Heading into the baseball season, and into the MLB Power Rankings for 2010, it was common knowledge that the Atlanta Braves were going to be able to pitch. With a rotation that featured Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens, Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe and Kenshin Kawakami, there weren't too many staffs as stacked as Atlanta's.
Even with a prolonged absence from Jurrjens because of injury, the Braves' staff is still the fifth best in the National League with a 3.71 ERA. But it's been their hitting that's driving them.
Atlanta's .264 team batting average is good for third in the league, and its 344 runs scored and .353 on-base percentage is first. The Braves are the hottest team in baseball because they can get on base and have found ways to win games with clutch hitting and timely heroics.
The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox have the most wins in baseball with 43 -- compared to Tampa Bay's and Atlanta's 42 -- but it's the Red Sox, not the Yankees, who are ranked higher because they've won 22 of their last 30 games and eight of their last 10.
The Sox and Braves are, by far, the best in their prospective leagues at this moment.
- 1. Braves | Record: 42-28 | Previous Week: 2
The Braves are holding a clinic on how to win in walk-off fashion. For the 14th time this year, the Braves won a game in their final at-bat. This time it was Troy Glaus (Saturday) while Eric Hinske providing the fireworks for the home team, breaking a eighth-inning tie with a double, on Sunday. Another reason for optimism is the 24-7 home record for Atlanta -- the best in baseball. From here on out, Atlanta plays 55 percent of their final 92 games at home.
- 2. Red Sox | Record: 43-28 | Previous Week: 6
Dustin Pedroia's got his mojo back. The miniature second baseman hit .522 last week, raising his average 20 points and leading a Red Sox team that's trending in all the right directions. They were undefeated for the week, rank at the top of the American League in runs scored and the starting pitching has solidified. If they can keep it up during a road swing through Colorado and San Francisco, we could be looking at a new team on top of the AL East this time next week. - Josh Alper
- 3. Yankees | Record: 43-26 | Previous Week: 5
The first day of summer finds the Yankees alone in first place in the AL East, not a bad spot to be given the fact that things haven't exactly gone right for the Bombers just yet. Alex Rodriguez's nagging hip/groin injury is the concern du jour, mitigated in some part by Mark Teixeira's 1.010 OPS in the 13 games since he struck out five times against the Blue Jays and two straight strong starts by CC Sabathia. - Josh Alper
- 4. Rangers | Record: 41-28 | Previous Week: 7
You used to be able to slide a breaking ball past Josh Hamilton. That doesn't seem to be the case any longer. The Texas left fielder is already halfway to his 2008 total of 32 home runs and is batting .337 on the season -- .474 in June. Texas didn't lose last week and has won nine of its last 10 games. Just to add insult to opponents' injury, Nelson Cruz should be back soon.
- 5. Mets | Record: 39-30 | Previous Week: 4
There are few teams -- two to be exact, the Red Sox and Braves -- with more wins over their last 30 games than the Mets. And it's not all big bombs and fabulous pitching efforts that are powering the Mets. When faced with a lefty infield shift last week, power hitting Ike Davis elected to bunt to third base instead of swinging away. Brains and brawn are why the Mets are surging.
