Prior to the 2010 season, general consensus had the New York Yankees and the Philadelphia Phillies as the two best teams in the land. They've been good, but Tampa Bay still isn't letting go of that top spot, no matter how poorly Carlos Pena may be currently hitting.
While the Rays are keeping the Yankees from their rightful spot atop the American League, the St. Louis Cardinals, who had been the cream of the National League crop, took a few hard punches on the chin and dropped three of four games to Philadelphia. This slides the Phillies up above the Cardinals, but these rankings are still topped by the American League. It should be fun to see if these four powerhouse clubs can squat on the top four positions until playoff time.
A few questions remain, and they're heavy on the heads of many. Can Milwaukee pitch well enough over the long run to give their power hitters a chance to shine? What do the Dodgers have to do to improve? And, how long can the Nationals remain in our top ten?
- 1. Rays | Record: 22-9 | Previous Week: 1
The Rays have lost two straight games for just the second time this season, but since it took a perfect game to lose the second one it is hardly reason for panic. Of a bit more concern should be the fact that Carlos Pena and B.J. Upton combined to go 4-for-44 with two RBI in the last seven days. The Rays need to score some runs if they're going to keep holding off the Yankees. - Josh Alper
- 2. Yankees | Record: 21-9 | Previous Week: 2
Sunday night was a dismal way to end an otherwise rollicking trip to Boston. Outscoring the Red Sox 24-6 in the first two games is a grand way to make sure your biggest rivals remain in search of answers for their rough start and a great way to keep the ball rolling down the field despite injuries popping up at an uncomfortably rapid pace. So far, so good, though, as evidenced by the fact that they've lost nine games while playing 10 series so far this year. - Josh Alper
- 3. Phillies | Record: 19-12 | Previous Week: 5
The Phillies have played 10 games without a day off, but their hitting doesn't seem tired. They've scored an average of 5.1 runs per game and the pitching staff has thrown three shutouts. Last week Philadelphia beat the Cardinals in a four-game series and also smacked around division foe Atlanta.
- 4. Cardinals | Record: 20-12 | Previous Week: 3
Losing three of four from Philadelphia keeps us from calling them the NL's best team, even if they have the best record by a 1/2 game over the Phils. That didn't slow them down much, though, as they won a weekend series against the Pirates. Now they have the last-place Astros and second-place Reds on their schedule, which means they have a chance to add some wins and also pad their 3 1/2-game division lead in the coming week. - Pat Lackey
- 5. Twins | Record: 21-11 | Previous Week: 4
Only three teams in the American League have scored more runs than the Twins, and only two AL teams have allowed less runs than the Twins. The Yankees and Rays have done both. I wonder if it's a coincidence that these three teams are a combined 64-29? Tom Fornelli
- 6. Tigers | Record: 17-14 | Previous Week: 6
Austin Jackson has been everything the Tigers could hope for, and more, as he's hitting .371 to lead the team, and his .927 OPS trails only Miguel Cabrera in the locker room. If only somebody not named Justin Verlander or Dontrelle Willis could give this team a quality start, they might be leading the division. - Tom Fornelli
- 7. Giants | Record: 18-12 | Previous Week: 8
Their 4-2 trip was certainly encouraging, especially after losing five of six on their previous trip. Last year the Giants were 36-45 on the road, which was one of the big reasons they came up short of the playoffs.- Jeff Fletcher
- 8. Padres | Record: 19-12 | Previous Week: 7
A sign that their fast start isn't a fluke is their 56-37 record dating to last July. Sluggers Adrian Gonzalez and Kyle Blanks have yet to get hot, so there might be latent helium in the offense, although Gonzalez's benching on Sunday because of shoulder soreness gives pause. Don't be shocked if pitcher Chris Young, twice shut down in his comeback from shoulder surgery, is done for the year. - Tom Krasovic
- 9. Mets | Record: 17-14 | Previous Week: 9
David Wright is having problems making contact. He's struck out 13 times in his last six games and been tossed for taking out his frustrations on an umpire. The Mets did take two of three against the Giants but dropped two games to the Reds as well. It's rollercoaster play like this that has the Mets faithful worried about a meltdown.
