The first week of the second half is complete, and what a week it was. There were a lot of things we didn’t see coming, especially among some of the best first half teams of the year; which can only lead to more and more shuffling at the top of our standings. Did the Washington Nationals hold their ground at the top for a second straight week, or is there yet another new name at the No. 1 spot? You’re about to find out.
30. Atlanta Braves (33-66, previously 30) – A five game losing streak shouldn’t be any surprise to Braves fans at this rate considering all they’ve endured in 2016. At least they are generous, as they have now given the Colorado Rockies some life in the NL wildcard race.
29. Tampa Bay Rays (30-68, previously 27) – Tampa lost three in a row at the hands of the A’s this weekend to drop the four game series and have now completely buried themselves in the basement of the AL East, 12.5 games behind the 4th place Yankees. Tampa is now the only team in the division below .500.
28. Cincinnati Reds (30-68, previously 28) – A 4-2 week was a nice little change for the Cincinnati Reds, but does it really mean much when all of those games come against fellow last-place teams in the form of the Braves and the Diamondbacks? They may get a dose of reality again this week as they head west to face the Giants, but then again the NL West leaders have only gone 1-7 since the All-Star Break.
27. Minnesota Twins (37-61, previously 29) – There’s a saying that goes “you play to your level of competition.” As bad of a season Minnesota has had, they’ve lived up to the phrase, first dominating the the AL West leading Rangers earlier in the month, and now the Red Sox over the weekend; bumping Boston out of the AL East lead in the process. On top of that, they took a series from yet another winning team earlier in the week as well when they won two of three against Detroit.
26. Arizona Diamondbacks (41-57, previously 25) – Arizona got bullied by the Reds and Blue Jays earlier in the week before they were able to end their four game skid with a 9-8 win over Cincinnati Sunday afternoon. That’s no fun. Now we have to wonder if Arizona will ship off any young talent like Jake Lamb at the trade deadline, in addition to asking ourselves if Chip Hale’s time as manager may soon come to an end.
25. Milwaukee Brewers (41-55, previously 26) – A 2-4 week shouldn’t be much of a surprise to Brewers fans considering they had to go up against the Pirates and Cubs in that process. Hey, it could have been a lot worse for that matter. Meanwhile, trade talks have become relatively quiet regarding Ryan Braun, while interest has increased among Jonathan Lucroy. It will be interesting to see who goes, if either of them at all.
24. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (43-55, previously 23) – Right when the Angels were on a six game winning streak out of the All-Star Break and seemed to finally have life only nine games under .500, they got absolutely punished in a sweep at the hands of the Astros over the weekend. Albert Pujols has been hitting a lot of homers of late, but it’s clearly not enough to get the Halos over the hump as they are back to last place in the AL West. Tim Lincecum has been nothing short of a disaster since being acquired in June, surrendering eight earned runs in an inning and a third on Sunday.
23. Philadelphia Phillies (45-55, previously 20) – It was a rough week of the Phillies who dropped three of four against Miami mid-week before dropping two of three to Pittsburgh over the weekend. Philadelphia has now only won three of their last ten games and will need some serious help if they intend to get back into the picture, as time is quickly running out for this squad.
22. San Diego Padres (43-56, previously 21) A sweep of the NL West leading San Francisco Giants last weekend was followed up by a four game sweep at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals, but the Padres got back to their slugging ways when they were able to take two of three against the NL East leading Washington Nationals this weekend in our nation’s capital. San Diego has hit a homer in a franchise record 21 straight games and now officially have a knack for beating up on first place squads as it appears.
21. Oakland Athletics (45-54, previously 24) – “Celebrate good times, c’mon!” That’s what the A’s were singing this weekend as they swept the Rays at home, even if it was only a sweep against a lousy team that got Oakland out of last place in the AL West. The squad has now won seven of their past ten games and believe it or not, are only a mere nine games below .500. Could we be in for another moneyball story against all odds?
20. Chicago White Sox (48-50, previously 19) – Chris Sale officially has the best cutter in baseball after his temper tantrum on Saturday that earned him a five game suspension. If you ask me, it’s nothing short of a sign that he wants to be traded from a White Sox squad that has gone 3-7 out of the All-Star Break. Meanwhile, the Sox became the first team since 1982 on Sunday to win both a completed suspended game and a regularly scheduled game on a walk-off in the same day.
