Pennant Races In Full Tilt Boogie | News

The Week Ahead: Pennant drives kick into high gear

By Doug Miller / | 08/06/12 10:00 AM ET

via The Week Ahead: MLB pennant drives kick into high gear | News.

We’re moving into the second week of August. The dog days are upon us. September isn’t that far away. That means October isn’t, either.

Andrew McCutchen

Andrew McCutchen

In baseball terms, this means things are getting serious, and this week, we’ll start seeing how serious. This is the first full week of play after the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline and the second week of the open period in which we might see a few juicy waiver deals.

This means new faces in old places, and a whole lot of eyes on just how effective these marriages will be.

The Angels might be wondering more than anyone, having brought in the pitching prize of the trade season, starter Zack Greinke. Mike Scioscia‘s club gets a stern test of its mettle early this week in tough road games against the division-rival A’s, and Greinke’s contributions every five days won’t matter much if Scioscia’s bullpen can’t get it together better than it has in recent days.

“We’ve had a rough three weeks as far as our starters, and what our starters do obviously has an impact on your bullpen roles,” Scioscia said after watching his relievers struggle again Sunday in a 4-2 loss to the White Sox in Chicago.

“These guys are good. It’s not going to take long to reset, but we need to get our starters getting deeper into games and we have arms down there [in the bullpen] that will get the outs. It didn’t happen this afternoon, but it will.”

Meanwhile, the Dodgers, who are right there with the Giants and the surging D-backs in a wide-open National League West, did more than anyone at the Deadline, landing Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino and Brandon League. Then they got starter Joe Blanton in a waiver deal with Philadelphia.

So of course Blanton did his job Sunday, turning in six innings of two-run, five-strikeout ball in a no-decision, and Ramirez did his, winning the game against the Cubs with a walk-off hit.

Now they head into the new week with a revamped roster, three home games against struggling Colorado, and only a half-game division deficit. Things are looking up.

“I think this time of year we’re not so much worried about one game to the next,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “We’re worried about getting a win and you try to get a win that day.”

Mattingly’s sentiments are shared among a number of clubs, including the team right there with the Dodgers, Bruce Bochy’s San Francisco Giants, plus the red-hot Reds, the first-place Rangers, the first-place Nationals, the AL East-leading Yankees and other contenders in an increasingly intriguing drive toward pennants.

For Cincinnati, which lost for the first time in six games on Sunday but remains in charge in the NL Central, the week will bring a road test: three games at Milwaukee and four at Wrigley Field against the Cubs. But the Reds are hungry.

“You get greedy, and you start winning every ballgame, and two out of three all of a sudden doesn’t appear to be good enough,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said Sunday. “We’ll take a 5-2 homestand. We want more; you always want more.”


The Chicago White Sox want more, now that they’re back in control of the AL Central. Their early big trade acquisition, Kevin Youkilis, homered again Sunday and is looking more and more like the Kevin Youkilis of 2007 and 2008. Their new reliever, Brett Myers, is fitting in.

This week, Robin Ventura‘s gang, which just took a series from the Angels, stays home for three against the Royals and three against the A’s. Lefty Chris Sale will be back on the mound after 10 days of rest. They hope to keep things rolling on the South Side.

“We’ve had a lot of games in the past couple months where we’ve swung the bats well, scored a lot of runs,” club leader Paul Konerko said. “But you like to see yourself win those close ones, especially against real good ballclubs.”

Contenders such as the Braves, Cardinals, Pirates and D-backs will be thinking the same things as they enter this pivotal week. So will the Orioles and Rays, a game apart for second place behind the Yankees.

What will the new week bring? More drama. More clues to what we might see in the Division Series, Championship Series and Fall Classic.

Just take it from Pirates MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen, who homered Sunday in his team’s road win against the Reds, an exciting type of situation that only figures to intensify in coming weeks.

“Definitely,” McCutchen said when asked if it felt like October.

“I’ve never been in a playoff, but I’m sure it kinda feels like that.”

