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Wait, we’re already 12 weeks into the MLB season?
Time is flying by, and the All-Star Game is now right around the corner as we close in on the midway point of the 2019 campaign.
As teams continue to jockey for position at the top of our weekly MLB power rankings, the more compelling movement is taking place in the middle of the pack. Those are the teams that will have big decisions to make about whether to buy or sell at the deadline, and their play over the next few weeks will go a long way toward determining their ultimate answers.
It’s important to remember these rankings are a fluid process. Teams will rise and fall based on where they were ranked the previous week. If a team keeps winning, it will keep climbing—it’s as simple as that.
Here are the rankings:
Teams That Impressed
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The Atlanta Braves (6-1) had an eight-game winning streak snapped Saturday, but they bounced back to take their third straight series with a 15-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday. All told, they are 12-3 in the month of June with a plus-39 run differential.
On Saturday, Dallas Keuchel made his second minor league start since signing a prorated one-year, $20 million deal June 7. He allowed 11 hits and three earned runs in seven innings, throwing 106 pitches. It shouldn’t be long before he gives the rotation a major boost, despite the so-so game.
The Colorado Rockies (4-3) continue to play good baseball after a disappointing 20-25 start to the year. They have now won five of their last eight series, and they split a four-game set with the San Diego Padres over the weekend.
During that span, they went from four games under .500 to three games over .500, and a series win over the Chicago Cubs last week is enough to vault them into the top 10.
Sticking in the National League, the St. Louis Cardinals (5-2) were the only other contending team to record a pair of series wins last week, albeit against a pair of sub-.500 clubs in the Miami Marlins and New York Mets.
It’s been a roller-coaster season for the Cardinals. They followed up an 18-7 month of April with a 9-18 month of May, and while last week’s performance improved their record to 8-6 so far this month, it has come with a minus-three run differential.
Tip of the cap to the San Francisco Giants (4-1), who are the only other team that came away with a pair of series wins last week, including taking two of three from a good Milwaukee Brewers club over the weekend.
The Cleveland Indians (4-1) and Boston Red Sox (5-2) both turned in weekend series sweeps after splitting their respective series to begin the week.
Teams That Disappointed
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The Chicago Cubs (2-5) did not enjoy their recent trip out West, with series losses to the Rockies and Los Angeles Dodgers. Luckily, they now head back to Wrigley Field for a 10-game homestand that will kick off Tuesday against the crosstown-rival Chicago White Sox.
Winning away from home has been an issue all season for the Cubs, who are now 15-21 on the road despite a plus-14 run differential in those games.
It was also a tough week for the Philadelphia Phillies (2-4), who suffered series losses to the Arizona Diamondbacks and Braves.
Since entering the month of June with a three-game lead in the NL East, the Phillies have limped along to a 6-8 record with a minus-24 run differential this month to slip to 2.5 games back.
Those were the only two teams beyond the Miami Marlins (2-4), Detroit Tigers (1-5) and Baltimore Orioles (1-5) to lose both of their series last week.
Players of the Week
AL Hitter: Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels
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Stats: 9-for-20, 1 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 6 R, 2 SB
Shohei Ohtani returned to action for the Los Angeles Angels on May 7 after missing the first 34 games of the season while he continued to recover from Tommy John surgery.
He was slow out of the gates, hitting .250 with a .692 OPS and three home runs in 91 plate appearances during the month of May. The 24-year-old seems to be hitting his stride now, though, and he made history last week.
Against the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday, he went 4-for-4 with three RBI and hit for the cycle, becoming the first Japanese-born player to accomplish the feat, according to Dawn Klemish of MLB.com.
“I’m simply very happy that I was able to accomplish this,” Ohtani told reporters. “There have been so many other great Japanese players that have come before me. Being the first one to accomplish it, I’m really happy, and it’s going to lead to a lot of confidence down the road.”
He was also just the eighth player in Angels history to hit for the cycle, and the first since Mike Trout on May 21, 2013.
