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MLB Power Rankings — Dodgers, Padres and then chaos reigns on our Week 3 list



The Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres held on to their perch atop our MLB Power Rankings as they prepare to meet again — this time in a four-game series starting Thursday at Dodger Stadium.

Putting the two NL West rivals there was the easy part. But putting any order to the rest of the 28 teams in baseball right now starts to get very tricky very quickly. Did our voters reward first-place surprises like the Boston Red Sox, Kansas City Royals and Seattle Mariners? How much faith do they still have in preseason favorites who have started slowly (we’re looking at you, New York Yankees, Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves)? And just how high does an 11-game winning streak move the Oakland Athletics on our list?

Here is what our expert panel decided based on what we’ve seen in the first three weeks of the season. We also asked ESPN MLB experts David Schoenfield, Bradford Doolittle, Joon Lee, Jesse Rogers and Alden Gonzalez to weigh in with one Week 2 observation for all 30 teams.

Previous rankings: Week 2 | Week 1 | Opening Day

1. Los Angeles Dodgers

Record: 14-4
Previous ranking: 1

Kenley Jansen reached 97 mph, threw his cutter in the mid-90s and featured some wipeout sliders in a save against the Mariners on Tuesday. One of his longtime catchers, Austin Barnes, admitted that it has been “a couple years” since Jansen’s stuff popped like that. If he has suddenly rediscovered his 2017 form, who can possibly beat the Dodgers? — Gonzalez

2. San Diego Padres

Record: 10-10
Previous ranking: 2

The Padres dropped two out of three in a heated weekend series against the Dodgers, but they could have easily won all three games. Their starting pitching depth is really beginning to show itself, even with Adrian Morejon slated for Tommy John surgery and Dinelson Lamet‘s status in question. Ryan Weathers has stepped up and suddenly it seems as if Chris Paddack, highly effective as a 23-year-old in 2019, might have to fight to keep his spot. — Gonzalez

3. Boston Red Sox

Record: 12-7
Previous ranking: 12

This doesn’t look like the Boston team that finished in last place last season. Designated hitter J.D. Martinez has returned to slugger form since the return of in-game video, while both Nathan Eovaldi and Eduardo Rodriguez have started strong on the mound. The Red Sox have the most wins in the American League, with surprises like infielder Christian Arroyo and Rule 5 reliever Garrett Whitlock making substantive impacts. –Lee

Record: 7-6
Previous ranking: 9

Francisco Lindor is off to a slow start, hitting .222 and finally belting his first home run Wednesday night, but that should turn around soon enough. He’s showing the best plate discipline of his career with nine walks and just three strikeouts, but he hasn’t been squaring the ball up enough. No complaints about his defense, which has been terrific. — Schoenfield

Record: 10-9
Previous ranking: 10

The Rays rallied with a three-game sweep of the Yankees after dropping a four-game series against the Texas Rangers. Tyler Glasnow continues to look like a bona fide ace, with an 0.73 ERA and 36 strikeouts that are both fifth best in baseball. Last year’s postseason darling Randy Arozarena, meanwhile, finds himself in the middle of a slump, hitting .219/.306/.250 in his last eight games. –Lee

6. Oakland Athletics

Record: 12-7
Previous ranking: 18

The Athletics shook off a 1-7 start to go on a scalding-hot 11-game winning streak, relying on consistent starting pitching and clutch hitting. Infielder Jed Lowrie, who played a total of nine games in 2019 and 2020, leads the Oakland offense with a .323/.400/.516 line and six doubles and two homers through 17 games. — Lee

Record: 9-9
Previous ranking: 7

Chicago has been stuck in a win-one, lose-one cycle that reflects the up-and-down tendencies of a starting rotation that still looks promising. The last week or so has seen this pattern, with Carlos Rodon throwing the 20th no-hitter in White Sox history and ace Lucas Giolito getting tagged for eight runs in two innings at Fenway Park. When the rotation can piece together a couple of consistent weeks, the White Sox will be poised to go on a tear. — Doolittle

Record: 11-7
Previous ranking: 15

What more can be said of Corbin Burnes, or for that matter, the combo of Burnes and Brandon Woodruff? Beating the Padres in San Diego was a big series win for a MiIwaukee team at the top of the NL Central despite not having Christian Yelich or Lorenzo Cain. — Rogers

Record: 9-7
Previous ranking: 8

Shohei Ohtani was a bit erratic in his return to the mound on Tuesday, issuing six walks and falling behind on 13 of the 19 batters he faced. But it was his first start in 16 days, the product of a pesky blister. And he was nonetheless difficult to square up. If Ohtani can keep having some impact on the rotation, the Angels might have a shot. — Gonzalez

