27, 5th in NL East)
This Week: vs. LA Dodgers (4), @ Baltimore (3)
The Phillies lost Roy Halladay for 4-6 weeks thanks to a right shoulder strain, joining Chase Utley and Ryan Howard on the DL. If it wasn’t for the performances of Cole Hamels and Carlos Ruiz, this team would really be in the gutter. Even so, this team is going to struggle to compete in the NL East, especially with the recent performances from the top three teams.
18. Pittsburgh Pirates (27-26, 2nd in NL Central)
This Week: @ Cincinnati (3), vs. Kansas City (3)
Look out, world! The Pittsburgh Pirates are here! As bad as the Cardinals have been recently, the Pirates have been the opposite, winning 7 of their last 10. A big reason for the Pirates rise is the impressive performance of James McDonald. He leads the team in wins (5), ERA (2.14), and strikeouts (71). Honestly, the National League All-Star rotation is going to look really funky, likely including the likes of McDonald, R.A. Dickey and Chris Capuano.
19. St. Louis Cardinals (27-27, 3rd in NL Central)
This Week: @ NY Mets (1), @ Houston (3), vs. Cleveland (3)
Its been a week to forget. Playing the NL East has been really unfriendly to the Cardinals. They entered play this weekend as the league’s best offense, then immediately got no-hit by Johan Santana and scored one run in 27 innings. Getting the Astros for three games in the middle of the week may be just what the doctor ordered, but without Lance Berkman, Chris Carpenter and John Jay in the everyday line-up, the team needs to find offense from other areas.
20. Arizona Diamondbacks (25-29, 3rd in NL West)
This Week: vs. Colorado (3), vs. Oakland (3)
Trevor Cahill, where have you been? His complete game shutout on Sunday was just what the doctor ordered for the Arizona rotation (and my fantasy team). There is potential for the Diamondbacks to get right back to .500 this week, facing the ice cold A’s and inconsistent Rockies all at home.
21. Detroit Tigers (25-29, 3rd in AL Central)
This Week: vs. Cleveland (3), @ Cincinnati (3)
You know things are going poorly in Detroit when Justin Verlander loses three straight decisions for the first time since 2008. I’m still not certain how the team has gotten to this point. Picking them as my best team in baseball before the season started seems like a huge miscalculation. The team was already hurting with Austin Jackson out of the line-up, and now they’ve lost Andy Dirks as well. Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera can only do so much when players in front of them aren’t getting on base.
22. Colorado Rockies (23-30, 4th in NL West)
This Week: @ Arizona (3), vs. LA Angels (3)
The Rockies aren’t dead in the water. They had a dream week, sweeping the Astros in four and got the Dodgers sans Matt Kemp. This week, the team isn’t as fortunate, catching the Diamondbacks on the way up and the dangerous LA Angels. How they perform in these six games will tell a lot of what the team can ultimately accomplish.
23. Kansas City Royals (23-29, AL Central)
This Week: vs. Minnesota (3), @ Pittsburgh (3)
Is Eric Hosmer starting to turn the corner in his disastrous season? Over the last week, Hosmer hit .318 with 2 homers. He’s going to be the heart of this Royals line-up as long as he’s with the team, so the hotter he gets, the more successful Kansas City will be.
24. Milwaukee Brewers (24-30, 4th in NL Central)
This Week: vs. Chicago Cubs (3), vs. San Diego (3)
Ryan Braun and Zack Greinke have done all they can to carry the Brewers this season, but Milwaukee will need help from other areas. Losing Jonathan Lucroy to injury was a bigger blow than most anticipated, and the team is still needing Aramis Ramirez to provide more consistency in order to back up the Hebrew Hammer.
25. Seattle Mariners (24-32, 3rd in AL West)
This Week: @ LA Angels (3), vs. LA Dodgers (3)
The good news: Justin Smoak is on fire, hitting .348 last week with 3 home runs. The bad news: nobody else is doing much of anything offensively. Dustin Ackley got off to a nice start, but is down to .248/.322/.367 on the season.
26. Houston Astros (23-31, 5th in NL Central)
This Week: vs. St. Louis (3), @ Chicago White Sox (3)
The team placed Carlos Lee on the DL Sunday, taking away both an opportunity to increase his trade value and some experience from the middle of the line-up. Houston is getting to the point in their season where they need to decide who is worth keeping long-term and who they can move to maximize value.
27. Oakland A’s (23-31, 4th in AL West)
This Week: vs. Texas (4), @ Arizona (3)
You’re as cooooold as ice. The team is dead last or second to last in every major offensive category. Its getting to the point where promoting Manny Ramirez from AAA is not only becoming a better idea, but the only chance to infuse some instant offense to the line-up. Don’t get me wrong, there is some real potential in Josh Reddick. But, when he’s leading your team in every offensive category and only hitting .271, something isn’t right.
28. Minnesota Twins (20-33, 5th in AL Central)
This Week: @ Kansas City (3), vs. Chicago Cubs (3)
Uhm, Carl Pavano qualifies for the team leader in starters ERA with an even 6.00. That’s, well, terrible. P.J. Walters has made five starts and has been solid, but he’s only one man. Something’s got to give in Minnesota.
29. Chicago Cubs (18-35, 6th in NL Central)
This Week: @ San Francisco (1), @ Milwaukee (3), @ Minnesota (3)
The Cubs were dead in the water until the San Diego Padres showed up and proved that they were, indeed, worse than Chicago. Expect to start seeing an increase in trade talks surrounding Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza and, hopefully for the Cubs, Alfonso Soriano.
30. San Diego Padres (18-37, 5th in NL West)
This Week: vs. San Francisco (3), @ Milwaukee (3)
Not a good time to be a Padres fan. Not only is your team playing poorly, but the franchise is now the only one in Major League Baseball without a no-hitter to their credit. Even with that said, they’re a solid 1,500 games behind where the Mets were when they tossed their first. So, don’t come crying to me. You have a lot of suffering to endure in order to catch up.