By Evan Roberts
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1. Washington Nationals
The Nats responded to their five-game losing streak by rattling off 11 of 14 run, but the big story came over the weekend when Stephen Strasburg was officially shut down. Let’s not forget that Strasburg has been very human lately and was beat up in two of his last three starts. With Gio Gonzalez (19 wins after Monday’s victory against the Mets), Jordan Zimmermann and the emergence off Ross Detwiler, the Nats have a pretty formidable rotation even without Strasburg.
2. Cincinnati Reds
The Reds still maintain the largest division lead, and finally got Joey Votto back, but I do have some potentially bad news. Aroldis Chapman, a guy who might even get some Cy Young consideration, has been very shaky his last two appearances. He blew a save and got a loss against the lousy Astros, and then on Monday walked the ballpark against the Pirates before being bailed out. Again, this could be a blip… but what if it isn’t?
3. Texas Rangers
Once again the division lead is shrinking as the A’s have been red hot, and Texas dropped a series in Tampa. Overall though, Ron Washington can’t be too upset with a 6-4 road trip that took them to Cleveland, Kansas City and Tampa. With the Athletics showing no sign of cooling off, the current stretch of home games are big for Texas to maintain their lead as they take on Cleveland and Seattle.
4. Oakland Athletics
The surprising A’s just aren’t going away. If you thought getting swept at home by Anaheim was going to be the reality check that brought Oakland back to earth — well, you were wrong. They responded with a resounding sweep of Seattle (only allowed four runs in the series) and took the next two against Anaheim. This while dealing with the horrible head injury suffered by Brandon McCarthy. Luckily Brandon is going better, but the Erik Aybar line drive has certainly put shock waves through the baseball community.
5. Atlanta Braves
The Braves are showing no signs of repeating last year’s epic September collapse. They’ve started the month by going 7-4 and have now built a comfortable loss-column lead for one of the Wild Card spots. Chipper Jones said goodbye to New York the only way he knew how… by his Braves sweeping the Mets.
6. New York Yankees
Despite all the issues the Yankees have, and despite being hosed on Saturday night — yet another horrible call by Jerry Meals (See Braves/Pirates 2011) — the Yankees have remained in first place — though they’re currently tied with Baltimore after Tuesday’s loss in Boston. This series against the lousy Red Sox is huge, because with Tampa playing Baltimore, wins ensure picking up ground on someone.
7. Baltimore Orioles
We are midway through September and the Orioles are still in a playoff position, but how will they deal with a major injury? Nick Markakis is done for the year and it forces the Orioles to rely even more on journeyman players. Lew Ford, Nate McLouth among others will be asked to step up. The Orioles also need Pedro Strop to get over his recent struggles and go back to being the lock-down eighth-inning guy he’s been all year.
8. Angels of Anaheim
The enigma that is the Angels continues to confuse us all. They put together a much-needed eight-game winning streak that was finally snapped on Monday by the Athletics. Then they lost again Tuesday. Bottom line is the Angels are right there in the wild card mix.
9. San Francisco Giants
The lousy play of the Dodgers has helped San Francisco build a six-game lead in the NL West, but what is wrong with Ryan Vogelsong? He has been awful his last five starts, is reality setting on a guy who once was a journeyman starting pitcher?
10. Chicago White Sox
After being swept by Detroit last week, the White Sox and Tigers were in a flat-footed tie. But Detroit struggled after the sweep and Chicago built up a two-game lead again. After winning the opener of their four-game series, Chicago’s lead was back up to three. After a loss Tuesday, it’s back down to two. This series is monumental for Detroit, who get their final crack at the White Sox.
What’s your top 10 look like? Let Evan know in the comments below!