We have two baseball games tonight with the implementation of the second Wild Card. The Braves and Cardinals are about to meet in Atlanta with the winner set to face the Washington Nationals. Kyle Lohse pitches against Kris Medlen. The Cardinals finished the season at 88-74 while the Braves went 94-68.
I wouldnít normally root for the Braves but Iíve seen the Cardinals win two World Series since 2006 so Iím hoping Atlanta wins tonight. As much as Chipper Jones has tortured Mets fans over the years, we respect the guy and it would be pretty cool to see him have one last run.
Kevin Liles/US PRESSWIRE
The American League game starts later tonight with the Baltimore Orioles traveling to Texas to take on the Rangers. If not for the second Wild Card, the Rangers would have accomplished one of the biggest late season collapses in history. They blew a five game lead to the Aís with nine games left.
The Orioles are by far the hotter team coming into tonight but the pitching matchup favors the Rangers. Rookie Yu Darvish gets the ball tonight opposite Joe Saunders. Darvish went 16-9 this season with a 3.90 ERA. He also fanned 221 batters.
Saunders finished the season with a 9-13 record with a 4.07 ERA. The scary part for the Orioles is that Saunders has the second-worst ERA of any active pitcher at Rangers Ballpark according to ESPN Stats and Information. Batters hit .281 against him this year.
The winner of tonightís game will stay home and welcome in the New York Yankees.
Another week brings another top 5. This week's list looks very similar to the one posted last week; the only change coming at the 5th and final spot. As the weather's been warming, so have some teams.
The talk of the week surrounds the Boston Red Sox. They have turned up their level of play and are sitting right at the .500 mark. Though they do not quite make my list this week, there is no denying their talent and the fact that they will be frequenting these posts in the near future.
Another team that has been playing well of late is the Florida Marlins. They are 8-2 over their last 10 games and are pressing the Phillies in the NL East. However even with this recent success, there are still doubts about how consistent this young group will be. They have only played 6 games against teams .500 or better so far this year. This next week they have a chance to prove themselves as they face off against the Dodgers, Reds and Cardinals.
The Phillies remain at the top of the list this week. A late comeback in the series finale against the Brew Crew last week propelled the Phils to a 5 game winning streak. This run ended last night as Ian Kennedy outpitched Cliff Lee. The bats have cooled as of late as the team is averaging only 2.5 runs per game over their last 10, but even so the team went 6-4 over that stretch because of its dominant pitching staff. One thing to watch over this next week will be how Philadelphia handles the loss of closer Jose Contreras.
How will the loss of Contreras impact the Phils pen?
New York Yankees
The Yankees find themselves in the number 2 spot and the current leaders of the AL Beast. Up until Monday night, offense was king in New York. Before last night, the team was averaging 6.5 runs a game over its past 9. While this lineup will cause many opposing pitchers and managers to lose sleep, their rotation is still filled with question marks. Phil Hughes had another setback and the Yankees are now counting on Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia to provide consistent innings. As long as they can get some contribution from their starters, New York will look to the lineup to continue its winning ways.
Sitting at 15-7, the Rockies are tied with the Phillies for the best record in baseball. They've had early success, but several things jump out at me as I look through their stats. The Rockies are 5th in the league in runs scored, but they are only 24th in team batting average. This tells me a lot of their runs are being scored thanks to timely hitting which usually levels out during a season. The team has also won a lot of close games, 9 of their 15 wins have been by 2 runs or less. While teams can only play who is on their schedule, the Rockies have only faced teams .500 or better 8 times, going 4-4 in those contests. I'm not trying to say this start is a fluke, but I don't think this team is the 2nd best in baseball as their record shows.
Tulowitzki leads the Rockies offense
Texas finds itself in the four hole in this week's top 5. The Rangers lost 3 consecutive series before getting healthy against the Kansas City Royals. In that series, the Ranger's lineup found their bats, scoring 22 runs in the 3 games. While its offense has become Texas's trademark, the pitchers have been able to maintain a respectable 3.71 ERA. The Rangers look to continue their recent success against the Blue Jays before setting off on a west coast road trip against the A's and Mariners.
St. Louis Cardinals
For the 2nd week in a row I had to ponder over the list's 5th spot. I debated between the hot Red Sox and the young Marlins, but I eventually decided to go with the Cardinals. St. Louis's 2011 season got off to a rough start, but they have recovered in recent weeks and currently stand at 12-10. After taking a series against their rival Cincinnati Reds, the Cardinals have climbed back to the top of the NL Central. The Cardinals have been on fire since the return of slugger Matt Holliday who is a big reason the team leads the league in batting average and OBP. What I like most about St. Louis is the balanced success of their batters and pitchers; the team ERA sits at 3.19. It probably pains Cardinal's fans to think of the possibilities if Adam Wainwright was holding down a spot in their already solid rotation.
There was a little reshuffling in my top 5 this week, with one team dropping off the list. The 4 that remain from last week change slots, and the World Series champs make the cut for this week's top 5. It's still very early and there are some other teams with solid records, but it's hard to compare wins and losses when teams are still rounding into regular season form. With that I felt like I had a little explaining to do with my choices.
