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MLB Power Rankings Week 9

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We’re already two months into the 2021 MLB season, and the standings are starting to come into focus with teams already 50-plus games into their schedules. What does that mean for our first MLB Power Rankings of June?

Well, for starters, there’s plenty of movement at the top, including a very tight race for No. 1. Has the Tampa Bay Rays‘ torrid stretch moved them past the San Diego Padres ? How high has a strong run pushed the Chicago Cubs this week? And, on the other end of our rankings, where do the Baltimore Orioles sit after a recent 14-game losing streak?

Here is what our eight-voter expert panel decided based on what we’ve seen in the first two months of the season. We also asked ESPN baseball experts David Schoenfield, Bradford Doolittle, Joon Lee, Jesse Rogers and Alden Gonzalez to weigh in with one Week 9 observation for all 30 teams.

Previous rankings: Week 8 | Week 7 | Week 6 | Week 5 | Week 4 | Week 3 | Week 2 | Week 1 | Opening Day


Record: 34-23
Previous ranking: 1

The Padres followed 16 wins in a stretch of 19 games with four consecutive losses to the Astros and Cubs. Worse, Fernando Tatis Jr. exited the game at Wrigley Field on Tuesday night with tightness around his midsection. The Padres hope his ailment isn’t serious, but Tatis has already experienced two start-and-stops this season. And despite the Padres’ enviable depth, Tatis makes that team go like no one else. His shortstop replacement, Ha-Seong Kim, finished May with a .195/.248/.331 slash line. — Gonzalez


Record: 35-22
Previous ranking: 3

The Rays continue to impress while now standing atop the American League East, with the lineup anchored by Randy Arozarena and Austin Meadows, who looks to be bouncing back after a lackluster 2020 season. Among the team’s bright spots has also been reliever Andrew Kittredge, who sits second in WAR among Tampa Bay’s pitchers behind Tyler Glasnow, posting a 1.38 ERA, 0.92 WHIP in 26 innings pitched. — Lee


Record: 33-23
Previous ranking: 2

The Dodgers got Cody Bellinger back on Saturday and could get AJ Pollock and Brusdar Graterol back relatively soon. They remained one of the sport’s best teams despite suffering a rash of injuries and could soon be one of the sport’s healthier teams, even without Corey Seager. Through Tuesday, the Dodgers owned a .582 winning percentage even though Seager, Bellinger and Mookie Betts, widely regarded as their three best players, have all contributed far less than what would have been expected. In other words: The Dodgers’ best baseball might still be ahead. — Gonzalez


Record: 33-22
Previous ranking: 4

The White Sox (19-10) posted the third-best marks in record and run differential during May. Chicago led the majors in run prevention, allowing just 3.07 runs per game. It posted baseball’s second-best strikeout rate last month. The rotation ranked third in collective ERA (2.93) and the bullpen ranked fourth (2.83). The White Sox offense usually grabs the headlines, but this is shaping up as a really hard team to score against. — Doolittle


Record: 34-21
Previous ranking: 7

The Giants lost their first four games against the Dodgers this season but came back to win three in a row at Dodger Stadium over the weekend. Through the first two months, the Giants ranked sixth in ERA and second in outs above average while getting optimal offensive production from Buster Posey and Evan Longoria, among others. Maybe they’re just legit. — Gonzalez


Record: 32-23
Previous ranking: 5

Boston has established itself as one of the best teams in baseball and a force to be reckoned with moving forward this season. Beyond the lineup’s anchoring trio of J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers, the team is getting contributions from players such as Hunter Renfroe, who sits fourth in WAR among Red Sox position players, providing strong defense while hitting .258/.291/.465. — Lee


Record: 31-24
Previous ranking: 8

Houston went 15-12 in May despite an offense that ranked among the game’s best during the month and a rotation that deployed eight different pitchers but still managed to rank eighth with a 3.28 starter ERA. The disconnect between that record and those strengths points to one area: the bullpen. Houston relievers posted a collective 5.03 ERA last month and blew more saves (seven) than they converted (five).