After his slow first month, he is hitting .321/.383/.679 with five home runs and 14 RBI in 14 games so far in June.
AL Pitcher: Trevor Bauer, Cleveland Indians
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Stats: 2 GS, W, ND, 16.2 IP, 10 H, 1 ER, 5 BB, 14 K
When he has his full repertoire of pitches working, Trevor Bauer can be as unhittable as any pitcher in baseball.
It’s somewhat surprising then that it took him until the 166th start of his MLB career before he threw his first shutout.
Facing off against the Detroit Tigers on Sunday, Bauer scattered four hits and didn’t allow a walk while striking out eight in an 8-0 victory. He needed 117 pitches to complete the shutout.
“Any time you go out there and throw nine innings and don’t give up any runs, you’re doing a lot of things right,” Indians manager Terry Francona told reporters. “Early in the game, he pitched around that leadoff triple. At that time, it was a 1-0 game. From there, we got him some runs, and he really settled in.”
Bauer also logged a quality start against the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday, allowing six hits and one earned run over 7.2 innings in a no-decision.
He lowered his 2019 ERA from 3.93 to 3.41 in the span of a two-start week.
NL Hitter: Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies
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Stats: 21-for-37, 4 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR, 15 RBI, 12 R
That’s not a typo. Charlie Blackmon really did have 21 hits last week.
He rattled off three consecutive four-hit games before managing only three hits Sunday, and no one on the planet is swinging a hotter bat right now.
“It’s a great feat,” Rockies manager Bud Black told reporters. “It shows the type of player Charlie is, the type of hitter he is. It’s hard to get one or two hits a game, and here he is getting four three nights in a row. It’s pretty special stuff.”
He hasn’t been just slapping singles the other way, either.
After homering Monday and Tuesday, he went deep twice Thursday and cleared the fences again Friday and Sunday.
The 32-year-old now ranks among the NL leaders in batting average (.336, fourth), OPS (1.037, fifth), hits (82, ninth), doubles (17, 15th), home runs (16, 18th), RBI (47, 16th), runs scored (49, 10th) and total bases (159, eighth).
NL Pitcher: Zack Greinke, Arizona Diamondbacks
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Stats: 1 GS, W, 7.1 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K
Zack Greinke took a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the Washington Nationals on Thursday before speedy Trea Turner spoiled things with an infield single.
He shrugged off the inevitable questions in classic Greinke fashion after the game.
“It’d probably be more of a hassle than anything,” Greinke told reporters on the idea of throwing a no-hitter. “Just [like] the Sports Illustrated article. A bunch of nonsense comes with it. I don’t think about no-hitters, ever.”
While he may not have a no-hitter on his resume, the 35-year-old has tallied 16 complete games and five shutouts in his career.
He’s also in the midst of another excellent season with a 2.65 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and 85-to-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 95 innings.
With two years and a hefty $70 million left on his contract after this season, it will be interesting to see what sort of market Greinke draws this summer. That is provided the D-backs, who have been hovering around .500 for most of the season, decide to shop him.
Must-See Upcoming Matchup
Houston Astros vs. New York Yankees (Thursday-Sunday)
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The Astros and Yankees are both capable of putting a crooked number on the scoreboard at any time.
Houston is averaging a healthy 5.2 runs per game while ranking among the MLB leaders in batting average (.267, third), OPS (.816, second) and home runs (116, fourth).
The Yankees have plated 5.4 runs per contest despite myriad injuries, and this coming week they will have recently acquired Edwin Encarnacion and recently healthy Giancarlo Stanton around to make a dangerous lineup even better.
The two teams have met once already this season, with the Astros pulling off a three-game sweep at home near the beginning of April. While that means they won’t face off at all in the second half, it’s not out of the question to think this could be an early preview of the ALCS.
The No. 1 spot in next week’s rankings could hinge on the outcome of this series.