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The 2019 MLB season is now roughly three-quarters of the way finished, and there is still much to be decided before the postseason begins.
The AL Central and NL Central races both look like they will come down to the wire, while there are no fewer than 12 teams within five games of a wild-card berth.
All this should make for an exciting final month-and-a-half. For now, it’s time for an updated look at where all 30 teams stack up.
These rankings remain fluid. 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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After trailing by as many as 11 games in the middle of June, the Cleveland Indians (5-2) have now pulled dead even with the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central.
Since the beginning of July, they’ve gone 26-9—with a staggering plus-86 run differential—and taking three of four from the Twins over the weekend finally closed the gap in the division.
As hoped, Yasiel Puig has provided a major spark offensively, hitting .357/.413/.571 with six extra-base hits in 46 plate appearances since joining the team at the trade deadline. Third baseman Jose Ramirez has also picked up his production after a dismal first half, hitting .328/.354/.681 with 15 doubles and nine home runs since the All-Star break.
On the NL side of things, the New York Mets (6-1) are officially a top-10 team after sitting as low as the No. 23 spot in our final rankings prior to the trade deadline.
With a four-game sweep of the Miami Marlins and a series win over the Washington Nationals last week, the Mets are now 9-2 in August. They had an eight-game winning streak snapped Sunday.
J.D. Davis has quietly hit .380/.446/.658 with 12 extra-base hits in 92 plate appearances since the All-Star break, as he’s been one of the best under-the-radar pickups of the offseason.
In a week where a number of fringe contenders slipped, the Milwaukee Brewers (5-1) picked up a pair of series wins with a sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates and a besting of the Texas Rangers.
That leaves them a half-game behind the St. Louis Cardinals and a full game behind the Washington Nationals in the wild-card standings.
Adrian Houser (1 GS, 6.0 IP, 1 ER), Jordan Lyles (2 GS, 12.0 IP, 2 ER), Gio Gonzalez (1 GS, 5.0 IP, 1 ER) and Chase Anderson (1 GS, 5.2 IP, 2 ER) all pitched well last week, and that patchwork rotation will need to keep it up.
The Houston Astros (4-1) and Los Angeles Dodgers (5-1) were the only other teams to win both series last week, as that duo maintained its stranglehold on the top two spots in the rankings.
Teams That Disappointed
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The Minnesota Twins (2-5) have some work to do now if they hope to win their first division title since 2010. The hard-charging Indians have pulled into a tie atop the AL Central standings, and the Twins are now 5-6 in August.
Starting pitching has been the biggest issue for much of the second half, and that was the case again last week, with Martin Perez (1 GS, 6.0 IP, 6 ER), Jose Berrios (2 GS, 11.2 IP, 12 ER), Kyle Gibson (1 GS, 4.1 IP, 5 ER) and Devin Smeltzer (1 GS, 4.1 IP, 6 ER) all shelled.
Since the All-Star break, the Twins rank 17th in the majors with a 4.69 ERA, and that spikes to 5.29 (20th in MLB) since the beginning of August.
For a team on the fringe of contention, back-to-back series losses can be a dagger, especially when both series are against teams that are also on the wild-card bubble.
That’s what happened to the Philadelphia Phillies (2-5) last week when they dropped series to the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Francisco Giants.
With so much money invested in this year’s team, the Philadelphia front office had no choice but to charge forward at the trade deadline. Unfortunately, this has looked like a flawed club for much of the year, and they have now slipped to fourth in the division standings.
The Texas Rangers (2-4), Colorado Rockies (1-5), Pittsburgh Pirates (0-6) and Baltimore Orioles (1-5) were the other teams to drop both series last week.
What in the world is going on in Pittsburgh?
The Pirates have not won back-to-back games since July 7, posting an unfathomably bad 4-24 record with a negative-64 run differential since.
Players of the Week
AL Hitter: Mike Tauchman, New York Yankees
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Stats: 10-for-24, 2 2B, 5 HR, 10 RBI, 7 R
The Yankees acquired Mike Tauchman from the Colorado Rockies days before the start of the regular season in exchange for minor league lefty Phillip Diehl.
In limited MLB action the previous two seasons, Tauchman went a forgettable 9-for-59 with 25 strikeouts and minus-0.8 WAR in 69 plate appearances. To say he was not expected to make an impact in New York would be an understatement.
However, a steady stream of injuries has opened the door for the 28-year-old to see his first extended action in the majors, and he has responded with one of the most surprising breakouts of 2019. After another stellar week, he’s now hitting .300/.381/.579 with 15 doubles, 12 home runs and 41 RBI in 215 plate appearances.