Presumably, the Astros will eventually get offseason signee Pedro Baez back to help. But in the meantime, Cristian Javier, who has been one of the Astros’ top starting pitchers since his arrival last season, has been moved to the bullpen, where he can be used in multi-inning stints. — Doolittle


Record: 32-23
Previous ranking: 13

The Cubs have been on roll, having won 19 games in May and starting June with a sweep against the Padres. That gave them series wins over the Dodgers, Mets and Padres this season. Patrick Wisdom has been the latest in a group providing depth beyond Chicago’s known names. He hit four home runs in his first 10 career games as a Cub. — Rogers


Record: 33-25
Previous ranking: 9

Oakland has cooled off considerably after its 13-game win streak in April, not winning more than three games in a row since. Oakland’s pitching is anchored by Chris Bassitt, who sports a 3.53 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in 74 innings across 12 starts, and Sean Manaea, who has a 3.86 ERA and 1.32 WHIP in 60⅔ innings pitched in 11 starts this season. — Lee


Record: 27-21
Previous ranking: 15

Jacob deGrom finished May with a 0.71 ERA, the lowest ERA for a qualified starter through May since Chris Short had a 0.64 ERA for the 1964 Phillies. In his start Monday, he threw 27 pitches of 100-plus mph, the third most in a single game since 2008 (Jordan Hicks had 29 in 2019 and Nathan Eovaldi had 28 in 2015). Batters are hitting .129 against him … and deGrom is hitting .450. Luis Rojas pulled him after 70 pitches, as they played it conservatively, but he should be back to a 100-pitch count or so in his next outing. — Schoenfield


Record: 31-25
Previous ranking: 6

The Yankees looked to be hitting their stride, but then Corey Kluber and Luke Voit landed on the injured list. New York’s lineup has fallen short of expectations given how the offense looks on paper, with second baseman DJ LeMahieu among those performing below what we’ve seen in recent years. — Lee


Record: 29-25
Previous ranking: 10

Top pitching prospect Alek Manoah made his debut against the Yankees, throwing six innings, allowing two hits, walking two batters while striking out seven. The rotation remains the team’s biggest question with Hyun-Jin Ryu anchoring the pitching, but questions remain around how the rest of the rotation — Steven Matz, Robbie Ray and Ross Stripling — will continue performing over the rest of the season. — Lee


Record: 31-25
Previous ranking: 11

The impact of the injury to Jack Flaherty can’t be overstated. The Cardinals were already having pitching problems and now have to cover for their ace. Going into Wednesday’s contest against the Los Angeles Dodgers, they were just 8-13 against plus-500 teams. — Rogers


Record: 30-24
Previous ranking: 12

The bullpen continued to keep the team afloat even as Cleveland’s touted starting pitching machine sputtered over recent weeks. During May, the Indians’ relievers ranked fifth in bullpen ERA (3.05), second in strikeouts per nine innings (11.4) and were the only relief staff to avoid a blown save, going 9-for-9 during the month. For the season, Cleveland has four qualifying relievers with an average leverage index greater than 1.0: Emmanuel Clase, James Karinchak, Bryan Shaw and Nick Wittgren. That quartet has combined to post a 2.38 ERA and 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings while converting 18 of 20 save opportunities. — Doolittle


Record: 29-26
Previous ranking: 16

Milwaukee had a five-game winning streak snapped Tuesday, as its performance on the mound continues to keep it in the National League Central race despite some hitting woes. The Brewers gave up just 10 runs during the streak, which included two extra-inning affairs. Milwaukee has dominated good competition, going 17-11 against plus-500 teams, but sits below .500 against teams with losing records. — Rogers


Record: 25-28
Previous ranking: 14

Marcell Ozuna was arrested on domestic violence charges and could face a long suspension by Major League Baseball, which plans to review the matter under the joint domestic violence policy in place between MLB and the players’ union.

