By Evan Roberts
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1. Texas Rangers (1) 31-18
After a mediocre 3-3 road trip against Houston and Seattle, the Rangers came back to Arlington and exploded offensively. They scored a combined 34 runs in the 3 game sweep of Toronto. Josh Hamilton hit the game winning home run in a wild 13 inning come from behind win on Saturday. This team is flat out scary offensively and even a red hot Angel team won’t be able to stop them.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers (2) 32-16
Well, LA has successfully survived being Matt Kemp-less despite a lineup that on paper looks mediocre at best. Kemp’s return will take the pressure off Andre Ethier and a pitching rotation that has been fantastic. What will be interesting to see is what manager Don Mattingly does with the lead off spot. Lately Tony Gwynn Jr. has been handling that role while replacing Kemp, but can Dee Gordon get on base enough to hold down that spot? It will also be an interesting test starting Friday when LA begins a 10 game road trip. While LA has dominated at home they are only 11-10 away from Dodger Stadium.
3. Tampa Bay Rays (7) 29-20
Carlos Pena, the lead off hitter? Joe Maddon has been doing it lately and it’s very difficult to question anything the mad scientist does considering the success he’s had with a rag tag team. The Rays took 2 of 3 from Boston this past weekend, as Sean Rodriguez delivered the punch in the gut on Sunday. After blowing a lead of their own the day before, Rodriguez hit a 2 run home run off of Alfredo Aceves to secure the series victory for Tampa.
4. Washington Nationals (5) 29-19
The Nationals round robin through the NL East has begun exactly the way they wanted it to: 2 of 3 from Philly and a sweep over Atlanta. So despite losing the opener to Miami, the Nats are 5-2. Chien Ming Wang will be an interesting X factor now. Ross Detwiler who got off to a great start in the rotation has struggled lately which led to his demotion to the pen and the opportunity to Wang. Remember, John Lannan is still in Triple A. The Nats have excellent pitching depth that can help them as either trade bait or when they are in need of a spot start.
5. New York Yankees (NR) 26-22
Despite the opponents (The Royals and Athletics) the Yankees are finally hot. It has been led by very solid starting pitching and the red hotness of Mark Teixiera. Tex has been on fire lately which you knew was inevitable and Hiroki Kuroda was brilliant on Sunday against Oakland. But now things get tricky…the red hot Angels and then a series with Detroit.
6. Baltimore Orioles (3) 29-20
The Orioles had a chance to sweep their Beltway buddies the Nationals last Sunday but didn’t. Ever since failing to do so the O’s have been cooled off. They lost 2 of 3 to Boston and then 2 of 3 to Kansas City. With Toronto, Tampa Bay, Boston and Philly to follow the days of the Orioles being in the top 10 are numbered.
7. New York Mets (NR) 27-22
Much like the Yankees, the Mets have taken advantage of a soft schedule. Johan Santana looked like the pre-surgery Johan as he pitched a complete game shutout against San Diego, but now the test begins for the surprising Mets. Philadelphia, St. Louis, Washington, the Yankees are all up next. If the Mets can remain over .500 by the end of the month, then they will start changing people’s minds that they are for real.
8. Cincinnati Reds (8) 27-21
The Reds have played their best baseball of the year lately, mainly because Brandon Phillips is getting hot and their starting pitching has been really good. Give Pittsburgh and Houston credit for hanging tough, but this appears to eventually settle into a 2 team race between Cincy and St. Louis. Mat Latos is starting to look like the guy Cincinnati gave up a lot to get and Bronson Arroyo has had a very good year.
9. Chicago White Sox (NR) 27-22
There have been a lot of surprises in the early going but how about the White Sox? Adam Dunn is actually producing unlike his god awful season a year ago, but one guy who doesn’t get enough credit is Paul Konerko. He’s flirting with .400 and has been producing for years. But what has been a big help is a staff that has Jake Peavy who looks like the San Diego Peavy and the young Chris Sale who struck out 15 Rays in their Monday victory.
10. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (NR) 25-25
The Angels are finally hot, they have won 7 in a row, but nothing was more impressive than their win Monday night against the Yankees. Jered Weaver had to leave without recording an out due to injury, but the Angel bats rallied against Phil Hughes and got a walk off from Mark Trumbo to win it. The Angels bad start may have put them in a real tough position in catching Texas, but they are a legit threat for one of the 2 wild cards especially with Pujols starting to look like Pujols.