10. Atlanta Braves

Record: 8-10
Previous ranking: 6

Atlanta ranked 25th in rotation ERA (5.31) through Tuesday, and Max Fried and Drew Smyly are on the IL. Unfortunately, Mike Soroka was shut down in early April with shoulder inflammation and has yet to resume throwing. In the meantime, Bryse Wilson and Kyle Wright will get yet another opportunity to show something in the rotation. — Schoenfield

Record: 9-8
Previous ranking: 13

The Reds need Luis Castillo to figure things out to stick around the playoff race. His 6.05 ERA is dragging the staff mark down to No. 17 in baseball. His struggles are offset by strong early production from Wade Miley, Jeff Hoffman and Tyler Mahle. On offense, the Reds aren’t reliant on one or two hitters. Tyler Naquin has cooled off, but others have picked up the slack. — Rogers

Record: 11-7
Previous ranking: 19

The Giants’ rotation carries the sport’s fourth-lowest ERA. Five members of that rotation — Kevin Gausman, Anthony DeSclafani, Aaron Sanchez, Alex Wood and Johnny Cueto — could be free agents at season’s end. So if the Giants fall out of contention around midseason, they might be able to spin them off to acquire some nice controllable pieces for the next phase of their trajectory. — Gonzalez

Record: 6-11
Previous ranking: 5

After the first week of the season, the Twins looked like a team on the verge of putting it all together. My, how fast the wind can change in April. Jose Berrios has had a couple of so-so outings. No one seems to be hitting other than Nelson Cruz, as Byron Buxton has again struggled to stay on the field. A veteran-heavy bullpen that looked on paper like it might be one of baseball’s best has been horrendous. And, of course, everything has been disrupted by COVID-related absences and postponements. It’s been a bad month for the Twins, but lucky for them, no one in the AL Central looks to be sprinting away with the division any time soon. — Doolittle

Record: 8-8
Previous ranking: 17

The burden on the Cleveland rotation to prop up a bad offense can be illustrated by two stats. Its starters rank sixth in the majors during the first month in average game score, even though Zach Plesac has struggled. Nevertheless, Cleveland’s starters have out-game-scored the opposing starter only half the time — a .500 mark by this metric. For all his dominance, even Shane Bieber has fallen prey to this dynamic. His average game score over four starts is 71, ranking fifth in baseball. Yet Bieber’s game score record is only 2-2. — Doolittle

15. Houston Astros

Record: 7-10
Previous ranking: 4

Houston started the season by making the Oakland Athletics look like the Bad News Bears, but what comes around came around with a vengeance. Oakland was five games back of the Astros after six games of the season. Now the Astros have thudded into the basement of the AL West after losing several key players to the injured list because of health and safety protocols. Houston’s patchwork offense has struggled to put up more than two or three runs per game, underscoring the importance of the Astros’ health scenario in the months to come. — Doolittle

16. New York Yankees

Record: 6-11
Previous ranking: 3

The series sweep by the Tampa Bay Rays represented the low point in this young season for the Bronx Bombers, with fans throwing objects on the field. General manager Brian Cashman isn’t ready to hit the panic button yet, preaching patience in both the team’s roster and the coaching staff. But the team’s offense — expected to be the biggest strength — and the rotation have both struggled, exacerbating the other’s weaknesses. — Lee

17. Seattle Mariners

Record: 11-7
Previous ranking: 24

2020 Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis returned to the lineup on Tuesday, and rumor is that Jarred Kelenic may not be far behind. Two big bright spots early on: Mitch Haniger, after not playing since June of 2019, is hitting and playing a good right field; and Kendall Graveman is throwing in the upper 90s with movement and location out of the bullpen. — Schoenfield

Record: 8-10
Previous ranking: 16

The Cardinals’ record continues to hover around .500, and their run differential is basically nil. The good news is that Jack Flaherty is starting to round into form, and the ageless Yadier Molina continues to hit. — Rogers

19. Kansas City Royals

Record: 10-7
Previous ranking: 22

You don’t want to overreact to a small sample of defensive stats, so put this observation in the “things to keep an eye on” basket: The Royals are dead last in defensive runs saved in the early going. The thing is, Kansas City is roughly break-even in DRS as compiled by the actual fielders. However, the Royals rank last in the team columns of DRS that rate how much run prevention teams have gotten from defensive alignments. This was not a problem last season, so it may well be a fluke. It better be, or the Royals’ surprising stay in first place will prove to be a short one. — Doolittle