- 10. Nationals | Record: 17-14 | Previous Week: 11
The Nationals clubhouse is fired up with enthusiasm and it's not just because they won both series this past week against the Braves and Marlins. The Nationals are winning many more close games in 2010 than they would have in years past and it's a solid back-end of the bullpen, made up of Tyler Clippard and Matt Capps, that's getting a lot of the credit.
- 11. Rangers | Record: 18-14 | Previous Week: 13
The good news keeps getting better for the Rangers. After enjoying a four-game homestand against the Royals, Texas finalized plans to activate Nelson Cruz from the disabled list -- it should happen Friday -- and will see Derek Holland make his 2010 pitching debut, on Wednesday.
- 12. Cubs | Record: 14-18 | Previous Week: 12
The Cubs got swept by the Pirates, lost a series to the Reds and hurried their most promising prospect straight past Triple-A to the majors in panicked response. That's a bad week. At least Starlin Castro had a rousing debut, homering in his first at-bat and driving six runs in in his first game. - Pat Lackey
- 13. A's | Record: 17-15 | Previous Week: 14
Dallas Braden's next start will be on Friday at Anaheim. Braden is 2-1 with a 3.38 ERA in his six career games in Anaheim. Meanwhile, the A's have a series this week at Texas, where they will play the only other team in the division that's playing .500 baseball. - Jeff Fletcher
- 14. Marlins | Record: 14-17 | Previous Week: 10
The Marlins haven't been lighting up scoreboards lately and their defense stinks like three-day old ... well, fish. Florida dropped five of seven games last week and the offense isn't clicking. Add that to a league-leading 30 errors and the Marlins need to shape a few things up, quickly.
- 15. Blue Jays | Record: 19-14 | Previous Week: 15
Don't change the channel just because the Jays are losing a game entering the ninth inning. They've won four games when trailing after eight already this season and 11 of their 19 wins have been of the comeback variety overall. It helps when you get a struggling Bobby Jenks and Chris Perez in back-to-back series, but give the Jays some credit for having a flair for the dramatic. Keep it up in Boston this week and there may be a few more people jumping on the bandwagon. - Josh Alper
- 16. Rockies | Record: 15-16 | Previous Week: 19
More important than either beating the Padres this week or dropping a series to the Dodgers is the health of shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who is hopeful that his quad strain won't sideline him at all. He'll likely get an MRI to check things out, and that's a solid idea with his history with the injury.
- 17. Angels | Record: 14-19 | Previous Week: 16
Looking like Ali after too many shots to the jaw from Frazier, the Scioscias are champs more in name than in talent. Their run differential is minus-46, their offense has sinkholes at third base and catcher and their running game isn't what it was. For the Angels to win a fourth straight AL West title, they might need the youthful Rangers and A's to choke. - Tom Krasovic
- 18. Reds | Record: 16-15 | Previous Week: 17
Having the Reds in second place is probably more of a statement about the NL Central in the early-going this season than it is about the Reds. Mike Leake is still their only starter with anything resembling decent numbers and behind Joey Votto, most of the offense is lackluster at best and awful at worst. Still, they're 16-15, and with series coming up against the Pirates and Cardinals, a good week could put them neck and neck with the Cards at the top of the division. - Pat Lackey
- 19. Dodgers | Record: 14-17 | Previous Week: 20
They won two of three from the Rockies after losing two of three to the Brewers, so they are still just treading water. The good news is that Clayton Kershaw is finally giving them some reason to be excited. Kershaw has done well four of the past five times he's taken the ball, including eight innings of two-hit, shutout baseball against the Rockies on Sunday. - Jeff Fletcher
- 20. Diamondbacks | Record: 14-18 | Previous Week: 18
Luckily for Arizona, Houston was in town for the beginning portion of the week as the Diamondbacks took three of four. I say lucky because the Brewers swept the Diamondbacks over the weekend and the Arizona bullpen may be in store for some changes this week.