19. Colorado Rockies (47-51, previously 22) – You probably thought the Rockies were pretty much dead, but now they’ve won four straight games and are only four games below the .500 mark. Their last ten games all came against either the Braves or Rays, which makes it too bad that they aren’t on a ten game winning streak and are few games over the .500 mark. Per usual, offense continues to be the story for Colorado, as rookie Trevor Story (see what I did there) hit a career long 456 homer out of Coors Field on Sunday.
18. Kansas City Royals (48-49, previously 16) – Yes, the World Series hangover is a real thing. The past three champions prior to 2015 missed the postseason the year following their World Series runs (thanks #OddYear), and it looks like the Royals may be joining that club this year. A 3-7 stretch has put Kansas City below .500, and it could be hard to bounce back to royalty considering what the Indians have done this year in the AL Central. A wild card berth is not out of the picture, but the Royals will certainly need to be active at the trade deadline if they want to make a serious run at defending their title in October.
17. Seattle Mariners (50-48, previously 18) – Seattle is just one of those teams that has been so hard to figure out this season – playing great out of the gate, then going on a massive slump, and now hovering around .500 ever since. They’ve gone 6-4 in their past ten games to get over that hump and can’t complain about taking two of three against the Blue Jays this weekend. Even though they dropped the finale on Sunday, Seattle fans can still celebrate, because Ken Griffey Jr. is now officially a hall-of-famer.
16. New York Yankees (50-48, previously 17) – The Yankees continued their longtime dominance of the San Francisco Giants by taking two of three against New York’s former squad, though they suffered a heartbreaking 12 inning loss on Saturday. Even though the Yankees are appearing to finally be getting over the hump, they still decided to part ways with closer Aroldis Chapman, who was dealt to the Cubs this morning in exchange for four prospects.
15. Detroit Tigers (51-48, previously 14) – The Tigers hit three home runs against the White Sox in the 9th inning Sunday afternoon and still lost, becoming the first team in 34 years to lose on a walk-off twice in one day. Luckily for them they have not lost much ground in the division race as the Indians were swept for the first time in over a month this weekend. That could change though as Detroit begins a tough series against the Red Sox at home this week.
14. St. Louis Cardinals (52-46, previously 15) – A four game sweep of the Padres mid-week was nice for the Cardinals, but a 2-1 series loss to the Dodgers was not. Rookie pitcher Mike Mayers made his debut on Sunday and had an infinity ERA only four batters in, thanks to Adrian Gonzales grand-slam after Mayers loaded the bases to start the game. How often do you see that?
13. Pittsburgh Pirates (51-47, previously 13) – Will the Pirates make a move at the trade deadline? They could use a nice boost to get them away from .500 territory and into serious
playoff wildcard contention. It will be tough to catch the red-hot Cubs for the division, but the season is far from over and the Pirates are only 8.5 games out. You never know what could happen in the closing months of the season.
12. New York Mets (52-45, previously 11) – Steven Matz got his first win since May, and he could seriously use that confidence for the road ahead as the Mets look to advance into wildcard contention. There are growing concerns regarding Yoenis Cespedes’ leg injury that occurred before the All-Star break. A trip to the DL could be a serious setback for New York’s offense that will have to compete with division batting foes such as Giancarlo Stanton, Bryce Harper, and what was once their own in the form of Daniel Murphy. But hey, Met’s fans can cheer about Mike Piazza’s HOF induction for now at the very least.
11. Miami Marlins (53-45, previously 12) – It’s looking more and more like the Marlins may finally break their playoff drought in their first season under the leadership of Don Mattingly and Barry Bonds, as the squad currently holds a half game lead for the last wild card spot. Of course, the Mets, Cardinals and Pirates are all right on their tail, all within two games of that spot if not closer. Rumors have surfaced that the Fish could be looking to acquire struggling Shelby Miller fro the Arizona Diamondbacks, but it’s hard to believe that would be a good investment given how his season has gone.
10. Toronto Blue Jays (55-44, previously 8) – Toronto had no problem taking care of Arizona in a two-game mini series this week, but the Mariners gave them some trouble up north this weekend as the Jays dropped two of three back home against Seattle. J.A. Happ looked solid once again though with six 1-hit shutout innings in a 2-0 win on Sunday. On the other side of the pitching staff, RHP Drew Storen has been designated for assignment.
9. Houston Astros (54-44, previously 10) – Not a problem in near sight in Houston. Evan Gattis hit two homers on his giveaway gnome night Saturday. Jose Altuve followed suit with a two homer performance himself Sunday as the ‘Stros completed their three game sweep of the Angels on Sunday. They’ve now won four straight and, thanks to a massive slump by the Rangers, are only 2.5 games out of first place in the AL West.