Record: 8-10
Previous ranking: 11

The team’s biggest bright spot remains Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who looks like the slugger many expected him to become when he arrived in the majors, hitting .383/.513/.650 with four homers and 11 RBIs in 18 games. The biggest question is whether the injuries will get the best of Toronto, with Teoscar Hernandez and prized offseason acquisition George Springer on the IL and regulars Lourdes Gurriel, Cavan Biggio, Danny Jansen, Marcus Semien and Rowdy Tellez off to rough starts. — Lee

Record: 9-9
Previous ranking: 14

Aaron Nola doesn’t often get mentioned alongside Jacob deGrom, Gerrit Cole and a couple of others as one of the best starters in the game, but maybe he should. He’s 1-1 with a 2.19 ERA after pitching a shutout on Sunday (the first nine-inning shutout of his career), has a 28-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio and has allowed one home in 24⅔ innings. — Schoenfield

Record: 8-9
Previous ranking: 23

Jazz Chisholm has been one of the pleasant early surprises in the game, hitting for average, hitting for power, drawing walks, stealing a few bases and bringing flair and energy. The tools were never a question, but the contact ability was the concern. He has reined in the strikeouts by not chasing pitches and is looking like a potential star. — Schoenfield

Record: 8-9
Previous ranking: 20

Javier Baez is on pace for an offensive season like none other: .200, 40 homers, 121 RBIs, 50 steals, 10 walks and 313 strikeouts through Tuesday’s game. Of course he won’t keep up the pace, but as the Cubs hitter with the most at-bats with runners in scoring position, Baez needs to cut down the K’s and show some more consistency. Otherwise, the Cubs will be stuck in neutral all season. — Rogers

Record: 7-9
Previous ranking: 21

Rough week for the Nationals, as Stephen Strasburg (shoulder) and Juan Soto (shoulder) both landed on the injured list. Soto’s stay is expected to be the minimum 10 days. We’ll have to wait and see on Strasburg. At least Patrick Corbin, who got shelled in his first two starts, pitched six scoreless innings Tuesday. — Schoenfield

25. Texas Rangers

Record: 9-10
Previous ranking: 27

Their run differential is second worst in the AL, but the Rangers’ record is hovering around .500 thanks to a huge series win on the road against the defending league champion Rays. Second baseman Nick Solak has already doubled his home run total from all of 2020 — he has four — and has hit safely in all but five games. — Rogers

Record: 8-10
Previous ranking: 25

Carson Kelly, one of the biggest pieces of the Paul Goldschmidt trade from December of 2018, is off to a hot start, batting .375/.563/.719 with more walks (12) than strikeouts (10). He’s chasing less, lifting the ball better and barreling pitches within the top 10% of the league. So yeah, there’s one bright spot. — Gonzalez

Record: 8-10
Previous ranking: 28

Cedric Mullins continues to be the bright spot on this team, placing in the top five in the American League in hits behind the likes of J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, Mitch Haniger and Yermin Mercedes. Lefty John Means continues to throw the ball well, posting a 1.52 ERA in four starts. –Lee

Record: 8-10
Previous ranking: 30

Pittsburgh has been surprisingly resilient despite the loss of Ke’Bryan Hayes. JT Brubaker has opened eyes on the mound, while outfielder Bryan Reynolds was up for player of the week in the NL. — Rogers

Record: 7-11
Previous ranking: 26

The last few years, it seems like the Tigers become a team to watch on the trade deadline rumor mill because they have a starter throwing well who seems like he’d bring a good return but may not quite fit with Detroit’s contention timeline. Expect this to be the case once again in 2021, as Matt Boyd has become a deadline trade candidate to watch, as he has been in years past. Boyd has been terrific early in the season, putting up a 2.12 ERA with a sub-3.00 FiP and an average game score of 61. His game score record is a perfect 4-0 — the Tigers were otherwise just 3-9 by that metric through Tuesday. — Doolittle

Record: 6-12
Previous ranking: 30

The Nolan Arenado-less Rockies, who have already had to play the world-beating Dodgers seven times, sport the worst record in the majors. And their best players have not been immune to the struggles. Charlie Blackmon, their leader, is batting .176/.311/.314. Trevor Story, who will soon be one of the game’s most coveted free agents, carries a .689 OPS. — Gonzalez

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Royals manager Mike Matheny calls for ‘accountability’ after game-ending call stands



CHICAGO — Add Kansas City Royals manager Mike Matheny to the list of people who have questioned motives behind video replay.

Matheny was on the wrong end of a review in the bottom of the ninth inning of his team’s game against the Chicago White Sox on Sunday.

With two outs in a 3-3 tie, White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu came home on a wild pitch from reliever Wade Davis. Catcher Cam Gallagher retrieved the ball and went to tag Abreu, who slid in on the third base side of home plate. He was called safe on the field and the review upheld the call, which gave the White Sox a 4-3 win.