- 21. Braves | Record: 13-18 | Previous Week: 22
It looks as if the Braves may have dodged a bullet as their leading run producer, Jason Heyward, is going to try to skip the disabled list and play on Tuesday after missing time last week with an injured groin. Even with this good news, Atlanta has dropped two of three against Washington and Philadelphia each over the past six days and they need more hitting than their rookie phenom can provide.
- 22. Brewers | Record: 15-16 | Previous Week: 25
Five wins in six games against the Dodgers and Diamondbacks has the Crew at least nominally back on track. They're first in the NL in runs scored (179) but the pitching besides Yovani Gallardo and some excellent bullpen work by Todd Coffey and Carlos Villanueva is still lackluster. Which is pretty much the story of the Brewers every week of every year. - Pat Lackey
- 23. Mariners | Record: 12-19 | Previous Week: 21
It took the Mariners eight games in May to earn their first win, which came on Sunday. They have dropped eight of their last nine games and have scored three or fewer runs in all but one game this month.
- 24. White Sox | Record: 13-19 | Previous Week: 23
There isn't much to celebrate on the South Side of Chicago right now. Still, if there's any reason to be optimistic about a team that's already eight games out of first place, it's that since giving up five runs against the Texas Rangers in the first inning of an April 28 start, Jake Peavy has only allowed three runs in his last 20 innings. - Tom Fornelli
- 25. Red Sox | Record: 16-16 | Previous Week: 24
A rollercoaster week for the Sox ended on a good note with Jon Lester's strong performance in Sunday's blowout of the Yankees. It started on a good note as well with four straight wins against the Angels. They were sandwiched around a pair of humiliating performances against New York, however, and it's hard to imagine those aren't the games weighing the heaviest on Boston minds this Monday. - Josh Alper
- 26. Royals | Record: 11-21 | Previous Week: 27
Trey Hillman may be shocked that his team is 10 games under .500 right now, but I don't think anybody else is. That's the type of thing that happens when you have the American League's worst bullpen. Maybe Hillman should start fining relievers for every run they give up? - Tom Fornelli
- 27. Indians | Record: 11-18 | Previous Week: 26
No wonder nobody comes out to Progressive Field to see the home team play. On their just completed homestand the Indians went 2-7, and didn't allow fewer than four runs in any of the games. For an offense that's averaging just 3.7 runs per game, that's hard to overcome. - Tom Fornelli
- 28. Orioles | Record: 9-23 | Previous Week: 28
Here's this week's example of how bad things are in Baltimore: Corey Patterson is a potential savior. The outfielder is tearing up the pitching at Triple-A Norfolk and should probably get a call this week to see if his hot bat will carry over into the big leagues. There's no reason to believe a man with a career OPS+ of 79 will actually do that, but it's not like anyone's going to miss Lou Montanez. - Josh Alper
- 29. Pirates | Record: 14-17 | Previous Week: 29
Since their epic seven-game losing streak that saw them outscored 72-12, the Bucs are 7-5 and have held their opponents to five runs or fewer in nine of those 12 games. With Ross Ohlendorf slated to return from the DL tonight in Cincinnati, their pitching staff may continue to be something other than an epic joke. Baby steps, guys. Baby steps. - Pat Lackey
- 30. Astros | Record: 10-21 | Previous Week: 30
Even with Sunday's win, they've now lost 11 of 13 and Lance Berkman has said he'd accept a trade and if he were GM, he'd consider blowing the club up. Currently, their best offensive player is Michael Bourn, who's hitting .284/.366/.367. This team isn't just bad; they're hard to watch. - Pat Lackey