The Cleveland Indians share the best record in baseball with the Colorado Rockies, but the Indians did not make the cut. They only have played in one full series against a team playing at least .500 baseball and they lost that series to the Angels. Their pitching has been lights out but it's still too early for me to tell if this streak is due to scheduling or a legitimate turnaround. Two other teams that I seriously looked at for spots on the list were the LA Angels and Cincinnati Reds; maybe next week guys.
The Phils look forward to Utley's return
The top team was not as clear this week as last, but I have to choose one and I'm going with the one that has four aces. The Phillies finished up their NL East tour with the Marlins this weekend, splitting a rain shortened set against Florida. They took the tough loss Monday in extras against Milwaukee; the Brewers taking advantage of the Phillies starting someone not named Cliff, Roy or Cole. There have been positive Chase Utley sightings and people are getting more optimistic about his return. The big question mark going forward for the Phillies will be their bullpen.
The Rockies are currently sharing the best record in baseball with the Cleveland Indians. They are 8-2 over their last 10 games and had a great week last week. They went into New York and swept the Mets and then took 2 of three from the Cubs. Monday night they ran into the wall that is Tim Lincecum. The Rockies have been lead by their bats, but their pitching looks to get a boost Tuesday night with the return of Ubaldo Jimenez. Colorado will look to get back on the winning track against San Fran before heading to Florida and Chicago next week for three game sets against the Marlins and Cubbies.
The Rangers have been reeling since Hamilton's injury
The Rangers were my number 1 team last week after a 9-1 start. Last Tuesday Texas was faced with the unfortunate news that MVP Josh Hamilton would be missing considerable time due to a broken arm. The Rangers have been on a slide since that game Hamilton went down, going 2-4 over their last 6. They ended up losing series to the Tigers and Yankees last week. CJ Wilson was able to right the ship for a night against the Ranger's AL West foes the Angels. Hamilton is not someone that is replaced, but I think the Rangers have the depth to work around his injury for the time being. They play their best ball at home (7-0) and welcome the Angels, Royals and Blue Jays in over the next week.
New York Yankees
The Yankees just made my list last week and were able to move up a spot after a 2 game sweep of the Orioles and series win versus the Rangers. New York found out that it is losing Phil Hughes for some time, but that may be more of a blessing with Hughes' 13.94 ERA. Nonetheless, he was slotting in as their 3rd starter, so the questions marks are still following this Yankee rotation. The hitting has been there, but if this team looks to improve they are going to need more consistency from their starters.
San Francisco Giants
Cain and Lincecum lead the Giants
The Champs are here. San Francisco comes in at number 5 for me this week. They had a solid past week, taking series from the Dodgers and Diamondbacks. They started off this week on a good note, with their ace almost no-hitting the leaders of their division. Cain and Lincecum have started the year pitching lights out and Jonathan Sanchez has had a good early showing. While their pitching has been the story, the bats are also carrying their weight. The Giants have a bit of a tough stretch coming up as they finish their series against the Rockies and then head home and welcome in the Atlanta Braves. With Lincecum and Cain sitting at the top of the rotation, the Giants should hang around the top all season.
Monday brought its share of dominant pitching performances. Yesterday alone, seven pitchers went at least 7 innings and gave up no more than 1 earned run. This stat isn't even including the Pirate's Kevin Correia who threw a complete game against the Reds, only surrendering 2 earned runs.
Red Sox find hope in Monday's outing
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The Rangers suffered a blow yesterday when last year's MVP Josh Hamilton suffered a broken arm in the team's loss to the Detroit Tigers. The slugger didn't make it out of the first inning before sustaining the injury. Hamilton is expected to miss 8 weeks with a small fracture in his upper right arm. The play has received national attention not only because Hamilton is a recognizable figure but because of the situation that ultimately caused the injury.
Hamilton came to the plate in the first and connected off Brad Penny for an RBI triple. He slid headfirst into third and initially some thought he may have injured his arm on this play. With one out Adrian Beltre hit a lazy pop up in foul ground in front of third base. Third base coach Dave Anderson noticed that catcher Victor Martinez had left home to make a play on the ball and pitcher Brad Penny failed to cover the plate. As the ball was in the air he was telling Hamilton, "Nobody's at home, nobody's at home". Hamilton stated after the game that he went against his gut trying to tag up, but that he was simply listening to his coach
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It's certainly hard to have any kind of rankings this early in the year but I'll do my best to try and determine who looks to be the best of MLB. The top two spots are locks right now with Texas and the Phillies. After that things get a little fuzzier. This early in the year it's more common to find unlikely teams like Minnesota, Atlanta, St. Louis and San Francisco on the bottom, so it's hard to truly gauge the top teams. Here are my current top 5 of the MLB.
1. Texas Rangers
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Four big names made the headlines today for injury related issues. One had good news of a return while it appears the other three will be missing some time.
Adam Dunn will be in the starting tonight for the Chicago White Sox. Dunn missed the last few games after undergoing an emergency appendectomy. The White Sox were taking it slow with their slugger and have decided that tonight he is back to full go. The team welcomes the power hitter back to an already solid lineup
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