American League
NY Yankees 63 44 .589 5-5 W1 8/5 vs SEA, W 6-2 8/6 @ DET, 7:05 PM
Texas 63 44 .589 5-5 L1 8/5 @ KC, L 6-7 8/6 @ BOS, 7:10 PM
Chi White Sox 59 48 .551 7-3 W1 8/5 vs LAA, W 4-2 8/6 vs KC, 8:10 PM
The top two Wild Card teams from each league make the postseason and play each other in a one-game playoff.
Detroit 58 50 .537 5-5 W4 8/5 vs CLE, W 10-8 8/6 vs NYY, 7:05 PM
Oakland 58 50 .537 5-5 L2 8/5 vs TOR, L 5-6 8/6 vs LAA, 10:05 PM
LA Angels 58 51 .532 0.5 54 4-6 L1 8/5 @ CWS, L 2-4 8/6 @ OAK, 10:05 PM
Baltimore 57 51 .528 1.0 54 6-4 W2 8/5 @ TB, W 1-0 8/6 vs SEA, 7:05 PM
Tampa Bay 56 52 .519 2.0 53 5-5 L2 8/5 vs BAL, L 0-1 8/7 vs TOR, 7:10 PM
Boston 54 55 .495 4.5 50 5-5 W1 8/5 vs MIN, W 6-4 8/6 vs TEX, 7:10 PM
Toronto 53 55 .491 5.0 50 4-6 W2 8/5 @ OAK, W 6-5 8/7 @ TB, 7:10 PM
Seattle 51 59 .464 8.0 46 8-2 L1 8/5 @ NYY, L 2-6 8/6 @ BAL, 7:05 PM
Cleveland 50 58 .463 8.0 47 1-9 L9 8/5 @ DET, L 8-10 8/6 vs MIN, 7:05 PM
Minnesota 47 61 .435 11.0 44 7-3 L1 8/5 @ BOS, L 4-6 8/6 @ CLE, 7:05 PM
Kansas City 45 62 .421 12.5 43 4-6 W1 8/5 vs TEX, W 7-6 8/6 @ CWS, 8:10 PM
National League
Cincinnati 66 42 .611 8-2 L1 8/5 vs PIT, L 2-6 8/6 @ MIL, 8:10 PM
Washington 65 43 .602 6-4 W2 8/5 vs MIA, W 4-1 8/6 @ HOU, 8:05 PM
San Francisco 59 49 .546 4-6 W3 8/5 @ COL, W 8-3 8/6 @ STL, 8:15 PM
The top two Wild Card teams from each league make the postseason and play each other in a one-game playoff.
Atlanta 62 46 .574 8-2 W1 8/5 vs HOU, W 6-1 8/6 @ PHI, 7:05 PM
Pittsburgh 61 46 .570 6-4 W1 8/5 @ CIN, W 6-2 8/6 vs ARI, 7:05 PM
St. Louis 59 49 .546 2.5 53 7-3 W3 8/5 vs MIL, W 3-0 8/6 vs SF, 8:15 PM
LA Dodgers 59 50 .541 3.0 52 6-4 W3 8/5 vs CHC, W 7-6 8/6 vs COL, 10:10 PM
Arizona 55 53 .509 6.5 49 6-4 L2 8/5 @ PHI, L 4-5 8/6 @ PIT, 7:05 PM
NY Mets 53 56 .486 9.0 46 5-5 L1 8/5 @ SD, L 3-7 8/7 vs MIA, 7:10 PM
Philadelphia 49 59 .454 12.5 43 5-5 W2 8/5 vs ARI, W 5-4 8/6 vs ATL, 7:05 PM
Miami 49 60 .450 13.0 42 4-6 L2 8/5 @ WSH, L 1-4 8/7 @ NYM, 7:10 PM
Milwaukee 48 59 .449 13.0 43 4-6 L3 8/5 @ STL, L 0-3 8/6 vs CIN, 8:10 PM
San Diego 46 64 .418 16.5 38 4-6 W1 8/5 vs NYM, W 7-3 8/6 vs CHC, 10:05 PM
Chi Cubs 43 63 .406 17.5 39 3-7 L5 8/5 @ LAD, L 6-7 8/6 @ SD, 10:05 PM
Colorado 38 68 .358 22.5 34 2-8 L3 8/5 vs SF, L 3-8 8/6 @ LAD, 10:10 PM
Houston 36 73 .330 26.0 29 2-8 L1 8/5 @ ATL, L 1-6 8/6 vs WSH, 8:05 PM

x – clinched playoff berth


Updated 1-Month MLB Power Rankings: Where Does Your Favorite Team Stand?

Where does your favorite MLB team stand after the season’s first month?

By Joel Reuter (Featured Columnist) on BLEACHER REPORT

ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 23:  Josh Hamilton #32 of the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on April 23, 2012 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

1: Texas Rangers (16-6, Previous: 1)

Despite their worst week of the season so far, the Rangers maintain the top spot after taking two of three from the Yankees, then dropping two of three to the Rays.

Josh Hamilton (.395 BA, 9 HR, 25 RBI) continues to be the AL version of Matt Kemp, while the rest of the offense is doing its part as well with five other players tallying double-digit RBI. The Rays proved the Rangers are human, but there is still little question that the Rangers are the best team in baseball right now.

