By Evan Roberts
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1. Texas Rangers: 19-10 (1) Despite finally cooling off (4-6 in their last 10 games) the Rangers remain tops on the list. They served as a big test for the red hot Orioles on Monday and answered the call by scoring 14 runs against Brian Matusz and a depleted O’s bullpen. With the Angels continuing to flounder, the AL West continues to be in held tight by the 2 time defending AL Champions.
2. Tampa Bay Rays: 19-10 (2) Despite losing Evan Longoria and dropping the final 2 games of a series with the Oakland A’s, the Rays continue to defy all logic. You look at their lineup and wonder where the production is going to come from without their best hitter (Longoria) and Ben Zobrist still on the interstate. But BJ Upton has been on fire since coming of the DL and their pen has been real strong, lead by Joel Peralta and Fernando Rodney.
3. Washington Nationals: 18-10 (7) It continues to be all about the insanely good Nats pitching, but the injuries to their big bats may finally get to them. With Ryan Zimmerman expected back soon along with the emergence of Bryce Harper, bad luck hit Washington with Jayson Werth going down for a significant period of time. Werth was actually producing this year and his loss means the Nats offense will need a healthy Zimmerman and Harper to continue to hit. And by the way, the best retaliation Bryce could have for Cole Hamels who admitted to intentially plunking him, is exactly what Harper did. Taking a page out of the 1950′s by stealing home.
4. Los Angeles Dodgers: 19-10 (4) After a disappointing road trip in which they lost 2 of 3 in Colorado and Chicago, the Dodgers bounced back with a strong victory against the Giants. The Sunday loss in Chicago was tough to take as Javy Guerra officially lost his closer’s job as he blew a 9th inning lead. Kenley Jansen, who I remember vividly from the WBC a few years ago, will get the first crack at Guerra’s old job.
5. Baltimore Orioles: 19-10 (9) Yes, the Orioles have been baseball’s biggest surprise in the early going and their 17 inning victory over Boston on Sunday was insane, but I don’t buy it. I’m giving them the 5 ranking because of what they’ve done, but I’m still confident they will be a last place team when it’s all said and done. Brian Matusz better watch out. Chris Davis may take his job.
6. Cleveland Indians: 17-11 (NR) The Indians are hot (6 of 7) and they are reminding us of what they did last year when they lead in the AL Central for the first few months. The wild cards for them are Ubaldo Jimenez and Johnny Damon. Ubaldo has shown flashes of his old self and if he can be the ace he was on the NL watch out AL Central.
7. St. Louis Cardinals: 18-11 (3) The defending World Champions are quietly doing it again. Jon Jay is among the league leaders in batting average, Yadier Molina is proving to be worth every penny and Carlos Beltran is reminding us how good he can be when healthy.
8. Atlanta Braves: 18-12 (6) The Braves have scored more runs than any team in the National League…how insane is that!? With that said, if they don’t get their starting pitching figured out they will have trouble winning this division. Other than Brandon Beachey the staff has been wildly inconsistent.
9. New York Yankees: 15-13 (5) The Mariano Rivera injury certainly sent shock waves throughout the Major Leagues and with it tons of pressure will fall on the right arm of David Robertson. David has been baseball’s best 8th inning guy for over a year, but the 9th inning is a different animal. The starting pitching remains the biggest question, but the one advantage the Yankees had over every team for more than a decade has been in the 9th inning…but they don’t have it anymore.
10. Miami Marlins: 15-14 (NR) They are the hottest team in baseball and despite a few teams (the Mets, Blue Jays, Reds) all having better records, the Marlins deserve to get a top 10 nod. Heath Bell continues to be lost and Josh Johnson has been terrible, but Carlos Zambrano is having a great comeback year. They have won 7 in a row and are getting themselves back into contention in what is currently a wide open NL East.
How would you rank ‘em? Make your case in the comments below…