Manny Ramirez provided a spark for the White Sox, but has now cooled.
The New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays continue to hold the top two spots as they have since June, however, the Minnesota Twins and new leader of the NL East, Philadelphia Phillies, continue to climb up to chase for the top two spots.
Biggest Jump: The Phillies jumped five spots from 9th to 4th after finally taking the lead over the Braves in the NL East.
Biggest Drop: The Texas Rangers dropped three spots from 7th to 10th after dropping seven of their last ten games, but no worries, they still hold a strong seven-game lead over the Athletics in the AL West.
Legend: Rank, (last week’s rank), team, record
1. (1) New York Yankees, 87-53: Despite losing three in a row to start the week including two losses to Baltimore, the Yanks won eight in a row before that — all while Alex Rodriguez was still on the DL. Fortuntely, New York won Wednesday to avoid the embarrassment of being swept at home by the Orioles. With A-Rod back now and Andy Pettitte expected back next week, the Yanks have enough time to prepare for the playoffs at full strength.
2. (2) Tampa Bay Rays, 84-55: I’d worry about the Rays losing four of their last five games if they didn’t have a 6.5-game lead in the AL Wild Card over the Red Sox. At least B.J. Upton is on fire, batting .385 (5-for-13) with three home runs and six RBI in his last four games.
3. (6) Minnesota Twins, 83-57: The Twins have won eight of their last ten games, opening up a six-game lead in the AL Central over the White Sox. As for Justin Morneau, hopefully his optimism proves accurate and he can return for the playoffs, but he’s been out since early July with a concussion, so you never know how that will play out.
4. (9) Philadelphia Phillies, 81-60: The Phillies are turning in another of their patented late-season surges again, going 7-2 in nine games this month to move a game ahead of the Braves, who had led the NL East sine May 31. Philadelphia was able to maintain its lead on Wednesday thanks to Ryan Howard going 3-for-5 with a homer, a run and six RBI.
5. (3) Atlanta Braves, 80-61: The Braves have dropped six of their last eight games, costing them the lead in the NL East they had enjoyed for over three months. Fortunately, Pirate killer Derek Lowe earned the win Wednesday to prevent a sweep and improve his career record against Pittsburgh to 10-0.
6. (4) Cincinnati Reds, 79-61: The Reds were swept four straight by the Rockies, but still hold a five-game lead over the Cardinals in the NL Central. With 22 games left in the season and 19 of them against teams below .500, I’m optimistic that Cincy will win the division with possible NL Triple Crown winner Joey Votto leading team team to its first playoff appearance since 1995.
7. (5) San Diego Padres, 79-60: I do not even know what happened to this team; the Padres were one of the hottest squads in baseball and completely fell apart, losing ten in a row. Fortunately, Luckily they ended their losing streak Monday against the Dodgers and kept it going for the three-game sweep. However, San Diego dropped the first of its four-game home series against the Giants and are now just one game up on San Francisco for the NL West lead. If the Pads want to make the playoffs, they better figure something out quick given that with 16 of their last 23 games are against teams above .500. Friday night would be a good time to start; the Pads face San Francisco’s Jonathan Sanchez, who is 0-3 against San Diego this season (although he’s pitched well, with a 3.08 ERA).
8. (10) San Francisco Giants, 79-62: The Giants are going to need Tim Lincecum, now up to 13-9, to keep up the good work when he faces the Padres in San Diego on Sunday. However, with a much more favourable schedule than the Padres, I see the Giants winning the NL West.
9. (8) Boston Red Sox, 78-62: AL ERA leader Clay Buchholz (2.25) hasn’t allowed more than three runs in a game since July 21.
10. (7) Texas Rangers, 77-63: With Cliff Lee expected to return to the rotation Sunday, the Rangers can hopefully start playing like they did earlier this season. However, assuming Texas fails to secure home-field advantage in the playoffs (which looks doubtful), it might be in some trouble as this is a losing team on the road.
11. (11) Chicago White Sox, 77-63: Winning six in a row on the road in Cleveland and Boston was good, but losing their last three in Detroit puts the White Sox one game behind Boston in the AL Wild Card race. Manny Ramirez provided an immediate jolt for the Sox, but he’s now in an 0-for-8 skid over the last three games.
12. (13) Colorado Rockies, 76-83: The Rockies are currently on a seven-game win streak, including two sweeps in a row — in San Diego and at home against the Reds. They are only 3.5 games behind the Padres in the NL West, and will look to Carlos Gonzalez and Ubaldo Jimenez to lead them to a division title. Don’t count them out — especially with the Pads and Giants currently playing each other.