On the field, the Braves might have to turn to the trade market to find a bat. That could be a left fielder or a third baseman, if they want to move Austin Riley back to the outfield. High-end options could include Mitch Haniger or Joey Gallo. Eduardo Escobar and David Peralta of Arizona should be available. Baltimore’s Trey Mancini can hit, but he hasn’t played any left field this season. Detroit’s Robbie Grossman has a .362 OBP. — Schoenfield


Record: 24-30
Previous ranking: 17

Some good news/bad news down on the farm. Max Meyer, the third overall pick in 2020, has a 1.96 ERA through five starts at Double-A. J.J. Bleday, the fourth overall pick in 2019, is hitting .159 with one home run at the same level. Jesus Sanchez, who played with Miami for 10 games in 2020, is hitting .402 with seven home runs at Triple-A and might force the Marlins’ hand with a call-up. — Schoenfield


Record: 27-26
Previous ranking: 19

What a topsy-turvy team the Royals have been. After winning their first game in May, Kansas City stood 16-9, the best mark in the majors. They then lost 11 in a row. Ah, but then they bounced back, and after winning their first game of June, the Royals had won 11 of 17. All told, K.C. is a game over .500 and hanging around the postseason races. The breakout player in May was first-year Royal Andrew Benintendi, who might have put to rest any notion that the lackluster guy who slumped in Boston last season was in fact the player he’d become. Benintendi hit .340/.377/.443 in May, then started June with a five-RBI game that included a grand slam. Some of Benintendi’s sagging Statcast-based metrics that worried so many, such as exit velocity and sprint speed, have largely bounced back to their pre-2020 levels. — Doolittle


Record: 26-29
Previous ranking: 18

Roman Quinn is out for the season after rupturing his left Achilles tendon, an injury that could sideline him into the 2022 season. That means Odubel Herrera is the full-time center fielder, and he has hit well so far. Bryce Harper was eligible to come off the injured list on Wednesday, but that didn’t happen, although he has resumed hitting and could return Friday. Didi Gregorius, out with an elbow injury since May 12, hasn’t started hitting yet, so there’s no timetable on his return. — Schoenfield


Record: 28-29
Previous ranking: 24

Jarred Kelenic‘s struggles are intensifying, as he’s 0-for-26 with 11 strikeouts over seven games entering Wednesday’s contest. Remember, he only has 27 games above Class A, so you can argue the Mariners rushed him to the big leagues more so than held him back. Meanwhile, Kyle Lewis landed on the IL with a small tear in the meniscus in his right knee. Taylor Trammell, who hit .384 with six home runs in 17 games at Triple-A, was called back up and homered in his first game. –Schoenfield


Record: 22-33
Previous ranking: 22

Minnesota’s cruel April was followed by a not-too-flowery May, leaving the Twins and their decision-makers a vanishing window to salvage a season the club entered with playoff aspirations. The pitching has been terrible and May didn’t offer many signs of improvement. Minnesota ranked 28th in overall ERA last month, with the starters landing at No. 27 (5.11) and the relievers at No. 21 (4.82). And if you want to say “at least the bullpen wasn’t as bad as the starters,” consider this: Twins relievers allowed 71% of inherited runners to score in May, last in the majors by a mile. The next-worst mark was put up by St. Louis — at 54%. — Doolittle


Record: 24-29
Previous ranking: 21

Jesse Winker and Nick Castellanos are bright spots for a team that has gone backward since April. Luis Castillo simply isn’t the same pitcher this year, as his ERA is over 7.00 and he hasn’t given up fewer than three runs in an outing since early April. The Reds are dead last in ERA. That says it all about their playoff chances. — Rogers


Record: 23-29
Previous ranking: 20

After leaving Tuesday’s start after 30 pitches, Stephen Strasburg underwent an MRI for a tight right trapezius muscle. If he lands on the injured list, it will be the second time this season and 14th time in his career. The Nationals were 21-29 after 50 games, a reminder that they were 19-31 after 50 games in 2019. The difference is that year Strasburg and Patrick Corbin were both healthy and effective. Not the case so far in 2021. — Schoenfield


Record: 25-30
Previous ranking: 25

Anthony Rendon had three hits and drove in five runs in the Angels’ road win over the Giants on Tuesday night, accounting for only his sixth multi-hit game of the season. Rendon’s OPS is still only .647, but obviously he’s a much better hitter than that. If the Angels are going to stay relevant without Mike Trout, who might not return until after the All-Star break, they’ll need a lot more performances like that from Rendon. — Gonzalez


Record: 22-35
Previous ranking: 23

A weeklong losing skid that included sweeps by the Angels and Mariners has dropped the Rangers into the cellar of the AL West. As of late, their problems have been at the plate. Texas compiled just a .454 OPS over the past seven days entering Wednesday. Second baseman Nick Solak has cooled off, going just 3-for-18 last week. Nate Lowe was 0-for-10. — Rogers


