1. Philadelphia Phillies (1) 89-48
Maybe there were a few diehard Braves fans that actually thought that they could catch the Phillies and win the NL East. Well, even those dreamers were brought back to Earth in the opener of the Braves three-game series against the reigning #1 ranked Phillies. Cliff Lee pitched like it was mid October in thoroughly dominating the Braves and pitching yet another complete game shutout. The Phils actually had a difficult weekend in Florida in which they lost a 14 inning marathon that featured Joe West deciding to use replay in a controversial way. Either way the Phillies are closing in on 100 wins and a meaningless September.
2. New York Yankees (3) 86-53
The Yankees walked into Fenway Park and exercised a few demons. CC Sabathia may have thrown a thousand pitches, but he battled through it and contributed to the opening win of the series. Secondly, they won the series despite Mariano Rivera looking like a normal closer by making fans sweat. Bottom line is the Yanks have weathered a rough start against Boston to have a 1st place lead over them, they are red hot, have a healthy A-Rod and Jesus Montero is off to a fast start in his big league career.
3. Boston Red Sox (2) 84-56
Kevin Youkilis is healthy but Josh Beckett injuring his ankle on Monday and is now a huge concern for Boston. They already had the question of who is #3 behind Lester and Beckett, but an injury to Beckett who has been a post season legend throughout his career could put a major crimp in the Sox title plans. After losing 2 of 3 to their blood rivals, Texas beat them up a bit and then their offense went limp in an extra inning loss to Toronto.
4. Atlanta Braves (4) 82-58
While losing 2 of 3 at home to the Dodgers is nothing to be proud of, the way they avoided the sweep is. Trailing 3-0 to Clayton Kershaw, the Braves fought back against the NL CY Young leader and won the game eventually against the Dodger pen. With the wild card wrapped up and the division out of reach, it will be important for Freddi Gonzalez to keep his young arms rested heading into October.
5. Milwaukee Brewers (5) 85-57
I don’t mean to rain on the Brewers parade, because they have been playing outstanding baseball as of late that featured a dominant 21-7 record in August, but if you peel away at how they have opened up a huge lead in the NL Central you will notice a disturbing trend. Before sweeping the Houston Astros, the Brewers lost 3 straight games to the St. Louis Cardinals, giving the Cards a glimmer of hope. The Brewers have the 2nd best record in the NL, but they have been below average against the good teams in baseball. The Brewers are 5 games under .500 against teams above .500 this year. Give them credit, they have thoroughly destroyed the Astros, and have gone a combined 31-9 against the Cubs, Pirates and Astros. Come October that trend needs to change or it will be one and done like it was in 2008.
6. Texas Rangers (6) 80-62
For the teams making the playoffs in the AL Central and West it’s basically pick your poison when it comes to facing the Yankees or Red Sox in the first round. Despite defeating the Yanks in route to their first AL title win a year ago, the Rangers have played really well against Boston this year, including pounding out 28 runs in a 2 of 3 series victory in Boston over the weekend. The Rangers have survived this tough AL East stretch by going 4-3 thus far against Boston and Tampa. Things will get a little easier soon, as they play 12 of 15 games against Oakland and Seattle.
7. Arizona Diamondbacks (7) 81-60
As I write this, I am seconding guessing my decision to not show the D-Backs more respect and put them up a few spots. They continue to shock us all by building a bigger and bigger lead in the NL West. Impressive moment #456 this year came Sunday against the Giants in the rubber game of that series. Trailing 1-0 on the road to a cruising Ryan Vogelsong, they fought back and won the game and the series. Its all right in front of Arizona to capture this division, as every game with the exception of 3 at home with the Giants on the final weekend of the year comes against teams under .500.
8. Detroit Tigers (8)79-62
If the Tigers were worried even in the least bit by the Chicago White Sox, they eliminated all doubt by what they did to them Saturday afternoon and Sunday night. First on Saturday the Tigers erased an 8-1 deficit, and an 8-6 9th inning deficit to stun the White Sox. Miguel Cabrera followed up Ryan Raburn’s 2 run game tying home run 1 out later with a walk off bomb that clearly damaged the White Sox psyche. How do we know that? Well, the next night the Tigers assaulted the White Sox, 18-2. They can really finish off the division by beating up on the Indians this week.
9. Angels of Anaheim (9) 77-64
The Angels continue to hang tough in the AL West with the offensively superior Texas Rangers. But right now they are missing out on a golden opportunity. As we noted last week the Rangers had a much more difficult AL East schedule over the last week while the Angels had a chance to beat up on some below .500 teams. Well Anaheim didn’t gain ground and now they face the Yankees this coming weekend. One major concern has to be Jered Weaver. He was lousy on 3 days rest last week, but then with an extra day Jered was bad again, despite his offense bailing him out to get a W.
10. Tampa Bay Rays (10) 77-63
The Rays aren’t playing for anything as the final month continues, but if they continue their tradition of trading veterans while their value is high then James Shields is doing them a favor. Jeremy Hellickson has been everything they could have hoped for which maybe makes Shields more expendable during the off season. He threw another complete game on Monday, and if they decide to put the for sale sign up on big game James, they could walk way with a king’s ransom.
Who’d Evan miss? Have an issue with his list? Sound off in the comments below…