UP: Colorado Rockies
The Rockies had their eight-game winning streak snapped on Sunday, but they still share the best record in the big leagues (13-5) with the Atlanta Braves, and weather permitting, the two teams will open a three-game series at Coors Field on Monday night. Colorado has been in first place for 15 days. Big deal? Well the Rockies never even had a winning record last year after the first game of the season, and they hadn't been atop the National League West since May 17, 2011. While Colorado's offense continues to grab headlines -- leading the Majors with a .282 average and 5.8 runs per game, and tops in the NL with 16 stolen bases -- the rotation has been the key. The club's starters have 11 quality starts in 18 games (they only had 27 all last season). Jorge De La Rosa has a streak of 17 consecutive scoreless innings and is coming off back-to-back starts of six shutout innings. A Rockies starter managed six shutout innings just once last year. There is, however, one word of caution. Jhoulys Chacin, the ace of the staff, will miss at least two starts because of muscle spasms in his back.
DOWN: Atlanta Braves
After winning 12 of their first 13 games, the Braves have lost four of five, including the last three in Pittsburgh, where the Pirates have rebounded from a 1-5 start (six runs) to win nine of the last 12 (62 runs). During their recent skid, the Braves have gone 3-for-24 with runners in scoring position, hit .207 and scored nine runs, six of them in the lone victory. Atlanta was shut out in its first three losses of the season, the first time that has happened to the franchise since the 1909 Boston Doves, according to Elias Sports Bureau. The Braves have homered in every game they have won and failed to hit a home run in every loss during the first 18 games of the season, one game shy of the NL record. The 1979 New York Mets, 1909 St. Louis Cardinals and 1877 Cincinnati Red Stockings all went 19 games with a home run in wins and no home runs in losses, according to Stats, Inc. Will Atlanta find a cure to what ails the club in Colorado? The Braves have dominated the Rockies since Colorado joined the NL in 1993 (104-60), but they are only 36-35 at Coors Field.
UP: New York Yankees
Derek Jeter received word on Thursday that there is another fracture in his left ankle, and now his return from the disabled list has been pushed back to the All-Star break, at the soonest. The Yankees, however, didn't blink. After some early struggles, the Yanks have learned to deal without the injured quartet of Jeter, Mark Teixeira (torn tendon right wrist), Alex Rodriguez (hip) and Curtis Granderson (broken right forearm) thanks to the replacement parts, and they have now won nine of 12 to surge second in the American League East. While Robinson Cano has taken charge (.369, five home runs, 13 RBIs in the 12 games), the new guys in town have done their job, too, including Vernon Wells (.327, three home runs), Travis Hafner (.323, four home runs, eight RBIs) and Kevin Youkilis (seven RBIs). Having served a reminder on upstart Toronto by winning two of three at Rogers Centre over the weekend, the Yankees now visit the Rays at Tropicana Field for three games before opening a 10-game homestand.
DOWN: Los Angeles Dodgers
About the rotation depth that led the Dodgers to pick up $4.25 million of Aaron Harang's salary and also take on the $3.25 million of catcher Ramon Hernandez to move Harang: Chad Billingsley became the fourth Dodgers starter on the disabled list last week, when he was sidelined again with right elbow problems. Billinglsey, who declined the idea of Tommy John surgery during the offseason, will be reexamined this week. He joins Zack Greinke (broken left collarbone), Ted Lilly (left shoulder surgery) and Chris Capuano (left calf strain) as observes to their club's recent slide. Los Angeles has lost six of its last seven, including being swept at home last week by San Diego and then losing two of three at Baltimore. The Dodgers were outscored, 40-20, in the seven games, and the rotation was 0-4 with a 6.39 ERA.
UP: Milwaukee Brewers
Something is brewing in Milwaukee, where the Brewers have rebounded from a 2-8 start to put together a seven-game winning streak that included sweeps of San Francisco and the Cubs. Ryan Braun is in a 5-for-32 funk, but four of those five hits have been home runs, and he has driven in 10 runs during the winning streak. Hiram Burgos, who a year ago was pitching at the High Class A level, provided a solid effort in the fifth slot of the rotation with five innings of one-run ball in his big league debut on Saturday, and the bullpen has settled down. John Axford, displaced as the closer, worked 3 1/3 shutout innings in four appearances during the winning streak, and his replacement in the closer role -- Jim Henderson -- has made good on all four of his save opportunities. Now the Brewers hit the road for three-game visits to San Diego and Los Angeles, the bottom feeders in the NL West.
DOWN: Chicago White Sox
Hey, at least Adam Dunn homered in the seventh inning of Sunday's loss to Minnesota, the White Sox's ninth loss in 12 games. It snapped an 0-for-31 stretch, in which he struck out 14 times. Counted on to be a big-time run producer, Dunn's stumble has played a part in the White Sox's inability to win any of their last four series. They have scored 39 runs in the 12 games, and Dunn is 2-for-41 in that stretch, including 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position. He has driven in three runs in the 12 games while striking out 17 times. Paul Konerko has been the offensive bright spot, with 10 RBIs in those 12 games. Starters Gavin Floyd and Chris Sale have struggled during the slide, though Sale's stats were bloated by a 4 1/3-inning start at Cleveland on April 13, in which he allowed eight runs.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less