Record: 23-32
Previous ranking: 30

If the Tigers are tanking this season, they aren’t doing a very good job of it. After an 8-19 April with an equally horrific run differential, all signs pointed toward a season of at least 100 losses. But Detroit rebounded to go 14-13 in May and then won its first game of June. All of which makes you think of those construction workers from “Major League” when they reached the point of saying, “These guys ain’t that (gosh-darn) bad.” Well, it’s just a good month, but what is exciting for Tigers fans is that the success was driven by a 3.48 rotation ERA. That rotation includes some foundation pieces in the Tigers’ rebuild. Spencer Turnbull posted a 2.83 ERA in May and threw a no-hitter. Casey Mize had a 1.74 ERA and put up four quality starts in five outings. And Tarik Skubal had a 3.33 ERA while striking 13 batters per nine innings over five starts. — Doolittle


Record: 22-34
Previous ranking: 27

German Marquez has a 1.97 ERA over his past five starts, striking out 35 batters and walking 12 in 32 innings. On Tuesday, he limited the Rangers to one run over seven innings, improving the Rockies to 17-12 at home. (Don’t worry about their road record. We’re trying to focus on the good stuff this week.) Marquez is controllable through at least 2023 and could soon evolve into the Rockies’ most coveted trade piece, Trevor Story included. — Gonzalez


Record: 20-37
Previous ranking: 26

The D-backs amazingly lost 13 consecutive games before finally snapping their skid on Sunday. During that stretch, they averaged 2.6 runs per game, pitched to a 5.35 ERA and were outscored 73-34. They went from four games below .500 to 17 games below .500 and with no shot in a highly competitive NL West. — Gonzalez


Record: 20-34
Previous ranking: 29

Adam Frazier just keeps hitting, as he went 9-for-23 last week, raising his batting average to .335. Going into Wednesday’s games, he led the NL in hits and doubles. It really hasn’t helped the Pirates, though, as Pittsburgh has gone just 2-9 in its past 11 with both wins coming over the lowly Colorado Rockies on the same day. — Rogers


Record: 19-37
Previous ranking: 28

The Orioles fell to the bottom of the AL East with a 1-14 record since May 18. The bright spots on this team remain consistent with center fielder Cedric Mullins, first baseman Trey Mancini and John Means, who looks like a Cy Young contender with a 2.05 ERA, 0.80 WHIP and 3.3 WAR, all playing well despite the team’s struggles. — Lee

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Seattle Mariners acquire Jake Bauers from Cleveland Indians

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The Seattle Mariners have acquired first baseman Jake Bauers from the Cleveland Indians for a player to be named or cash considerations, it was announced Thursday.

Bauers, who had been designated for assignment by Cleveland, has started 25 of the 43 games in which he’s appeared for the Indians this season, batting .190 with 2 home runs and 6 RBIs.

He was given Cleveland’s starting job despite being outplayed by Bobby Bradley in training camp because he was out of minor league options. Bradley has been recalled.

Bauers is expected to join the Mariners for Thursday’s game in Detroit, and he’ll be back in Cleveland on Friday when Seattle opens a three-game series.

In three major league seasons, Bauers has a .211 average with 25 home runs and 97 RBIs. He did not play for the Indians in 2020, spending the abbreviated season at the club’s alternate training site.

The 25-year-old Bauers was acquired by Cleveland from Tampa Bay in a three-team deal in 2018.

To make room on the roster, the Mariners designated infielder Jack Mayfield for assignment.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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MLB Power Rankings Week 10

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Ten weeks into the MLB season, we have the fourth No. 1 team of the 2021 campaign atop our MLB Power Rankings.

Which American League team is playing well enough to bump the San Diego Padres from the top spot? Which National League club managed to pass the Padres in the Senior Circuit? Which National League Central team impressed our voters most as the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers continue to trade division leads? Just how far has a recent offensive slump dropped the New York Yankees down our list? And which struggling team fell to No. 30 in this week’s rankings?

Here is what our eight-voter expert panel decided based on what we’ve seen in the first two-plus months of the season. We also asked ESPN baseball experts David Schoenfield, Bradford Doolittle, Joon Lee, Jesse Rogers and Alden Gonzalez to weigh in with one Week 10 observation based on what they have seen recently for all 30 teams.