2: Tampa Bay Rays (14-8, Previous: 8)

It was a fantastic week for the Rays as they swept the Angels at home before going to Texas and taking two of three from a Rangers team that was undeniably the best team in baseball going into the week.

While the Rangers still get the nod over the Rays here, there is a lot to like about the Rays. From a deep offense that is light years better than last season to their immensely talented pitching staff, they could certainly challenge the Rangers for the top spot in the near future.

3: St. Louis Cardinals (14-8, Previous: 2)

After dropping two of three to the rival Cubs in Chicago, the Cardinals took two of three from the Brewers at home to maintain a three-game lead in the NL Central.

The starting pitching outside of Adam Wainwright (7.32 ERA) has been phenomenal, and David Freese (.333 BA, 5 HR, 20 RBI) continues to carry an offense that has gotten consistent contribution up and down the lineup.

4: Los Angeles Dodgers (16-6, Previous: 6)

Matt Kemp

Matt Kemp

The Dodgers dropped two of three to the Braves to open the week, but bounced back to sweep a good Nationals team for a 4-2 week that kept them atop the NL West and gave them the NL’s best record.

The offense has consisted almost exclusively of Matt Kemp (.425 BA, 11 HR, 24 RBI) and Andre Ethier (.277 BA, 5 HR, 24 RBI). While they have been great, the rest of the team needs to start hitting around them. Of note, Ted Lilly is very quietly 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA through three starts.

5: Atlanta Braves (14-8, Previous: 7)

A 4-2 week pulled the Braves even with the Nationals atop the NL East, as they took two of three from a good Dodgers team and finished up a series victory over the Pirates with a win on Sunday.

The team pulled a shocker of sorts when they sent 2011 All-Star Jair Jurrjens (9.37 ERA) down to Triple-A, but the move corresponded with Tim Hudson coming off the disabled list, so the team should be fine in the short term. They are off to a good start, but there is a ton of room for improvement across the board in Atlanta.

6: Washington Nationals (14-8, Previous: 4)

The difference between the No. 3 spot and the No. 7 spot on this list is minimal, but a four-game losing streak left them at 2-4 on the week, and they fall a bit because of it.

That said, I am still very much a believer in the Nationals, as their pitching (2.33 team ERA) is going to keep them in most games. The call-up of Bryce Harper should allow the Nationals to get some much-deserved national attention, and also gives them a boost not many teams can find in their farm system.

7: Baltimore Orioles (14-8, Previous: 16)

After skeptically inching them up the rankings the past few weeks, I will officially admit I am now drinking the Orioles’ Kool-aid, as a 5-1 week that included a sweep of the Blue Jays has put them in first place in the AL East.

With an offense that ranks 10th in runs scored and a pitching staff that ranks seventh in ERA, they are doing everything well right now. Five players have double-digit RBI, and J.J. Hardy (.181 BA) and Nick Markakis (.244 BA) are not among them. Once those two get going, the Orioles could be even better.

8: New York Yankees (12-9, Previous: 5)

The Yankees had a tough week on the schedule as they opened the week dropping two of three to the Rangers before taking two of three from the Tigers for a respectable 3-3 showing.

However, they drop on this list due to the news that Michael Pineda is done for the year with a shoulder injury. With Phil Hughes (7.88 ERA) and Ivan Nova (5.18 ERA) struggling and Freddy Garcia (12.51 ERA) moved to the bullpen in favor of untested David Phelps, the rotation is once again a huge question mark.

9: Detroit Tigers (11-11, Previous: 3)

It was a tough week for the Tigers, as they were swept by the Mariners and then dropped two of three to the Yankees as they nearly doubled their loss total with a 1-5 week.

On top of that, they released long-time Tiger Brandon Inge and lost Delmon Young indefinitely after he was arrested and charged with hate-crime harassment. They will look to get things back on track against the Royals and White Sox this coming week, and they still have to be considered among the AL favorites despite this hiccup.

10: Toronto Blue Jays (12-10, Previous: 9)

The Blue Jays completed a four-game sweep of the Royals on Monday before turning around and being swept themselves by the Orioles. They then took two of three from the Mariners for a 3-4 week.

Edwin Encarnacion (.310 BA, 7 HR, 20 RBI) is 5-for-9 with three home runs and seven RBI in his last three games, and he’s been moved to the cleanup spot in hopes of better protecting Jose Bautista. The real story, though, has been their starting pitching, as four of their five starters have ERAs under 4.00.

11: New York Mets (13-9, Previous: 14)

It was a busy week for the Mets, as they played eight games in seven days and at the end of it all walked away with a 5-3 record, including a sweep of the Marlins mid-week.