8. Los Angeles Dodgers (56-44, previously 9) – Who needs Clayton Kershaw anyways? The Dodgers are 15-8 since the ace’s departure, and his return still remains unknown. The Dodgers continued their dominance of the Washington Nationals by taking two of three in the nation’s capital this week before doing the same against the Cardinals in the gateway city this weekend. Kenley Jansen continues to be one of the elite closers in the game this season while the Dodgers red-hot offense has carried them through yet another week of the season despite starting pitching woes. The Dodgers are now only 3 games back of the ice-cold San Francisco Giants for first place in the NL West, and with a week against the Rays and Diamondbacks ahead, they will have a golden opportunity to close in even more on the division lead.
7. Cleveland Indians (56-41, previously 6) – The Indians did something we had not seen them do in over a month this weekend: get swept. The Baltimore Orioles were too much for the Tribe to handle, as they ended the forgettable series with a loss on a walk-off homer on Sunday. Juan Uribe suffered yet another contusion over the weekend, this time to his noggin. Their beltway trip may be over, but they will face yet another beltway team this week when they host the Nationals for a two-game mini series in Cleveland.
6. San Francisco Giants (58-40, previously 2) – Well, the bubble always has to burst when you’ve won a season high 21 one-run games, right? Not many people expected the San Francisco Giants, the same team that posted the best record in the majors at the midway mark, to immediately go 0-6 out of the All-Star Break, but that’s just what they did. The skid came to an end with a gritty 2-1 victory over the Yankees in 12 innings on Saturday, but the woes returned with yet another loss on Sunday. The squad’s lead for the NL West has been cut in half to a mere three games over the past week, and with Hunter Pence, Matt Duffy and Joe Panik still on the DL, San Francisco desperately needs to make a big move at the deadline to avoid a complete 2nd half debacle.
5. Texas Rangers (57-42, previously 4) – The Rangers finally won consecutive games for the first time since June this weekend as they took a three game series over the sluggish Kansas City Royals. Before that, a 1-6 exit out of the All-Star Break that saw them get swept on the road by the last-place Angels. The Rangers still only have six wins in the month of July, and what was once a 10.5 game lead over the Astros is now down to a mere 2.5 games. The Rangers may not be able to top the Cole Hamels move they made last July, but a trade-deadline acquisition would provide some incredible insurance amidst this great slump in North Texas.
4. Washington Nationals (58-41, previously 1) – The Nats are out of first place in our standings after they continued to get beat up by the NL West at home this week. First it was a 2-1 series loss on their own field to the Dodgers, and then to the Padres immediately after. The latter came to a close on a rather unfortunate note, as Washington surrendered six runs over the last two innings en route to a 10-6 loss on Sunday afternoon. What’s more, the Marlins are now only 4.5 games behind them for the lead in the NL East. The Mets: 5 games. This division race could go down to the wire, which is hard to believe considering how much talent the Nats have on both sides of the ball.
3. Baltimore Orioles (57-40, previously 5) – How sweep it is. After surrendering the AL East lead to Boston in the middle of the week, the O’s got it right back with four straight wins, including a sweep of the AL East-leading Cleveland Indians at home over the weekend. It ended with a bang, as Nolan Reimold launched a walk-off homer on Sunday to beat the Tribe 5-3. Baltimore will now face another team on a four game win streak as they host the Rockies at Camden Yards this week.
2. Boston Red Sox (55-41, previously 7) – Certainly they had their troubles against the Twins, but the Red Sox continue to climb in our power rankings as their offense remains on an absolute demolition of everything in their path. Now David Ortiz even has the ability to get home run balls stuck in the pesky pole. The Sox kept the Giants winless all-time in the regular season at Fenway Park by beating up on their old friend Jake Peavy to complete the sweep, and they’ve now won seven of their past 10 games. On another note, Rick Porcello became the first Boston pitcher in 55 years on Sunday to open up the season 10-0 at Fenway Park. Not too shabby, Rick.
1. Chicago Cubs (59-38, previously 3) – They’re back. The Cubs have returned to No. 1 seed after returning to their usual winning ways the week following the All-Star Break. The squad finally got their revenge over the Mets by taking two out of three against them at Wrigley last week after riding an eight game losing streak against New York that dated back to the 2015 NLCS. The Cubbies now once again own the best record in baseball and are the only team in the majors above .600. That success may grow now that the team has acquired Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman as of this morning.
Biggest Jump: Boston Red Sox (+5)
Biggest Drop: San Francisco Giants (-4)