Previous rankings: Week 9 | Week 8 | Week 7 | Week 6 | Week 5 | Week 4 | Week 3 | Week 2 | Week 1 | Opening Day


Record: 39-24
Previous ranking: 2

The Rays look like one of the best teams in the sport despite not having any standout player in particular, which is as Rays as it gets. Starter Tyler Glasnow will factor into the All-Star conversation, leading the team with a 2.57 ERA, and Rich Hill has been a great offseason acquisition, with a 0.88 ERA in his last five starts, striking out 31 batters in 30.2 innings pitched. — Lee


Record: 37-24
Previous ranking: 4

With a .617 winning percentage and a run differential that suggests it should be more like .659 and a generally upward trajectory to this season, it might be time to glance down the line and wonder if the White Sox can break the franchise record for wins. Chicago’s mark is 100 by the 1917 club that won the White Sox’s first World Series and also was led in the dugout by Tony LaRussa. We kid! Pants Rowland, in fact, was the skipper of that club and acquired that nickname, we suppose, because he wore pants and must have come from a place where that was a novelty. Tied for second is the 99 wins the 2005 team won under Ozzie Guillen, and that big season was capped with the franchise’s only other World Series title. The Guillen team is tied for second with LaRussa’s 1983 club that won the AL West by 20 games, but lost to Baltimore in the ALCS. To add a second franchise-best team to the list and go on to win it all 38 years later would be a nice bit of historical symmetry for LaRussa and the White Sox franchise. It would also be an unprecedented feat in MLB annals.— Doolittle


Record: 38-23
Previous ranking: 5

The Giants stomached another major injury when Evan Longoria — boasting an adjusted OPS 50% higher than the league average through his first 50 games — was recently diagnosed with a sprained shoulder that will keep him out for several weeks. He joins an injury list that also includes Tommy La Stella, Mike Yastrzemski, Curt Casali, Darin Ruf and Alex Dickerson, among others. The Giants don’t have the position-player depth to necessarily absorb all that — no team does, really — and Longoria’s freak ailment will be their biggest test yet. How they navigate his absence could make or break their resurgent season. — Gonzalez


Record: 37-27
Previous ranking: 1

Among the more surprising elements of this season is that the Padres — still maintaining pace among the best teams in the sport — are simply not hitting. Through their first 60 games, the Padres possessed a .697 OPS that stood nine points below the league average. If you took away Fernando Tatis Jr., that OPS dropped to .666. It’s no secret that the Padres have been carried mostly by their pitchers. But their lineup is just as deep as their pitching staff, and their hitters are among the best at controlling the strike zone. Eventually, one would think, the offense will come alive. In other words: The Padres might not have played their best baseball yet. — Gonzalez


Record: 36-25
Previous ranking: 3

The Dodgers were hit hard by injuries earlier this year, but now, with Tony Gonsolin recently activated off the injured list to fill their fifth-starter slot, they’re almost whole. The only major absentee is Corey Seager, who is trending towards returning from a broken right hand by early July. The Dodgers are currently navigating a soft spot in their schedule, with games against the Pirates, Rangers, Phillies and Diamondbacks — four teams that entered Wednesday a combined 54 games below .500 — before starting another highly anticipated series against the Padres on June 21. — Gonzalez


Record: 37-25
Previous ranking: 6

Boston bounced back from dropping three of four to the Astros by sweeping the Yankees in New York. The return of Chris Sale from Tommy John surgery looms as the left-hander has started to throw bullpen sessions. Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers rank in the top 3 at their respective positions in fWAR, while Nathan Eovaldi is in the top 10 among MLB starters in the same category — ahead of Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw and Yu Darvish. — Lee


Record: 37-26
Previous ranking: 9

No one player jumps off the page, but the Oakland lineup is packed with steady contributors. The team’s three best hitters so far are Mark Canha, Ramon Laureano and Matt Olson, with strong contributions from Tony Kemp. The team could take a turn for the better if Matt Chapman can pick up his performance at the plate after serving as a lineup anchor the past few seasons. — Lee


