August 20, 2013
1. Dodgers (2): They were 30-42 on June 21. Do the math. Hanley Ramirez, Yasiel Puig and the big-money lineup tend to get the attention, but they're winning mostly with pitching, holding opponents to 2.9 runs per game since the All-Star break.
2. Tigers (1): Survived a tough week by going 4-4 against the Royals and White Sox. Max Scherzer's win on Sunday made him 18-1, matching Elroy Face (1959) for the best winning percentage in a season.
3. Braves (3): Tyler Pastornicky's blown-out left knee is an untimely injury with Dan Uggla out after Lasik surgery on his eyes. GM Frank Wren is looking for a short-term second baseman.
4. Red Sox (5): Tough loss for Jake Peavy on Friday against Mark Buehrle. Jon Lester and Peavy flew to San Francisco ahead of the team to be rested for their starts against the Giants.
5. Pirates (4): Clint Hurdle's team brought the Cardinals and Reds back into the NL Central race by losing seven of nine against the Diamondbacks, Cardinals and Rockies. Played 15 extra innings in three tough losses last week.
6. Rangers (6): Yu Darvish's remarkable season continues. But could he tire, as he did in 2012? He made his fourth 120-pitch start Sunday, matching C.J. Wilson for the most in the majors.
7. Reds (7): Like the Braves, this is a very balanced team that won't be fun to face in the playoffs. Johnny Cueto, slow to regain his strength after straining a lat muscle, isn't expected back for at least two more weeks, probably longer.
8. Cardinals (11): Yadier Molina's return made a big difference in their weekend series with the Cubs.
9. Rays (9): Rookie Wil Myers was hitting .311 with nine homers and 37 RBIs in 50 games entering the series in Baltimore, and his numbers have been even better in the second half. They bounced back from a six-game losing streak by winning four of five.
10. Orioles (8): Closer Jim Johnson has a majors-high nine blown saves, two more than Fernando Rodney and the Cubs' James Russell. The Orioles are 1-8 when Johnson blows a save. They would be on almost equal footing with the Red Sox if they had won four of those games.
11. Diamondbacks (13): Paul Goldschmidt is going to finish high in NL MVP voting.
12. Athletics (12): Switch hitter Alberto Callaspo has been a nice addition, even if a lot of analysts like the Angels' end of the trade. For all the hype, Grant Green hasn't shown he can hit big-league pitching.
13. Royals (10): Monday's off day followed stretch of 21 games in 20 days. Ned Yost loves how his team has gone 19-8 since July 23, climbing into the fringe of the AL wild-card race.
14. Yankees (15): Ichiro Suzuki has 3,997 hits between Japan and the big leagues.
15. Indians (14): Not the same threat since they got swept in a four-game series by the Tigers.
16. Nationals (18): Stephen Strasburg's ejection for throwing behind Andrelton Simmons is another low point in a season full of them.
17. Giants (20): Brandon Belt's second half will be one reason for Bruce Bochy to be optimistic when 2014 arrives.
18. Blue Jays (16): Josh Johnson, sidelined with a 2-8 record and 6.20 ERA, will be an interesting free agent in the offseason. He's the kind of guy the Cubs could pursue on a one-year deal to allow him to restore his value.
19. Mets (17): Matt Harvey is slowing down, but just a little. His 1711/3 innings are a career high. He projects to 227 innings, but there's no good reason to extend him much beyond 200.
20. Angels (19): Dropped two of three to the Astros. The time is coming when owner Arte Moreno will have to choose between Mike Scioscia and GM Jerry Dipoto. Status quo doesn't look like a good option.
21. Rockies (22): Even in decline, Todd Helton is a .318 career hitter, fifth among active hitters.
22. Brewers (23): Yovani Gallardo's 61/3 scoreless innings against the Reds is a good sign.
23. Mariners (24): Playing .500 baseball since the All-Star break. They may have to do a little better to save GM Jack Zduriencik, who has been under pressure as they head toward a fourth consecutive losing season.
24. Twins (21): The 5.09 ERA from starting pitchers remains the worst in baseball. Imagine if Target Field wasn't a pitcher's park.
25. White Sox (27): Chris Sale just keeps rolling. He'll take three wins in a row into his start against the Rangers on Friday night.
26. Phillies (25): Ryne Sandberg has his team. But does he have a chance?
27. Padres (28): Will Venable has a 1.076 OPS in 100 at-bats since the All-Star break. That's the kind of production the Padres might have expected from Chase Headley, whose second-half OPS is .713.
28. Marlins (29): After a 30-24 stretch ended Aug. 2, they're back to their losing ways.
29. Cubs (26): Anthony Rizzo has been on the Mendoza Line since the All-Star break, dropping his season average from .241 to .230 through Sunday.
30. Astros (30): On pace for a 57-105 season at the All-Star break, they've beenbeaten up worse since.
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