Cast your Esurance All-Star ballot for #ASGWorthy players
The Blue Jays will play Boston again in two weeks, but in between, they'll play 13 games against teams with records of .500 or better: four with the Mets, three with the Orioles, three with the Rays and three with the Rangers.
The end of that stretch could provide some answers as to how the AL East may shake out as we near the All-Star break. It wasn't long ago that the division lacked an abundance of over-.500 teams. Now, everyone except Boston has no worse than a break-even record. The fourth-place Orioles, at 31-31, have won eight of 10 and are only three games behind the division-leading Yankees.
Blue Jays. They jumped a whopping seven spots, from 16 to nine, and deservedly so. Remember that one time, a while back, when they lost the first game of a doubleheader to the Nationals? That was June 2, and they haven't lost since. Eleven straight, including sweeps of the Astros, Marlins and Red Sox. In doing so, they've moved to four games over .500 and within one game of the first-place Yankees and Rays.
Twins and Indians. Each dropped six spots. The Twins went from nine to 15, and the Tribe from 13 to 19. The Twins are still in good position with a 34-28 record and second-place positioning in the AL Central, but they had a bad week, being swept by the Royals and losing two of three to the Rangers. The Indians, also members of the once-powerful, but suddenly vulnerable AL Central, benefit from a mediocre June performance from just about every team in the division. The Tribe is four games under .500, but only 6 1/2 behind the first-place Royals, which, with more than half the season remaining, is hardly insurmountable.
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Their rotation, bullpen and lineup have taken punch after punch, yet the deep Cardinals' first-place spot in the NL Central hasn't even come close to being threatened. In fact, they have the best record in baseball by five full games. This is while living without Adam Wainwright, Matt Holliday, Matt Adams, and, most recently, Lance Lynn (although he's expected back soon). The best teams are those deepest in pitching, and the Cardinals reign supreme in that area.
They're not good when playing the two teams that they are probably going to have to get through if they want the NL pennant -- the Giants and the Cardinals -- but they're holding their own against most other teams they play. Of the Dodgers' 13 most recent losses, eight have been against San Francisco and St. Louis. Otherwise, they have had few issues against teams in their own division, and they sit 11 games over .500 heading into a home-and-home two-game series with the surging Rangers.
They're getting more attention nationally for dominating All-Star voting at nearly every position than they are for anything they're actually doing on the field, but it should be noted they're still doing just fine there, too. They haven't been dominant in June by any stretch, posting a 5-6 record so far this month, but they've managed to stay mostly healthy and effective with their pitching. In a suddenly troubled AL Central, that's plenty to stay on top.
Didn't we all know the Pirates would eventually get their act together and push their way into the NL Central race? They've won 17 of their last 22 and are a mere six games behind St. Louis, and 10 of their next 13 games are against teams below .500 (White Sox, Braves, Reds). Gerrit Cole, carrying the highest of expectations from observers entering this season, recently became the first pitcher in MLB to 10 wins, beating the Phillies to improve to 10-2 and lower his MLB-best ERA to 1.71.
They bounced back from a seven-game losing streak to take two of three from the Mariners in one of the more bizarre series in recent memory. They scored eight runs in the first inning of the first game, a 10-0 win, then allowed eight runs in the first three innings the next day in an 8-1 loss. They won the final game, 13-0, behind five no-hit innings from Lance McCullers. The big news of the week was the promotion of 20-year-old Carlos Correa, who hit two home runs in his first four games.
6. Yankees (6); 7. Cubs (11); 8. Giants (7); 9. Blue Jays (16); 10. Rangers (10); 11. Nationals (8); 12. Rays (14); 13. Mets (15); 14. Tigers (12); 15. Twins (9); 16. Angels (8); 17. Orioles (NR); 18. Padres (17); 19. Indians (13); 20. D-backs (NR)