Record: 35-26
Previous ranking: 7

We admonished Jose Altuve in this space earlier this season for getting off to a slow start on the heels of his career-worst 2020 season. It wasn’t to rail on him so much as to point out the concerns that go with an undersized second baseman with so much mileage on his tires. Since we did that, we ought to acknowledge that Altuve has gone back to being one of baseball’s best players. Since May 6, he’s hit .331/.418/.545 with eight homers. Now Altuve’s 2020 stat line looks much less like a trend than a strange blip on the radar. — Doolittle


Record: 34-27
Previous ranking: 15

Milwaukee is the beneficiary of a light schedule in June, and the Brewers are taking advantage of it. Their ERA over the past week is tops in the NL and Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta easily give Milwaukee the best starter trio in the division. Though they still struggle to produce consistent damage at the plate, it didn’t stop them from sweeping a four-game series with the Diamondbacks and then keeping that winning streak going in Cincinnati. — Rogers


Record: 35-27
Previous ranking: 8

Some regressions were expected after a strong month of May and complete domination of their opponents at home. It came in the form of a west coast road trip where the Cubs dropped three of four to the San Francisco Giants. But the story of the team right now is 29-year-old Patrick Wisdom. He became the second player in more than 100 years to hit at least eight home runs in his first 10 starts with a team. David Ross rightly said Wisdom is “carrying them.” — Rogers


Record: 30-24
Previous ranking: 10

Marcus Stroman is quietly pitching great in the shadow of Jacob deGrom, with a 2.41 ERA. He sometimes gets overlooked because his 7.5 K’s/9 is not elite in today’s game, but he has the fourth-highest groundball rate among starters and has allowed two runs or fewer in eight of his 12 starts. — Schoenfield


Record: 31-28
Previous ranking: 12

It’s only the second week of June, but any conversation about the American League MVP should start with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. And while Guerrero deserves plenty of praise, don’t overlook the addition of shortstop Marcus Semien, who continues to bounce back from a poor 2020 campaign after signing a one-year deal with Toronto. — Lee


Record: 32-27
Previous ranking: 14

Cleveland cut bait with hard-hitting, underachieving first baseman Jake Bauers this week, designating him for assignment. He could certainly wind up returning if he clears waivers, but it might be time for Bauers to get some new voices in his head. As for Cleveland, the decision means that perennial power prospect Bobby Bradley should get a long look as Terry Francona’s semi-regular first baseman. With a single, two doubles and a homer over his first three games, Bradley already had a third as many total bases (nine) as Bauers did in 43 contests (28). The issue for Bradley, as with so many young hitters these days, is strikeouts. During his last full minor-league season, Bradley struck out in more than a third of his plate appearances for Triple-A Columbus. — Doolittle


Record: 33-29
Previous ranking: 11

There’s a growing sense of panic in New York, with the Yankees offense ranking among the worst in baseball. Few on the team are hitting other than Aaron Judge. After signing a six-year, $90 million contract this offseason, last year’s MLB batting champ, DJ LeMahieu, looks like a league-average second baseman. Certainly not ideal. — Lee


Record: 29-30
Previous ranking: 16

Freddie Freeman‘s .229/.355/.443 line entering Wednesday’s game is far below his MVP numbers of 2020, but according to Statcast measures, he’s been one of the unluckiest hitters in the majors based on his quality of contact, with a wOBA (weighted on-base average) 70 points below his expected wOBA. His expected average and slugging percentage are both in the 90th-plus percentile. Look for more of those hard-hit balls to start falling. — Schoenfield


Record: 32-30
Previous ranking: 13

Sometimes things in baseball are predictable. The Cardinals were motoring along in first place, then got hit with injuries on the mound, and haven’t won since. Jack Flaherty is one of the latest to go down, leaving St. Louis vulnerable at the top of the rotation. Carlos Martinez has been a disaster, and their offense has done virtually nothing to make up for the pitching woes. This is a team in trouble. — Rogers


Record: 29-31
Previous ranking: 18

Going into spring training, one of the biggest questions surrounding the Royals was whether Adalberto Mondesi could build on his big finish to the 2020 season. To refresh your memory: Mondesi hit .356/.408/.667 during 24 September games with six homers and 16 stolen bases. That’s MVP-level performance. The good news is that Mondesi’s performance has kept right on shining, as he’s hit .360 with an 1.080 OPS this season. The bad news is that the big question was the wrong one. We should have been asking if Mondesi is too injury prone to ever reach his potential. Mondesi suffered an oblique injury during spring training, didn’t make his season debut until May 25, put up the above sparkling numbers of nine games, then wound up back on the IL with a hamstring strain. If Kansas City is going to emerge as a surprise postseason contender, Mondesi must figure out a way to stay on the field. — Doolittle