Replays showed Gallagher may have tagged Abreu on his jersey before he reached the plate.

“If we’re going to use video replay, there needs to be some accountability,” Matheny said after the loss. “I walked in here and had two different camera angles with this guy out. Tagged before he ever touched the plate. Very obvious. I don’t know what they’re doing, backing each other up, whatever it is. It’s wrong.”

Plays can only be overturned if video review shows a conclusive reason for it. Umpires in New York made the call with the umpires in Chicago on a headset — as is the norm. Anything short of a definitive angle to overturn a ruling means the call on the field stands.

“They have the opportunity to take that much time, and from appearances, it looks like they don’t want to bring them [the players] back onto the field while they’re here with this crowd,” Matheny said. “It’s just wrong and something has to be done about it.”

The Sox were down 3-2 going into the ninth. They tied the score on a Yoan Moncada RBI single but Moncada was eventually thrown out at the plate by Whit Merrifield on a base hit to right by Yermin Mercedes. That sent Abreu to third after he was hit by a pitch earlier in the inning. Then Davis threw the wild pitch, bringing Abreu home.

“They said he was safe,” White Sox right-fielder Adam Eaton said. “They even got replay. I had a pretty good view of it. Bang, bang play. Heck of a slide by Jose. We’ll definitely take it.”

Matheny disagreed: “You could see the jersey move when he tagged him on the body.”

The result of the play meant the Sox and Royals split their four-game series.

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Shane Bieber’s record strikeout streak ends, as Seattle Mariners chase Cleveland Indians ace early



SEATTLE — Shane Bieber‘s record strikeout streak ended Sunday when the Seattle Mariners sent the Cleveland ace to an early exit.

Bieber had fanned at least eight in 20 straight games. But the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner fell just short against the Mariners, striking out seven in 4 2/3 innings.

Bieber left trailing 3-0 with the bases loaded in his shortest outing of the season.

The 25-year-old right-hander leads the majors with 92 strikeouts. Bieber started the season with 10 or more strikeouts in his first four outings, another major league record.

The last time Bieber didn’t strike out at least eight in a regular-season game was his final start of the 2019 season. He struck out seven last year in a playoff start against the Yankees.

Bieber allowed a run in the first inning Sunday. In all of 2020, he allowed only one run in the first inning.

In the series finale, Cleveland is attempting to gain a split of the four games.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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With game on line, and a slump to end, Los Angeles Angels rely on Shohei Ohtani’s Fenway feat



BOSTON — Shohei Ohtani stepped to the plate, trying to keep his slumping team in the game.

He did more than that, delivering what he called the most important home run of his four-season career in the majors.

Ohtani hit a two-out, two-run drive in the ninth inning and the Los Angeles Angels rallied past the Boston Red Sox 6-5 Sunday, ending a four-game losing streak.

“Coming off a losing streak and the first two games of the series, the way we lost, it wasn’t a good way to lose,” Ohtani said through a team interpreter. “So, it was huge for us and the team to come up with this. We showed that we can beat any team.”

Boston closer Matt Barnes (1-1) retired the first two batters in the ninth before giving up a bloop single to Mike Trout.

Ohtani followed with his major league high-tying 12th home run, tucked just inside the Pesky Pole in right field. It was Ohtani’s second homer of the series and stopped Boston’s three-game winning string.

“I personally think he’s the most physically gifted baseball player that we’ve ever seen,” Barnes said.

“I don’t know that you’re ever going to see someone who can throw 100, 101 and hit the ball 600 feet. He’s a special player and incredibly talented. Hopefully, he stays healthy and has a long career,” he said.

It’s been a long time since the Angels have enjoyed that kind of late drama. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, the last Angels player to hit a go-ahead home run with the Angels down to their final out was Hank Conger on Aug. 31, 2013. It’s just the fourth such homer by an Angels player over the past 20 seasons.

Raisel Iglesias (2-2) pitched a scoreless eighth and Mike Mayers recorded his second save of the season.

Drew Butera‘s two-run single capped a four-run second off Nathan Eovaldi that put the Angels ahead 4-0.

Rafael Devers hit a three-run drive and Kevin Plawecki hit his first homer in a four-run fifth that gave Boston a 5-4 lead.

Eovaldi allowed four runs with six strikeouts in five innings. Angels starter Jose Quintana gave up three runs in 4 1/3 innings, striking out seven.

Ohtani’s next pitching start has been pushed back a day, to Tuesday against Cleveland, because of fatigue. The Angels will travel back home and open a 10-game homestand Monday against those Indians.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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