By Evan Roberts
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1. Texas Rangers (1) 26-17
After what was an incredible start, there is no denying the Rangers have slowed down considerably. In fact, Texas hasn’t won back to back games since May 10 and 11. They also haven’t won 3 straight games since their 8 game winning streak ended on April 21. With that said, here is my case for why they remain #1 AGAIN. They still hold a comfortable lead in the AL West, and despite not dominating and Josh Hamilton cooling off, they are still playing solid enough baseball to where there is nothing worry about.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers (3) 29-13
It may only be late May, but the Dodgers are doing their best to run away with the NL West. They have now won 5 in a row after they got another solid outing from Chris Capuano on Monday night. What is amazing is that the Dodgers are proving they are not a one man band. Matt Kemp got off to a sick start, and despite him not playing for over a week and a half, LA hasn’t skipped a beat. Right now they are doing everything right. Their offense is scoring despite no Kemp and their starting pitching, led by the 3 lefties– Kershaw, Capuano and Lilly– has been nothing short of brilliant.
3. Baltimore Orioles (2) 27-16
Last week Baltimore split a 2 game set with the Yankees and then took care of business by winning 4 of 5 from Kansas City and Washington. The world waits for the Orioles to come back to earth, but Buck’s squad continues to prove the critics wrong…for now. Adam Jones continues to have a big time year and JJ Hardy is getting extremely hot after a slow start (the guy has 9 home runs already) BUT is Jason Hammel legit? Can Jim Johnson continue to be the best closer in baseball? And with 10 of the next 13 games coming against Tampa Bay, Boston and Toronto, can the Orioles continue to shock the world?
4. Atlanta Braves (4) 26-17
The Braves continue to rattle off wins and to their credit they are doing it against real solid teams. They swept St. Louis, split against Cincinnati and Miami, and then took 2 of 3 from the Rays. One of the most encouraging things lately has been Tim Hudson. On Sunday, he out dueled David Price in pitching 7 2/3 scoreless innings. Brandon Beachy is off to a great start, giving Atlanta a pretty formidable 1-2. What will be tough for Atlanta is their upcoming schedule…Cincinnati, Washington, St. Louis, Washington again, Miami, Toronto and the Yankees.
5. Washington Nationals (7) 25-17
After losing the first 2 games to the Orioles, who had their fans invade Nationals Park, Washington responded the only way they know how. By pitching! Strasburg was nasty and hit his first HR and then Gio Gonzalez confounded the Phillies bats. Once concern about Gio who has been brilliant in his first year in the National League is the amount of pitches he throws. Take Monday for example. He was well over 100 pitches after 6 innings. So as good as Gio has been the Nats need their pen to continue to pitch well in order to protect his games. Washington has to play division games all the way until the next batch of interleague games.
6. Toronto Blue Jays (NR) 24-19
In the AL East, the Yankees and Red Sox get attention for underachieving early on, the Rays get credit for being the little engine that could and the Orioles get attention for surprising us all, but everyone seems to forget Toronto. They reminded New York who they were this week by winning 2 straight from the Yankees and then taking 2 of 3 from the Mets. Here is what makes Toronto dangerous…they have some good young arms (see Romero/Alvarez/Drabek/Morrow) and they can mash! Jose Bautista is starting to heat up and Edwin Encarnacion is having a career year. Watch out for Toronto.
7. Tampa Bay Rays (8) 25-18
You know what’s been hurting the Rays lately? No this is not a trick question, in fact the answer is quite obvious. Yep, the anemic offense. We all know Tampa can pitch…but the last week has been all about the bats not producing enough. In their latest slump of losing 4 of 5 to Boston, Atlanta and Toronto, the Rays have mustered 13 runs in 5 games. They miss Longoria badly.
8. Cincinnati Reds (NR) 22-19
Much like what the Blue Jays did, the Reds enjoyed playing the New York teams– winning 3 of 5 at Citi and Yankee this past week. The rise of the Reds has coincided with the fall of the champion Cardinals. Lance Berkman going down is a big blow to St. Louis and the Reds are the perfect team to pick up the pieces. Their offense has underachieved but finally Dusty Baker has gotten the pen right. Aroldis Chapman is their best reliever and will finally get the chance to close games. But it’s not just a pen that’s good because of the Cuban lefty. Jose Arrendondo and Logan Ondrusek have pitched well and now Sean Marshall can go back to a role he’s more familiar with.
9. St. Louis Cardinals (6) 23-19
I have never really bought into this version of the St. Louis Cardinals. After getting off to a great start, the Cardinals have hit a major speed bump. They have lost 8 of 10 and will be without Lance Berkman who is now pondering retirement. Lance Lynn and Jake Westbrook are starting to come back to earth, which puts pressure on Adam Wainwright to find himself and for Matt Holliday to carry an offense that has seen great starts from Beltran and Furcal.
10. Cleveland Indians (NR) 23-18
The Indians continue to lead the disappointing AL Central, but you can certainly make the point that Cleveland hasn’t exactly played breathtaking baseball. Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin Masterson still sport ERA’s over 5 and Johnny Damon has yet to get his bat going. This is a big moment for Cleveland because Detroit is under .500 and underachieving. They need to take advantage and build a big lead.