Record: 29-31
Previous ranking: 19

The National League is loaded with pitchers having big seasons, but don’t overlook Zack Wheeler, who has been on a strikeout binge with 44 in 28.2 innings over his past four starts. And note that he went at least seven innings in all four of those outings. His strikeout rate is up from 18.4% last season to easily a career high of 31.1%. — Schoenfield


Record: 29-30
Previous ranking: 22

Whoever said hitting is contagious probably didn’t watch the 2021 Cincinnati Reds. The Reds are a two man show right now. Nick Castellanos and Jesse Winker are dominating, but it hasn’t really rubbed off on the rest of the lineup — though Jonathan India is coming off a good week. Having said all that, the Reds just swept the Cardinals in a four-game road series, so whatever they were doing, it was enough. But do they have any staying power? Remains to be seen. — Rogers


Record: 26-35
Previous ranking: 17

A 1-8 road trip to Boston, Toronto and Pittsburgh has put the Marlins in a deep hole. The record is disappointing given how well Trevor Rogers, Sandy Alcantara and Pablo Lopez have pitched, with a 2.71 combined ERA. Despite that, the Marlins are just 19-19 in games started by those three. — Schoenfield


Record: 31-32
Previous ranking: 24

With Jarred Kelenic 0 for his last 39, the Mariners had little choice but to send him back down to the minors. Chris Davis owns the longest hitless streak for a non-pitcher, going 0-for-54 for the Orioles, but that was over two seasons (2010 -19), as was Eugenio Velez’s 0-for-46 in 2010 -11. According to Elias, the longest in-season streaks are the 0-for-45s from Craig Counsell in 2011, Dave Campbell in 1973 and Bill Bergen in 1909. — Schoenfield


Record: 25-33
Previous ranking: 20

As the Nationals continue to slide out of the race, they’re going to have to put together a big winning stretch in the next three weeks or Mike Rizzo will have to consider unloading talent for the first time in his tenure. Max Scherzer, Brad Hand, Daniel Hudson and Josh Harrison are the free agents with some trade value, or lots of it in Scherzer’s case. Kyle Schwarber has a mutual option for 2022 and hasn’t been hitting better, so he’s a possibility as well. — Schoenfield


Record: 30-32
Previous ranking: 24

Shohei Ohtani continues to dominate — on both sides — and Anthony Rendon might finally be turning the corner, but the most encouraging development for the Angels in recent days is probably Justin Upton, whose bat has come alive since moving into the leadoff spot. In his first 14 games hitting first, Upton batted .327/.410/.769 with 11 extra-base hits, six of them homers. His resurgence is helping the Angels creep back towards .500 as they wait for Mike Trout‘s strained right calf to heal. — Gonzalez


Record: 24-37
Previous ranking: 21

The Twins were 11-19 and already struggling when Byron Buxton last played for them on May 6. Though Buxton was enjoying an MVP-caliber season, Minnesota went 13-17 during its first 30 games without him, a period ending with Tuesday’s loss to the Yankees. That’s better, but not nearly the level of winning the Twins needed to crawl out of their early hole. Buxton, after recovering from the hip injury that put him on the IL, was sent out on a rehab assignment this week, which has gone well. He appears to be on track to rejoin the Twins in the next few days. During his absence, Minnesota’s chances at the postseason dropped from about one-in-three to one-in-10. His return is welcome, but it may already be too late to save the season. — Doolittle


Record: 25-36
Previous ranking: 26

One thing progressive organizations do in baseball in 2021 is turn journeymen into good players through targeted MLB-level development. This is not something that’s been a strength for Detroit over the years, but it is an area in which there was hope for improvement when A.J. Hinch was brought in to manage the club and build a coaching staff. It’s just one player, but the emergence of catcher/outfielder Eric Haase is a good sign that the Tigers are getting better at this process. Haase entered the season with a .122 average over 53 career plate appearances through the age of 27, though he’s been in professional baseball since 2011. This season, Haase had an OPS of 1.014 over his first 78 plate appearances, spurring Hinch to vow to play him as often as possible. — Doolittle