They’ll be getting center fielder Andres Torres back from injury on Monday, shifting rookie Kirk Nieuwenhuis to left field as the lineup should be improved moving forward. As long as their pitching staff—especially the starters—keeps performing like they have, the Mets are on track to do much better than expected.

12: San Francisco Giants (12-10, Previous: 12)

The Giants dropped two of three to the Reds to open the week, but salvaged things by taking two of three from the lowly Padres for a 3-3 finish.

Buster Posey (.353 BA, 4 HR, 9 RBI) has bounced back great from his injury last season, but the offense is still struggling to score runs. The biggest stat of the week for the Giants, though, was Tim Lincecum’s eight-inning, zero-run outing as he is back on track after a horrible start.

13: Arizona Diamondbacks (11-11, Previous: 10)

After losing two of three to the Phillies to open the week, the Diamondbacks managed to finish 3-3 in taking two of three from the struggling Marlins.

The team finally had enough of Josh Collmenter’s struggles (9.82 ERA), moving him to the bullpen and calling up their No. 8 prospect Patrick Corbin (1.67 ERA, 27 IP at Double-A) to make his big league debut. As long as they can consistently score runs, they should be able to find a rotation that works with perhaps the youngest starting pitching depth in baseball.

14: Boston Red Sox (10-11, Previous: 23)

After plummeting from 12th to 23rd in the rankings last week, the Red Sox seem to have righted the ship as they went 6-1 this week, sweeping the Twins before taking three of four from the White Sox.

Led by David Ortiz (.395 BA, 4 HR, 18 RBI), their offense has been solid despite a slow start from Kevin Youkilis and the absence of Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury. Their pitching continues to be a question mark, but as long as they continue to post double-digit run totals like they did three times last week they’ll win games.

15: Cincinnati Reds (11-11, Previous: 20)

The Reds moved to second in the NL Central with a 4-2 week, as they captured two of three from both the Giants and Astros.

Jay Bruce (.296 BA, 7 HR, 17 RBI) is on fire right now, as the highly touted offense is finally performing up to expectations. Now if only the notoriously slow-starting Mat Latos (5.97 ERA) can start paying dividends, they’d be in pretty good shape.

16: Philadelphia Phillies (10-12, Previous: 11)

My feeling early on was that the Phillies’ pitching would be enough to outweigh their aging and injury-riddled lineup, but another subpar 3-3 week in which they dropped two of three to the Cubs again showed the holes in their roster.

The unexpected trio of Carlos Ruiz, Juan Pierre and Ty Wigginton are the only everyday players with averages over .253, and Hunter Pence is the only player with double-digit RBI at 11. Kyle Kendrick has struggled filling in for the injured Cliff Lee, and all-in-all things just don’t look great in Philly right now.

17: Cleveland Indians (11-9, Previous: 18)

A rough week from the Tigers and a 3-3 showing by the Indians has put Cleveland in first place in the AL Central, as they dropped two of three to the lowly Royals before salvaging the week in taking two of three from the struggling Angels.

The starting pitching has been hit-or-miss, and the offense has no true standout player at this point, but they continue to win games. In what looks to be a wide-open AL Central, they should be able to stay in contention if nothing else.

18: Milwaukee Brewers (10-12, Previous: 15)

The Brewers stayed in the division last week, taking two of three from the Astros before dropping two of three to the Cardinals in St. Louis.

There is little doubt that the team misses Prince Fielder’s bat, and the struggles of Rickie Weeks (.193 BA) and Aramis Ramirez (.228 BA) have only magnified the loss. Their pitching staff may be a bigger concern, though, as Randy Wolf (7.17 ERA) and Yovani Gallardo (6.08 ERA) have struggled mightily.

19: Chicago White Sox (11-11, Previous: 17)

Last week, I was torn apart in the comments section for only moving the White Sox up one spot after a 4-1 week, my reasoning being I wasn’t sold on them just yet. Now, after a 2-5 week I can’t help saying I told you so.

That said, the White Sox have been better than expected, led by Paul Konerko (.383 BA, 5 HR, 15 RBI) and Jake Peavy (3-1, 1.67 ERA), and their solid start could be enough to delay what was expected to be a full-blown rebuilding season.

20: Seattle Mariners (11-12, Previous: 25)

The Mariners swept the Tigers in Detroit to open the week before dropping two of three to the Blue Jays at home, but they have to be happy with a 4-2 week against two of the league’s top teams.

They tallied 30 runs in their four wins and just two in their two losses, and that is how their season will go as they have the pitching to compete but will only be as good as their offense allows them.