- 6. Rays | Record: 42-27 | Previous Week: 9
You need not look any farther than the 5.72 ERA turned in by the Rays starters over the last 25 games for a reason why they are now tied for second place. The offense hasn't held up its end of the bargain all season, which means that the Rays don't have any answers at present. The good news is that the dip was inevitable and the Rays hurlers should start moving back in the right direction before too long. The bats don't hold such promise, however. - Josh Alper
- 7. Angels | Record: 39-33 | Previous Week: 1
Here were four of the team's starters for last Wednesday's game: 3B Kevin Frandsen, SS Brandon Wood, 1B Mike Napoli, C Bobby Wilson. The Angels should've brought obscure players from their distant past, say, Tom Satriano and Rudy Meoli, to serve as honorary coaches. Funny thing was, the Angels still won via home runs from Napoli, a catcher playing first because of Kendry Morales' season-ending injury; and Wilson, a third-string catcher. The Scioscias are coping with adversity, but at some point, they're due better luck. - Tom Krasovic
- 8. Twins | Record: 40-29 | Previous Week: 12
Joe Mauer's two-run homer to help cap a five-run ninth inning and force extras against the Phillies on Saturday may have saved the Twins. The team had lost five of seven before that, and now they've won two in a row, including a victory against Roy Halladay on Sunday. They still have to go to Milwaukee and then to New York to face a hot Mets team before returning home to face Detroit next Monday. - Tom Fornelli
- 9. Padres | Record: 40-29 | Previous Week: 11
Bud Selig opened the door for the Padres, and they were smart enough to walk through it. Gifted with nine interleague games against the Mariners and Orioles, the Padres went 6-3. The Padres supposedly are playing the AL East this year as part of Selig's stale contrivance known as interleague play, but the Yankees and Red Sox aren't on the menu. Meantime, the rival Dodgers had to play at Fenway Park and were swept this past weekend. - Tom Krasovic
- 10. Giants | Record: 38-30 | Previous Week: 10
Buster Posey may not be the savior after all. He's 3-for-31 over his past eight games. He's still hitting .303 because of the hot start, but keep an eye on him. If Posey continues to slump, the Giants will probably send him back to Triple-A so he can work on his catching. - Jeff Fletcher
- 11. Cardinals | Record: 38-31 | Previous Week: 16
Are you watching Colby Rasmus? He's gone nuts in June with six of his 13 homers coming in the month and a 1.023 OPS that's brought his season line up to .276/.378/.552. With his hot streak, the Cardinals now have a 1 1/2 game lead on the Reds, their biggest since early May. - Pat Lackey
- 12. Tigers | Record: 38-30 | Previous Week: 15
The Tigers have found interleague play to be quite helpful, as they've gone 9-3 against the NL so far this season and are back within 1 1/2 games of the Twins. If Rick Porcello can get things straightened out in Toledo, the Tigers may get back on top of the division. - Tom Fornelli
- 13. White Sox | Record: 34-34 | Previous Week: 14
The White Sox just finished a nine-game road trip that saw them go 8-1, and got themselves back to .500 for the first time since April 7, when they were 1-1. They even survived Stephen Strasburg. It'll be interesting to see if they can keep it up once they have to start playing the American League again. - Tom Fornelli
- 14. Dodgers | Record: 38-31 | Previous Week: 3
Exhibit A for the AL's dominance over the NL is the Dodgers. They had won 10 of 13 games against NL clubs, just before getting swept in back-to-back weekends by the Angels and Red Sox. In between, they won two of three against the Reds. This week the Dodgers get the Angels, again, and the Yankees. - Jeff Fletcher
- 15. Blue Jays | Record: 38-32 | Previous Week: 17
It's a tough week for the Jays as they play host to the Cardinals and then travel to Philly to serve as "home team" during three games against the Phillies. Six rough games aren't really what this reeling team needs at this point. Vernon Wells has stopped hitting, Jose Bautista's learning that what goes up must come down and Edwin Encarnacion has been exiled to Triple-A. It was a nice run for Toronto but the realities of its roster appear to be catching up with them. - Josh Alper
- 16. Rockies | Record: 36-33 | Previous Week: 13
The Rockies were handed a devastating loss when Troy Tulowitzki took a pitch off the wrist and was sidelined for up to six weeks. Now the team has to step up, especially Carlos Gonzalez who will now hit third in the lineup. Gonzalez leads the team in RBI with 42 and now has to lead them through the next month or longer.
- 17. Reds | Record: 37-33 | Previous Week: 8
The Reds hadn't suffered a three-game losing streak since April 14-18, but now they've dropped three in a row twice in their last seven games. That includes a weekend sweep by the Mariners at Safeco Field where the Reds scored just one run in three games. That's what happens when you draw Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez in a three-game series, but the standings have sympathy for no one. - Pat Lackey
- 18. Phillies | Record: 35-32 | Previous Week: 22
Chase Utley's batting average is hurting, but that's all he's willing to admit. The All-Star second baseman is batting .238 in June with only one home run and a .698 OPS. Prior to the weekend series against Minnesota, Utley tried to squash speculation that he was playing hurt. It doesn't help his cause when first base coach Davey Lopes says that Utley is dealing with a knee injury.
- 19. Marlins | Record: 33-36 | Previous Week: 18
One young outfielder is proving that he belongs in the majors while another shows for the second tmie why he's not. His .233 batting average isn't great, but if Mike Stanton can continue the pace of almost an RBI per game -- he has nine in his first 11 games -- he'll be OK. Cameron Maybin hasn't had an at-bat since Stanton was promoted, and the floundering center fielder needs at-bats right now in a huge way.
