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By Evan Roberts
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1. New York Yankees
Take a look at this past weekend’s series against the Angels. Trailing 5-2 Friday night…eh no problem. Trailing Saturday…no biggie. Even when the Angels finally beat the Yankees they had to hold on for dear life in the 9th inning as relievers who hadn’t been touched all year were being made to look normal against the Yankees. And that has been an incredible attribute they’ve had all year. Guys like Verlander, Weaver, Dickey and even relievers like Scott Downs and Ernesto Frier dominate everyone until they face the Bombers. The Yankees have a great ability to make dominant pitchers look average.
2. Texas Rangers
As Texas has skated along the Yankees have surpassed them finally! Matt Harrison put his bad All-Star game behind him with a great performance against Seattle, but what will be interesting to keep an eye on is the use of Alexi Ogando the rest of the way. Ogando was brilliant as a set up man early on teaming up with Mike Adams for a lethal 7th/8th inning combo. Texas moved him to the rotation to combat the starting pitching injuries they’ve dealt with and he too got hurt in his first start back. With Feliz on the horizon Ogando best serves Texas as another awesome arm out of the pen.
3. Washington Nationals
The Nats held their own as they began their foray through the NL East, by splitting 4 games with Miami. Next up are the struggling Mets, Braves and then the Mets again. Stephen Strasburg’s comments and incredible pitching is going to make Mike Rizzo’s decision of shutting him down nearly impossible. But the key to Washington maintaining their division lead is getting continued success from the pen. Clippard/Burnett/Matheus and others have been fantastic all year.
4. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Despite losing 2 of 3 to the Yanks in the Bronx (no shame in that) the Angels continue to look like a team that’s getting better and better. Albert Pujols has unbelievably raised his average all the way up to .273. Mike Trout was an extra base hit machine in the series against New York, but one has to wonder if the combo of Downs and Frier will continue to hold up. Yes, the Yankees have a habit of making great pitchers look average, but Downs and Frier aren’t exactly great despite their huge numbers.
5. Cincinnati Reds
Well the Reds sent quite the message to their division rival Cardinals by sweeping them in 3 very close games. But they took a massive hit with the injury to Joey Votto. Luckily for the Reds their schedule is soft for the next few weeks, but missing the bat of Votto will sting. Joey has put up huge numbers and is right in the mix as an NL MVP candidate. The pressure now falls on Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips to pick up the slack with Votto out.
6. Atlanta Braves
The 2012 Braves have been all about streaks…from starting the year 0-4 and then promptly responding with 5 straight wins, this team has now featured two 5 game winning streaks, a 6 game winning streak and now a 7 game winning streak. Oh by the way they’ve also had an 8 game losing streak and a run of losing 7 of 8. Right now they are hot and it’s led by the starting pitching. Jair Jurrjens has returned and pitched well and Ben Sheets made his first start in 2 years by hurling 6 scoreless against the Mets.
7. Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates had their moment when they jumped into sole possession of first place in the NL Central, and there is a fear in Pittsburgh that much like last year they will completely crumble. That won’t happen if they continue to pitch well. But what should be interesting to watch is whether or not Pittsburgh makes a splash if they believe they are legit contenders. Justin Upton would be quite the addition in the batting order to protect Andrew McCutchen.
8. San Francisco Giants
The Giants took care of business by sweeping the lousy Astros, but the biggest development was the brilliant start by Tim Lincecum. Despite his pen blowing the lead, Tim looked like the old dominant Tim. With Melky having a huge year to go along with Buster Posey the offense is still a need but not their biggest. They have to improve this pen moving forward.
9. Chicago White Sox
The White Sox should be warned…The Tigers are coming, the Tigers are coming! When Kevin Youkilis is done with his reunion in Boston the White Sox get to play the newly red hot Detroit Tigers. Most of us figured Detroit was the team to beat in the AL Central and they probably still are. Chicago’s greatest strength is Chris Sale is having a Verlander-like season.
10. Detroit Tigers
The Tigers have won 8 of 9 to get over .500 and get within striking distance of Chicago. Justin Verlander made us all forget about his subpar All-Star outing by dominating the Royals. With a middle of the order featuring Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder we all knew it was just a matter of time.
How would you rank ‘em? Make your case in the comments below…