13. (12) St. Louis Cardinals, 73-65: After being swept by the Astros, the Cardinals redeemed themselves by winning their series against the Reds, but they continue to fall farther down the NL Wild Card race. St. Louis is now 5.5 games behind Atlanta with San Francisco and Colorado in between.
14. (14) Toronto Blue Jays, 72-68: The Jays leading the majors with 218 homers, putting them on pace to break their team record of 244 set in 2004. And super surprise Jose Bautista is on pace to hit over 50 homers and he needs another half dozen dingers in 22 games to reach the half century mark.
15. (16) Florida Marlins, 70-69: After batting .359 in August, Hanley Ramirez has continued to rake in September, going 8-for-24 with two homers and seven RBI. However, he was held out of the lineup on Wednesday after getting hit by a pitch earlier in the week.
16. (20) Detroit Tigers, 71-70: Taking three of four against the White Sox must feel nice for the Tigers, but with a very slim chance of making the playoffs, the only thing they have to look forward to is the continued development of youngsters like Will Rhymes.
17. (15) Los Angeles Dodgers, 69-72: Currently on a six-game losing streak, the Dodgers have started their ten-game road trip with four straight losses. It’s hard to believe LA was tied for the division lead in mid-June, as it has looked lost since then.
18. (17) Oakland Athletics, 69-70: Gio Gonzalez has won his last three starts and has only given up one HR since July 21. He is now 14-8 with an ERA of 3.16 and 153 strikeouts in 179 2/3 IP in a tremendous breakout effort for the 24-year-old.
19. (18) New York Mets, 69-71: Rookie Ike Davis is hitting extremely well over the past two weeks, but now things don’t get any easier for the Mets as they must face their new division leaders, the Phillies, this weekend.
20. (19) Los Angeles Angels, 67-73: The Angels are six games under .500 and very well headed towards their first losing season since 2003. And considering they have upcoming series against the Rays and White Sox, and seven more games against the Rangers, including a four-game series in Texas to end the season, a losing season is looking extremely likely. Hell, even ace Jered Weaver has dropped four straight starts — the worst losing streak of his career.
21. (22) Houston Astros, 67-73: The Astros have recovered from a terrible first half with a much better second half to move close to .500. They’ve won eight of their last ten including three straight thanks to Hunter Pence and Brett Myers.
22. (21) Milwaukee Brewers, 65-74: As the one of the worst pitching teams in the majors, it’s a good thing the Brewers are a good hitting team behind Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder or just imagine how bad their record would be.
23. (24) Chicago Cubs, 60-80: The Cubs are now 9-6 under interim coach Mike Quade. Kosuke Fukudome, Alfonso Soriano and Xavier Nady have helped Chicago salvage some pride in an ugly season.
24. (23) Washington Nationals, 60-80: Adam Dunn was 13-for-24 with three homers and 12 RBI during his eight-game hitting streak, highlighted by his 350th career jack on Sunday.
25. (27) Arizona Diamondbacks, 57-83: Exhibit A why the D-Backs suck: Rodrigo Lopez is 5-13 with an ERA of 5.21 and an MLB-leading 33 long balls allowed, yet has held a rotation spot all season long.
26. (25) Kansas City Royals, 57-82: Zack Greinke is 8-12 on the season and I fear the reigning AL Cy Young winner will not reach double digits in wins this season. Small wonder the Royals are assured of a seventh straight losing season.
27. (26) Cleveland Indians, 57-83: Shin-Soo Choo leads the team in home runs with 16, and Fausto Carmona leads the team in ERA with 4.05. ‘Nuff said.
28. (28) Seattle Mariners, 55-85: The Mariners are pretty much last in every offensive category and have scored an MLB-worst 452 runs. The Pirates, who only have 47 wins, have scored 30 more runs than Seattle. And don’t expect the Mariners to suddenly find their bats Friday when they face the Angels’ Weaver, who is 2-0 with a 0.84 ERA against them this season.
29. (29) Baltimore Orioles, 53-87: The Orioles have won their last two series (against the Yankees and Rays), so they’re happier than usual, but they have one of the toughest remaining schedules. Fortunately, on Friday Baltimore gets to face Detriot’s Armando Galarraga who is 0-2 with a 4.43 ERA in three career games against the O’s.
30. (30) Pittsburgh Pirates, 47-92: The Pirates were so close, almost sweeping the Braves on Wednesday, but I guess they are just not good enough, failing to beat Lowe for the first time ever.