Record: 25-37

Previous ranking: 27

The Rockies are expected to activate Trevor Story off the injured list on Thursday, essentially starting the countdown to his final few weeks with the franchise that drafted him 45th overall 10 years ago. Story was batting only .255/.322/.424 through 50 games until being placed on the shelf with elbow tightness. Within the next seven or so weeks, Story will likely become the second franchise pillar to be traded in less than five months, following in the footsteps of Nolan Arenado. The Rockies have no choice but to trade Story, who will enter a star-studded free-agent class of shortstops over the offseason. This is a mess of their own making. — Gonzalez


Record: 24-39
Previous ranking: 25

The Rangers may be signaling they’re open for trade deadline business after DFA-ing Khris Davis this week. Joey Gallo should draw interest, if you can put up with the strikeouts. He leads the AL in K’s but also in walks. He’s coming off a decent week at the plate where he only struck out twice while producing a 1.250 OPS. — Rogers


Record: 23-37
Previous ranking: 29

First, they botch an easy out at first base on the Javy Baez play, and now, Ke’Bryan Hayes misses first base on a home run. What else could go wrong for Pittsburgh? The Pirates will go into trading season ready to deal as the rebuild continues. — Rogers


Record: 22-39
Previous ranking: 30

Cedric Mullins is performing on another level. The Orioles outfielder, who reached base in 11 consecutive plate appearances over the weekend, currently leads all American League batters in hits. With John Means landing on the injured list with a shoulder strain, Mullins is at least one reason left to tune in to Orioles games. — Lee


Record: 20-43
Previous ranking: 28

The D-backs will undoubtedly need to unload players before the end of July. The question is: How aggressively will they do so? Pending free agents such as Eduardo Escobar, Asdrubal Cabrera and Josh Reddick can certainly be had. But what about someone like Carson Kelly, who has emerged as one of the game’s best young catchers? Or a young starter like Zac Gallen, assuming he returns relatively soon from a sprained elbow? Or Ketel Marte, who is signed to a very team-friendly contract? Given the state of the NL West, where the Dodgers, Padres and Giants all loom as long-term threats, would the D-backs go into a full-scale rebuild? Given their talent-rich farm system, that rebuild might not take so long. — Gonzalez

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San Diego Padres’ Yu Darvish honors former Chicago Cubs teammate Anthony Rizzo with walk-up song

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Yu Darvish‘s name was announced at Petco Park to begin the bottom of the third inning on Wednesday afternoon, and “Intoxicated,” a popular house song by Martin Solveig and GTA, blared over the speakers.

Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who famously uses that song as his walk-up music, threw his arms up in the air in mock disgust. Darvish, the former Cubs starter in his first season with the San Diego Padres, cracked a big smile as he approached the batter’s box.

Darvish, making his first start against the Cubs since an offseason trade, wasn’t trolling Rizzo.

He was paying homage.

“I used that song because it was Rizzo who kind of took care of me when things weren’t really working my way in Chicago,” Darvish said through his interpreter after the Padres’ 3-1 loss. “It was, in a way, to say ‘thank you’ to him. And obviously I have a good relationship with him.”

Darvish continued his remarkable season in the rematch against his former team, allowing only two runs over seven innings to put his ERA at 2.28 through his first 13 starts with his new team. But the Padres, collectively struggling offensively in recent weeks, lost for the 10th time in their last 17 games.

Darvish, 34, finished second in National League Cy Young Award voting last year and has been among the game’s best pitchers since the start of the 2020 season, going 14-5 with a 2.15 ERA, 185 strikeouts and only 33 walks in 155 innings.

Darvish’s time with the Cubs got off to a rough start. He joined them on a six-year, $126 million contract in February of 2018 and was limited to only eight starts that season. But he turned it around in 2019, posting a 3.98 ERA in 178 2/3 innings, then reached another level in the pandemic-shortened season.

“Looking back, I had some ups and downs in Chicago,” Darvish said. “Good times and bad times, looking in retrospect. But what I find is that the fans, the organization, and even the media members there — I had tremendous amount of support to get through my years there. So there’s a sense of, I guess, gratefulness there.”

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