21: Los Angeles Angels (7-15, Previous: 13)

After giving them the benefit of the doubt through the first three weeks of the season, a 1-5 week and a the third-worst record in the American League simply can’t be overlooked. The Angels were swept by the Rays and dropped two of three to the Indians, ekeing out a 2-1 win on Saturday.

The call-up of uber-prospect Mike Trout, who was hitting .403 in Triple-A, could be the spark the team needs to get things going. A hot streak by Albert Pujols (.216 BA, 0 HR, 4 RBI) certainly wouldn’t hurt either.

22: Colorado Rockies (10-11, Previous: 19)

A 2-4 week saw the Rockies drop two of three to the Pirates and Mets, although they did explode for 18 runs on Friday in a victory over the Mets.

They acquired a good deal of starting pitching depth in the offseason, and they are already dipping into it as former A’s starter Guillermo Moscoso was called up with Jeremy Guthrie on the disabled list. The rotation has undoubtedly been their weakness to this point, with just one starter (Jamie Moyer, 3.14) with an ERA under 4.00.

23: Oakland Athletics (11-12, Previous: 21)

The A’s took two of three from the White Sox before dropping two of three to the Orioles, as they have struggled to find any consistency so far this season.

Despite having the worst team batting average in all of baseball at .205, the A’s have managed to stay competitive thanks to their pitching staff. Jarrod Parker (6.1 IP, 1 ER, 5 Ks) could make them even better after looking strong in his first start. Now they just need to find someone who can hit the ball.

24: Pittsburgh Pirates (9-12, Previous: 24)

The Pirates took two of three from the Rockies to open the week, then dropped two of three to the Braves in Atlanta as they held on to fourth place in the NL Central.

They continue to score runs at an alarmingly low pace, with just 49 through 21 games, but their pitching has been fantastic—their 2.77 team ERA thanks ranks third in all of baseball.

25: Chicago Cubs (8-14, Previous: 29)

The Cubs are in the midst of their best stretch of the season thus far, as they took two of three from the rival Cardinals to open the week and completed a 4-2 week with a victory over the Phillies on Sunday.

Tony Campana (.435 BA, 6 SB, 6 R) has provided a spark, taking over in center field for the departed Marlon Byrd, and the starting rotation has impressed, with Matt Garza throwing seven innings of one-hit ball to cap the week.

26: Miami Marlins (8-13, Previous: 22)

A sweep at the hands of the Mets opened the Marlins’ week, and they dropped two of three to the Diamondbacks to close things out, as a 1-5 week dropped them to last place in the NL East.

So far, the team has been perhaps the biggest disappointment in all of baseball. It starts with their superstars as Jose Reyes and Hanley Ramirez are both hitting .205, while Josh Johnson sports a 5.34 ERA.

27: Houston Astros (8-14, Previous: 26)

The Astros managed a 2-4 week on the road, taking one game each from the Reds and Brewers as they dropped to last place in the NL Central.

The offense has been solid, led by Jose Altuve (.373 BA) and J.D. Martinez (19 RBI), but the team desperately needs someone in the rotation to step up alongside Wandy Rodriguez (2-2, 1.72 ERA).

28: San Diego Padres (7-16, Previous: 28)

The Padres had a tough draw this week, facing the Nationals and Giants as they managed to win one game in each series for a 2-4 week.

Their pitching is starting to come around, and their bullpen has been terrific, but that doesn’t mean much when they’re not scoring runs. Chris Denorfia (team-high .282 average) has moved into a starting spot in left field, but it’s going to take a lot more than that for the Padres to turn things around.

29: Kansas City Royals (6-15, Previous: 30)

Two losses to open the week pushed the Royals’ losing streak to 12 games, but they rallied to take the final two games of their series with the Indians before splitting two games with the Twins for a modest 3-3 week.

However, they are still 0-10 at home on the season.

Alex Gordon (.232 BA, 4 HR, 10 RBI) has begun to turn things around after moving out of the leadoff spot in the order, and if Eric Hosmer (.188 BA, 5 HR, 13 RBI) could follow suit it would go a long way toward helping the Royals at least find some consistency.

30: Minnesota Twins (6-15, Previous: 27)

With a win over the Royals on Sunday, the Twins managed to snap a six-game losing streak, as they were swept by the Red Sox to start the week before dropping one of two to the Royals for a 1-4 week.

Josh Willingham (.353 BA, 5 HR, 15 RBI) remains the team’s offensive leader, while Joe Mauer (.325 BA, 1 HR, 13 RBI) continues to show he is finally healthy. However, they may have the worst pitching staff in baseball, and that will continue to keep them near the bottom of the rankings.

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