- 20. Cubs | Record: 31-38 | Previous Week: 20
Another week wasted by the Cubs. With a 3-3 record against the A's and Angels, the Cubs have remained solidly between six and eight games back of the NL Central leaders for the entire month of June. With a 7-11 record on the month, that's a wasted opportunity that they may not have be able to afford to let slip by. - Pat Lackey
- 21. A's | Record: 34-37 | Previous Week: 19
When they turned their calendars to June, the A's were in first place. Now they are in third, eight games out. The A's have lost every series they've played this month. This week they've got the Reds, who just scored one run in three games in Seattle, and the Pirates, who just snapped a 12-game losing streak. Good seats still available in Oakland. - Jeff Fletcher
- 22. Brewers | Record: 29-40 | Previous Week: 27
Like the Cubs, the Brewers' 3-3 record against the Angels and Rockies this week isn't bad, but it isn't what they need. With 92 games left on the schedule, the Brewers are closer in the standings to the Astros than the second-place Reds. Perhaps worst of all is the way their terrible pitching staff is obscuring Yovani Gallardo's huge season. He's striking out almost 10 batters per nine innings to go with his sparkling 2.59 ERA. If only the Brewers could clone him 10 times. - Pat Lackey
- 23. Royals | Record: 29-41 | Previous Week: 21
Why are pitchers' win-loss records considered so misleading? Well, Brian Bannister has an ERA of 5.70 this season and is 6-5, leading the Royals pitching staff in wins. Zack Greinke leads the Royals in ERA at 3.94, yet he's 2-8. - Tom Fornelli
- 24. Mariners | Record: 28-41 | Previous Week: 28
The Mariners swept the Reds over the weekend and Cliff Lee threw a complete game shutout. Instead of leading the team to a turnaround, Lee's performance is likely just increasing his trade value. The team is 14-16 over the last month but Lee has strung together five consecutive quality starts, lowering his ERA from 3.44 to 2.55.
- 25. Nationals | Record: 31-39 | Previous Week: 25
With all of the Stephen Strasburg hype, you wouldn't really know that the Nationals have only won two of their last 10 games and 11 of their last 35. Only the Pirates and Orioles have been worse over that span. Nothing is better for a rut like this than a week filled with three games against Kansas City and three more against Baltimore.
- 26. Indians | Record: 26-42 | Previous Week: 24
If there's any good news for the Indians this season -- and there really isn't -- it's that Fausto Carmona seems to be back to his 2007 form, a season in which he won 19 games. It's too bad he has no support behind him, but managing to go 6-5 on this team is something of which to be proud. - Tom Fornelli
- 27. Diamondbacks | Record: 27-43 | Previous Week: 23
It's no easy task facing both the Red Sox and the Tigers in the same week. Sure enough, the Diamondbacks only won once against those two American League behemoths. Another long week is in store as Arizona welcomes the Yankees to the desert and then travels to the west coast of Florida to play Tampa Bay.
- 28. Astros | Record: 26-44 | Previous Week: 26
Was it only 10 days ago that the Astros seemed competent? On June 10, the Astros had reeled off eight wins in 10 days and pulled themselves out of the NL Central cellar. Since then, they've dropped eight of nine, including two of three to the Royals. The battle between them and the Pirates for last place in the division could be intense in the second half. - Pat Lackey
- 29. Pirates | Record: 25-44 | Previous Week: 29
On Saturday morning, word leaked out that a racing pierogi had been fired for complaining about the team on Facebook. On Saturday night, they broke their 12-game losing streak. On Sunday afternoon, they won their second straight game. Coincidence? With Pedro Alvarez's Wednesday promotion, the team is in full-on youth mode, so things may not get easier from here on out. - Pat Lackey
- 30. Orioles | Record: 19-50 | Previous Week: 30
Nick Markakis ripped his teammates for their lackadaisical approach at the plate this week, which was good to see. First, it shows that someone in Baltimore still cares enough to get upset about the state of affairs and, second, Markakis actually made his words stand up with a strong week at the plate. Words won't fix the team, but it can't hurt to find a guy willing to lead this bunch for the rest of a lost season. - Josh Alper