5 Biggest Takeaways from This Week's MLB Action
It has been an interesting first full week back since the All-Star break in MLB, both on and off the field.
The MLB Hot Stove got fired up a little earlier than normal as the Cubs and Rangers pulled off the first big trade around the deadline with Matt Garza sent to Texas. The big story over the next few days will certainly be the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, which could have a big impact on the playoff races that have already started to take shape.
Here then are the five biggest headlines to take away from a busy week around Major League Baseball.
The Dodgers Are the Real Deal
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images
The Dodgers looked close to unstoppable over this past week as they took over the NL West division lead.
One of the reasons for the Dodgers' success is that their offense has finally started to click, averaging seven runs per game over the past week. It has been a total team effort though, as their pitching has also stepped up to with a 3.74 ERA and three saves for the week.
With their burst out of the blocks for the second half of the season, the Dodgers have gone from worst to first and the Diamondbacks are already a half-game in back of them. If Arizona is not careful, it could be out of this race before it knows it.
Texas Rangers Are Not Conceding Division Title
Layne Murdoch/Getty Images
The Texas Rangers are not ready to give the Oakland A's the AL West division title just yet.
On Monday, the Rangers struck the first big deal prior to the MLB trading deadline by acquiring Matt Garza for four prospects.
Texas paid a hefty price for the righty, giving up top prospects Mike Olt (3B) and C.J. Edwards (SP) in the trade along with Justin Grimm (SP) and a player to be named later. The Rangers did see an immediate return, as Garza already notched his first win for the Rangers on Wednesday night.
This move could be a difference-maker for Texas in the AL West race down the stretch and could close the gap with Oakland. Garza definitely strengthens a quality rotation that already included Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando, who just returned from the disabled list.
AL East Will Be the Best Playoff Race This Year
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
The two best playoff races are likely to come from the AL East and NL Central, as the two divisions have a combined seven playoff contenders.
The NL Central has the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds all within five games of each other. The AL East has four teams—The Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees—all within 6.5 games of each other.
Boston holds a half-game lead over the Rays, who have taken advantage of weaker competition to speed past Baltimore in the standings. Tampa Bay helped its cause this week by taking two of three from Boston at Fenway Park. The Yankees are the wild card in this race as they are severely short-handed right now, but with the return of a healthy Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson, they could still be a force in the race.
This weekend will be fun to watch, as the four AL East teams will collide with Tampa traveling to New York and Boston heading to Camden Yards to visit the Orioles.
Washington Nationals Are in a Tailspin
Greg Fiume/Getty Images
The Washington Nationals continue to fall further and further behind the Atlanta Braves in the NL East.
The only bright spot of their week came on Thursday afternoon when Bryce Harper hit his first walk-off home run. The Nationals needed his heroics after they had given up four runs in the top of the ninth.
Harper's blast saved them from their seventh straight loss and was only the second time this week that Washington had scored more than three runs in a game. This stretch has been a tough one for fans to watch because the Nationals had a lot of promise after finishing last season with the best record in Major League Baseball.
All is not lost, though, because the Braves lost Tim Hudson for the season due to a fractured ankle. The injury could have a major impact down the stretch in the NL East.
Yankees and Alex Rodriguez Do Not Like Each Other
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
With as much action as there has been on the baseball field, there has been just as much off the field between Alex Rodriguez and the New York Yankees.
ESPN New York's Andrew Marchand provided a good overview of what has transpired over the past few days between the two sides, which includes A-Rod seeking a second opinion on his injury in an attempt to convince the Yankees he's ready to return to the big leagues sooner.
This issue may have been resolved, as it is reported that Rodriguez has accepted the Yankees' rehab plan, per Marchand and Wallace Matthews. His troubles off the field may not be resolved though, as he is still the center of attention of MLB's investigation into Biogenesis. Ryan Braun was the first to be punished when he was suspended for the remainder of the season by the league earlier this week.
Alex Rodriguez may not be as lucky though, as CBS Evening News' Jim Axelrod reported that Rodriguez could face a lifetime ban from Major League Baseball, per CBS New York.
This type of punishment is hard to believe because he has never been officially suspended for PED use in his career. Still, it is not hard to believe that this drama between the Yankees and Rodriguez over a sprained quad could possibly be connected to his involvement with the Biogenesis investigation.