“Right now, he’s in a good place, and he’s worked his tail off,” Yankees hitting coach Marcus Thames told Ken Davidoff of the New York Post. “… He comes in, he has a plan, he gets in the cage and he hits off the machine every single day.”
Yankees teammate and fellow surprise standout Gio Urshela also had a big week, going 9-for-20 with five home runs and 10 RBI.
AL Pitcher: Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox
Stats: 1 GS, W, 8.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 13 K
Mired in the worst season of his impressive 10-year career, Chris Sale has rarely looked like the pitcher who finished in the top five of AL Cy Young voting each of the past six years.
He entered his Thursday start with a career-high 4.68 ERA, and he was fresh off a disastrous outing against the Yankees in which he allowed nine hits and eight earned runs in 3.2 innings.
If only for one start last week, he looked like the Sale of old with eight shutout innings against the Los Angeles Angels. His 13 strikeouts were his highest total since May 14, and it was the first time he pitched beyond the sixth inning since June 10.
“You never want to say that you’ve figured it out, but it’s a step in the right direction,” Sale told reporters. “Hopefully, I’ll be able to keep doing what I’m doing because we obviously have an uphill battle, but we still think we have a shot and we’re all still fighting in here.”
With a 7.5-game deficit to overcome in the wild-card standings, the Red Sox will need their ace to pitch at this level the rest of the way to have a chance.
NL Hitter: Aristides Aquino, Cincinnati Reds
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Stats: 11-for-22, 2B, 6 HR, 11 RBI, 8 R
Aristides Aquino began the season as the No. 18 prospect in the Cincinnati Reds farm system, according to Baseball America, after he hit .240/.306/.448 with 20 home runs in 114 games at Double-A last year.
The move to Triple-A this year brought with it an offensive breakthrough, and he was hitting .299/.356/.636 with 28 home runs in 78 games when he was finally called up to the majors on Aug. 1 after incumbent right fielder Yasiel Puig was traded to the Cleveland Indians.
The 25-year-old caught fire at the plate last week, homering in four straight games, including a three-homer showing against the Chicago Cubs on Saturday.
“I could go on and on about him,” Reds manager David Bell told reporters. “Even more, he’s proven to himself he can be a big part of our team. … He’s aggressive, but he’s also under control. … Not only is he hitting home runs, he’s doing it in really meaningful games. These games are so important to us as a team, and he’s coming through like that.”
According to Jesse Rogers of ESPN: “On Thursday, Aquino tied the record for the hardest-hit home run in the Statcast era when he went deep with an exit velocity of 118.3 mph. In the same game, he set the mark for fastest throw by an outfielder, at 101.5 mph, when he threw a ball from right field to third base.”
Not bad for someone who was signed as an undrafted free agent back in 2011.
NL Pitcher: Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants
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Stats: 1 GS, W, 7.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K
After an excellent July in which he posted a 2.70 ERA over five starts amid a flurry of trade rumors, Madison Bumgarner hit a bump in the road during his first start of August.
In a no-decision against the Rockies, he allowed eight hits and five earned runs in five innings, pushing his ERA back toward 4.00 in the process.
“Just to have a bad game, result-wise, it wouldn’t have been that big of a deal,” Bumgarner told reporters. “But I just didn’t feel like I could put the ball where I wanted to very good that day, so I ended up just putting a little extra work in each day. I don’t want to do it all the time, but you can get by with it here and there.”
However, he was back to looking like an ace Thursday when he allowed just one hit and one walk in seven scoreless innings against the Philadelphia Phillies. He needed just 85 pitches to finish seven innings.
“With Bum, I just felt good about him going tonight because he’s so good at figuring things out when it doesn’t go well,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s pretty hard on himself. That’s why he put a lot of work in in between starts to get back to where he needs to be.”
Must-See Upcoming Matchup
New York Mets vs. Atlanta Braves (Tuesday-Thursday)
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The last time the Mets and Braves faced off, the Braves strolled into Citi Field and took two of three to improve to 6-4 in the head-to-head matchup this year.
That series wrapped up a 10-18 month of June for the Mets.
Since then, they’ve gone 23-10, including 9-2 in August. It’s fair to say this is a different Mets team than the one the Braves saw last time around.
It will be Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz and Marcus Stroman on the mound for the Mets in the series, while the Braves will counter with Max Fried, Dallas Keuchel and Julio Teheran.
The Mets lead the NL with a 2.89 ERA since the All-Star break, while the Braves are third in the NL in runs scored (156) and OPS (.790) during the second half, so the Mets arms against the Braves bats could be the key to the series.