The fight for the AL Wild Cards consists of teams that most of us have expected to see in qualifying battles over the years. But there are a couple of new contenders in the AL West: The Mariners and Angels.
Los Angeles-Anaheim, which has the most electrifying player in baseball, entered this week at 49-49, expecting to have Mike Trout again in early August. That’s not necessarily going to catapult the Angels to the top of the standings, but the team has shown signs of improvement in other areas. Specifically, the starting pitching – his Achilles heel for years – has looked better.
In their last 12 games, Angels starters have allowed just 22 runs in 74.1 innings, for a 2.66 ERA. Los Angeles-Anaheim reached the Athletics 5.5 games on Monday for the second Young Circuit Wild Card.
The Mariners are in even better position, just 1.5 games away from that second Wild Card, with a record of 54-46. They have won nine of their last 13 meetings, including three of four against the same A’s at home over the weekend.
The Rays are hitting the first Wild card right now. Tampa Bay jumped to the Top 5 of the Power Rankings after acquiring Dominican slugger Nelson Cruz, who at age 41 hit two home runs in the team’s series against the Indians.
The biggest jump: The Braves moved up four spots from 19 to 15. Atlanta could make big strides this week. At 5.0 games from the Mets in the NL East, Brian Snitker’s troop will play five games against New York starting Monday.
The biggest drop: The Rangers, with 12 losses in a row, fell three spots, from 26 to 29. The only positive is that this week Texas will play two games against the only team behind them in the Power Rankings: The Diamondbacks.
The Top 5 of the Power Rankings:
1 Giants: (1 last week)
The Giants have the best record in the majors and are on track to win 101 games, even with a 5-5 start to the midweek of the season. San Francisco reminded us that in such a long season, almost anything can happen — such as taking three of four games to the Dodgers and then losing two of three to the Pirates, a team that has gone through to lose 100 games. Now, the Giants will play three more vs. Los Angeles and three against the Astros, both series at home.
Houston, with a 6-3 record since the All-Star Game and coming off a sweep from the Rangers, will now have a challenge on the road: Three games in Seattle, three in San Francisco and two in Los Angeles against the Dodgers. But the Astros enter this week with the best record in the American League at 61-39 and a 5.5-game lead in the AL West.
Los Angeles is 5-5 since the All-Star Game and is trying to cope despite injuries to key players, including Mookie Betts, who is out with a sore hip. The Dodgers took advantage of series against the Rockies the past two weekends, but now the schedule will be much stronger. Apart from a series vs. Arizona next weekend, Los Angeles will play the Giants on the road and the Astros and Angels at home.
Unlike many contenders, Tampa Bay has looked strong this early part of the second half, going 7-3 since the All-Star Game. The Rays have also won 13 of their last 17 since July 4. It’s a good time to be playing well, as they will now host series at home against the teams closest to them in the AL East: the Yankees and Red Sox.
The White Sox didn’t start the second half very well, let’s say, barely avoiding a sweep by the Brewers on Sunday. But unlike the other top leaders in the Major Leagues, Chicago has separated from the rest in the AL Central, leading 9.0 games over the Indians.
Voters: Alyson Footer, Anthony Castrovince, Jesse Sánchez, Mark Feinsand, Nathalie Alonso, Mike Petriello, Sarah Langs, Andrew Simon, David Venn.